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LETTER: Once in a lifetime opportunity to get Domestic Abuse Bill right

Readers' letters | Published:

A reader calls on the country to tackle domestic abuse properly.

Domestic abuse.

The Domestic Abuse Bill is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to tackle the horrific crime of domestic abuse - so we must get this right

As the UK’s largest children’s charity, we believe that the risks to children from domestic abuse have been heightened by the coronavirus lockdown with victims getting little or no respite from their abusers.

The impact of Covid-19 makes it even more important that the Domestic Abuse Bill - which had its Second Reading in the House of Commons last week - is strengthened to protect all victims including children, who are often the forgotten victims of domestic abuse.

Since the lockdown was announced on 23 March, calls to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline are up by 49 per cent and domestic abuse killings are thought to have more than doubled.

And when asked about the effects of the lockdown on the families they support, more than half of Barnardo’s frontline staff say they are concerned about an increase in family conflict and stress.

During the lockdown, children are hidden from the view of professionals like teachers and health visitors, who would usually be able to report any concerns. We know a maximum of just 5 per cent of children known to be vulnerable are attending school.

The Bill introduces a new duty on local authorities to provide support for victims in refuges. While we welcome this support, the Bill does not go far enough, and risks creating a two tier system, with the majority of victims who remain in the family home not qualifying for this protection, and potentially receiving less support as a result.

With the majority of victims remaining in the family home, especially in BAME communities, it is vital that Parliament extends this duty to cover all victims and children - no matter where they live.

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We need the Government to ensure the Bill includes a statutory duty on public authorities to provide support to all victims, including children, affected by domestic abuse.

Sadly, without the right support, children who experience domestic abuse are at risk of becoming trapped in a life-long cycle of violence. By strengthening the Bill we can make sure these children have the best possible chance of a positive future.

Steve Oversby, Director of Barnardo’s North Region

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