It was a privilege to speak in the second reading of the Domestic Abuse Bill on Tuesday, back in the chamber of the House of Commons. There was a sense of déjà vu as we had already had the second reading of this Bill back in October, however it was prevented from becoming law last year when the General Election ended the session abruptly. The Bill introduces a new definition of domestic abuse in law; establishes a new Domestic Abuse Commissioner; brings in Domestic Abuse Protection Notices and gives people escaping violence at home new entitlements to housing amongst other innovations.
In 2019 173 women and 13 men were killed by a partner or former partner, over two-thirds of them in their own homes. Added to this is the hidden toll of an estimated 400 people who took their own lives who had attended hospital for domestic abuse injuries in the previous 6 months. Tragically this scourge has been compounded during the current Coronavirus lockdown which has already seen calls to domestic abuse hotlines double and the number of killings in the first 3 weeks double on the previous year’s average. Hence this legislation is more needed and more urgent than ever. As former Children’s Minister I was always horrified that at least three quarters of child safeguarding cases were linked to domestic abuse and these two evils so often go hand in hand. Not surprisingly cases of child abuse have increased during the lockdown as social workers find it more problematic to do their important work, often remotely. I have therefore recommended amendments to the Bill which will recognise children often traumatised by being brought up in a home subject to domestic abuse not just as witnesses but as victims too.