New legal duty on councils to protect domestic abuse survivors

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick outlines a further £15m in funding for refuges and safe accommodation projects.


The government has confirmed plans for new legal duty for local authorities to deliver “life-saving” support to survivors of domestic abuse.

Announced today (21st October), Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick outlined proposals, including a further £15m for refuges and safe accommodation projects in 2020 to 2021 – forming part of a wider government drive to bolster protection for survivors of domestic abuse.

As outlined in the Queens Speech, the government spoke of intentions to amend the Domestic Abuse Bill to include a statutory duty on councils to provide this support.

The duty will be funded from April 2021, following the £15m as announced to support accommodation projects until then.

On the announcement, Jenrick said: “Domestic abuse destroys lives and leaves victims living in fear in the place where they should feel most safe – their homes.

“This duty upon councils will now be brought forward – ensuring survivors get the help they need wherever they are, so they can rebuild their lives away from the threat of abuse,” he said.

“This government is determined to pursue abusers, better protect victims and their children, and ensure they have the support they need – so we can end this abhorrent practice for good.”

In addition, the Domestic Abuse Bill will bring about a government definition of domestic abuse to specifically include economic abuse and controlling and manipulative non-physical abuse.

The Bill will also set to establish a new Domestic Abuse Commissioner and prohibit the cross-examination of victims by their abusers in the family courts.

Local authorities will also be required to develop and publish strategies that set out in detail the range of support services available for those fleeing violent relationships – including refuge accommodation and specialist support from safety through to independence.

As reported by 24housing, the launch of a consultation into this proposed package of support was presented by former prime minister Theresa May receiving support from Women’s Aid and Heather Wheeler MP.

Sandra Horley CBE, CEO of national domestic abuse charity Refuge, added: “This much needed change in the law could mean an end to the postcode lottery of finding emergency accommodation, and would ensure critical specialist services are on a much more sustainable financial footing.

“We look forward to working with the government to make sure every woman and child can access the support they need, and that means sustainable funding that meets need and addresses current shortfalls.”

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