Children and domestic abuse: no longer such an afterthought?

Posted by Kate Maher / Tuesday 22 January 2019 / Law Public Affairs
Young girl looking up on white backdrop

The much anticipated draft Domestic Abuse Bill was published on 21 January 2019, amid the Brexit-related chaos and confusion in Parliament last week.

Toddler-Reportage-06

As our Policy team prepared to go through the document, there was only one question on our minds: have the needs of children been considered, or have they been forgotten – again? 

Since the Government first set out its plans for transforming the response to domestic abuse back in March, Action for Children, along with others in the domestic abuse and children’s sectors, has been calling for a greater focus on children.

The impact of domestic abuse on children and young people is devastating. But as Imran, our Director of Policy and Campaigns, explored in his November blog, we believe there are several ways the Government could use the Bill to improve the response to those children affected.

And the Government has clearly been listening.

Key measures in the draft Bill include: 

 

Establishing the role of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner

Specifically, the Government make a new commitment to require the Commissioner to consider the impact of domestic abuse on children. The ability to review children’s services and other agencies that interact and work with children will also be a part of the Commissioner’s remit.

 

Introducing a statutory definition of domestic abuse

This definition is to specify economic abuse as a distinct type of abuse, cover different types of relationships (including ex-partners and family members) and include 16 to 17-year-olds. The impact on children is not included within the definition, which is what we had called for, but the Government acknowledges its importance and has committed to including this in the accompanying statutory guidance.

 

baby with walker frame

The focus on children in these two parts of the bill is what Action for Children, and others, called for. We’re proud to have helped secure these improvements and to have influenced the Government’s overall approach.  

The Government is now starting to consider the needs of children as it makes efforts to advance its agenda on domestic abuse. We are moving in the right direction.

However, we know that more can be done. The draft Bill is a welcome starting point, but it can be improved. We need to drill down into the detail, and make sure the Commissioner will have the power to make a change for survivors, both adults and children.

The Government also needs to ask itself whether more could, and should, be done to ensure that effective and dedicated domestic abuse services for children are consistently provided wherever a child or young person might be living. The Bill could, for example, introduce a duty on local authorities and their partners to ensure the right level of specialist support services for survivors and their children are delivered across all local areas.

We know at Action for Children that such support can make all the difference.

In the sessions, I have learned to forget the bad things and concentrate on the good things in my life…
Young person supported by Action for Children