THOUSANDS of domestic abuse victims and their families will get extra help from councils with a £6million cash boost to make sure those in desperate need of support are not turned away from shelters.
A landmark new law will make it a legal duty for councils to provide safe accommodations and refuges so survivors and their children can live "free from fear of abuse".
Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing Kelly Tolhurst said: "Survivors of domestic abuse need safe refuge in order to escape this heinous crime, and support to start to rebuild their lives.
Ms Tolhurst said fresh injection of support will give councils the means to ensure they can fulfil their duty to people trying to escape domestic abuse.
She added: "The funding I am announcing today will help councils prepare for this new duty that will see thousands more survivors helped and a generation of their children able to grow up safely and free from fear of abuse.”
‘A generation of children can grow up safely and free from fear of abuse’
BY KELLY TOLHURST, MINISTER FOR ROUGH SLEEPING & HOUSING
This year has been a difficult one for everyone. But for the victims of domestic abuse, it has been especially hard, with many finding themselves trapped with their abusers for longer periods of time during lockdown.
Domestic abuse is a blight upon our society and an abhorrent crime. It leaves victims fearful in the place that they should feel the safest and most secure – their own homes.
This Government has committed to tackling the issue head on.
That’s why our flagship Domestic Abuse Bill includes a new duty for councils to assess the need and provide support to victims and their children in safe accommodation in England.
When the new duty will come into force in April 2021, subject to Parliament, this will be an historic moment, the first time councils must provide support in safe accommodation services, including refuges. Many already do provide help, but this legislation will improve the support councils provide so that all victims and their children receive the vital help they need. For the first time, we know that children can grow up in a safer environment, away from abuse that can overshadow lives. Survivors will have the support they need to rebuild their lives.
So ahead of the duty new coming into force, we are supporting councils to prepare with £6m funding, announced today, to help them prepare to provide support in safe accommodation for Domestic Abuse survivors and their families.
The new £6m Local Authority Capacity Building Fund will help ensure councils can undertake early planning and preparation work ahead of implementation of the new duty and be ready to help families when it comes into law.
We’re also announcing a consultation for councils on the principles of the funding formula on the money they will receive under the new duty, so they will be ready to commission the assistance that survivors need from April.
This work will continue Government support for the most vulnerable in society during the pandemic. A £76m cross-government package included £28m to help survivors of domestic abuse and their children and MHCLG’s £10m Emergency Support Fund which allowed Domestic Abuse refuges to stay open and provide essential support during the pandemic, launched on 7 May.
I am passionately committed to supporting refuges to keep their vitally important work up and running. Their staff do incredible, heroic work saving lives on a daily basis and deserve our thanks and support.
I’m pleased to say that the £10m Emergency Fund is a great success, providing essential support to 166 organisations, re-opening up to 344 bed spaces that were closed due to COVID-19 and will creating up to 1,546 additional bed spaces.
Protecting the victims of domestic abuse is my priority and the priority of this Government.
Our support for the victims of domestic abuse is unwavering – and why we will continue to ensure that they get the support they need.
There have been huge surges in people contacting domestic abuse helplines during the crisis as fears of people being trapped inside with abusive partners or family members skyrocketed during lockdown.
More than 40,000 calls and contacts were made to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline during the first three months of the crisis, when the guidance was still to "stay at home".
Most of the calls were from women.
Domestic abuse charity Refuge said that calls were 80 per cent higher than usual in June.
There was also a 54 per cent increase in the number of women trying to flee from abusers.
The new funding is a win for The Sun's Give Me Shelter campaign to ensure there enough refuges for people escaping violence.
It will give councils the cash to plan extra accommodation and services for victims ahead of the new law coming into force in April next year.
A £10 million emergency fund to help domestic abuse victims during the coronavirus crisis has already been launched, to make over 1,500 new beds available and re-open 344 bed spaces for those most in need.
SIMPLE STEPS TO STAY SAFER
WOMEN’S Aid has this advice for victims and their families:
Always keep your phone nearby.
Get in touch with charities for help, including the Women’s Aid live chat helpline and services such as SupportLine.
If you are in danger, call 999.
Familiarise yourself with the Silent Solution, reporting abuse without speaking down the phone, instead dialing “55”.
Always keep some money on you, including change for a pay phone or bus fare.
If you suspect your partner is about to attack you, try to go to a lower-risk area of the house – for example, where there is a way out and access to a telephone.
Avoid the kitchen and garage, where there are likely to be knives or other weapons. Avoid rooms where you might become trapped, such as the bathroom, or where you might be shut into a cupboard or other small space.
IF you are a victim of domestic abuse, SupportLine is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 6pm to 8pm on 01708 765200. The charity’s email support service is open weekdays and weekends during the crisis – [email protected] Women’s Aid provides a live chat service available at chat.womensaid. org.uk. Due to limited funding, it is open from 10am to noon. You can also call the freephone 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247. See refuge.org.uk.