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Lib Dems push to strengthen support for survivors in Domestic Abuse Bill 

June 6, 2020 4:23 PM
Domestic abuse bill-2

The Liberal Democrats have tabled amendments to the Domestic Abuse Bill to "strengthen protection and support" for survivors of abuse.

Christine Jardine, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson, has tabled a series of amendments at Committee Stage to ensure the "strongest possible" support for survivors. The measures include:

  • Create Local Welfare Provision schemes to provide a "financial lifeline" to anyone trapped in a violent home because they cannot afford to leave;
  • Provide guidance to prevent economic abuse through withholding of child maintenance funds or similar actions;
  • Ensure the option of special measures - such as appearance via video-link - for people giving evidence about domestic abuse in family courts, not just criminal courts;
  • Provide guidance on safeguarding young people from abuse in the context of teenage relationships.

The Liberal Democrats will also be supporting amendments on a range of other issues, including ensuring that survivors receive support, regardless of their immigration status.

Liberal Democrat Homes Affairs spokesperson Christine Jardine, who is on the Committee scrutinising the Bill, said:

"Too often survivors of abuse are failed by our justice system and our social services. This situation is intolerable. The Domestic Abuse Bill is our opportunity to change this, by strengthening protection and support for survivors.

"That is why the Liberal Democrats have tabled amendments to improve key aspects of this Bill, from providing a financial lifeline to anyone trapped in an abusive home to guaranteeing the option of special measures for survivors having to give evidence in family courts.

"Survivors have already had to wait too long for this Bill. Now that we have the opportunity to get it in place, we need to make sure it offers the strongest possible protections and holds perpetrators of any form of abuse to account."

Details of Christine Jardine's amendments are copied below.

Amendment 47

Clause 66, page 49, line 42, at end insert-

"(2A) The Secretary of State must issue separate statutory guidance on domestic abuse that also constitutes teenage relationship abuse and such guidance must address how to ensure there are-

(a) sufficient levels of local authority service provision for both victims and perpetrators of teenage relationship abuse,

(b) child safeguarding referral pathways for both victims and perpetrators of teenage relationship abuse.

(2B) The guidance in subsection (2A) must be published within three months of the Act receiving Royal Assent and must be reviewed bi-annually.

(2C) For the purposes of subsection (2A), teenage relationship abuse is defined as any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse, which can encompass, but is not limited to psychological, physical, sexual, economic and emotional abuse, including through the use of technology, between those aged 18 or under who are, or have been in a romantic relationships regardless of gender or sexual orientation."

Explanatory statement: This amendment would place a duty on the Secretary of State to publish separate statutory guidance on teenage relationship abuse. The statutory guidance would cover not just victims of teenage domestic abuse but extend to those who perpetrate abuse within their own teenage relationships.

Amendment 54

Clause 58, page 37, line 32, at end insert-

"(3A) In cases where it is alleged that domestic abuse is involved, Chapter 1 of Part 2 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 (special measures directions in case of vulnerable and intimidated witnesses) applies to proceedings in the family court as it applies to criminal proceedings, but with any necessary modifications."

Explanatory statement: This amendment extends statutory eligibility for special measures to the family court in cases where domestic abuse is involved.

New Clause 17

To move the following Clause-

"Local Welfare Provision schemes

(1) Every local authority in England must deliver a Local Welfare Provision scheme which provides financial assistance to victims of domestic abuse

(2) The Secretary of State must issue guidance on the nature and scope of Local Welfare Provision schemes and review this biannually in consultation with the Domestic Abuse Commissioner and other such individuals and agencies he deems appropriate.

(3) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must provide local authorities with additional funding designated for Local Welfare Provision, to increase per year with inflation.

(4) For the purposes of this subsection "domestic abuse" is defined in section 1 of the Domestic Abuse Act 2020."

Explanatory statement: This new clause would allow victims of domestic abuse to access a local welfare assistance scheme in any locality across England.

New Clause 18

To move the following Clause-

"Guidance: Child maintenance

(1) The Secretary of State must issue guidance relating to the payment of child support maintenance where the person with care of the child is a victim of domestic abuse.

(2) Guidance issued under this section must take account of- (a) the potential for the withholding or reducing of child support maintenance to constitute economic abuse under section 1(4) of this Act; (b) the need for enforcement action to prevent non-payment; and (c) the difficulties faced by victims of domestic abuse in obtaining evidence to support an application for a variation of a child support maintenance calculation.

(3) The Child Maintenance Service must have regard to any guidance issued under this section when exercising a function to which the guidance relates.

(4) Before issuing guidance under this section, the Secretary of State must consult (a) the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, and (b) such other persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.

(5) The Secretary of State must publish any guidance issued under this section."

Explanatory statement: This new clause would require the Secretary of State to issue guidance to the Child Maintenance Service to tackle the problem of a