More support for domestic abuse victims and their children as Domestic Abuse Bill receives Royal Assent
Under the new Act, councils across England will have a legal duty to provide life-saving support such as therapy, advocacy and counselling in safe accommodation, including refuges
Victims of domestic abuse and their children will be guaranteed support from their council, as the government’s landmark Domestic Abuse Bill receives Royal Assent today, 29 April 2021, Housing Minister Eddie Hughes MP said.
Under the new Act, councils across England will have a legal duty to provide life-saving support such as therapy, advocacy and counselling in safe accommodation, including refuges.
The government has given councils their share of £125 million to fund the new duty, including commissioning additional vital support services for victims and improving links between existing local services. This is on top of a further £6 million given to councils last year to prepare for the duty to come into effect.
The Act will also give those who are homeless as a result of domestic abuse priority need for accommodation secured by the council, helping to ensure victims do not remain with their abuser for fear of not having a roof over their head.
Minister for Rough Sleeping & Housing, Eddie Hughes, said:
"Domestic abuse is a heinous crime and it is vital that victims and their children are given the support they need to recover and rebuild their lives.
"The new duty on councils through the landmark Domestic Abuse Act will ensure that no one is turned away from life-saving support."
The new duty is expected to formally come into effect this summer, however to ensure people get the support they need now, the government has already allocated funding to councils and asked them to begin work from April 1.
Under the Act, victims of domestic abuse with a lifetime social tenancy who need to flee their current home to escape abuse, and are granted a new council tenancy, will have their security of tenure protected in their new social home – ensuring they have a safe and stable home to rebuild their lives.
The new duty on councils is one of a raft measures that the Domestic Abuse Act will bring in to provide further protections for victims, and strengthen measures to tackle perpetrators, including:
• Introducing for the first time an all purpose legal definition of domestic abuse which incorporates a range of abuses beyond physical violence, including emotional, coercive or controlling, and economic abuse
• Establishing in law the office of Domestic Abuse Commissioner and setting out the Commissioner’s functions and powers;
• Banning perpetrators of abuse from cross-examining their victims in person in the civil and family courts in England and Wales;
The secure tenancies provision in the Bill will ensure that victims of domestic abuse who have, or had a lifetime social tenancy retain their tenancy if the local authority is satisfied that the person is or was a victim of domestic abuse, and the local authority decides to grant them a new tenancy in connection with the abuse.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Statutory Guidance and Regulation consultation process will follow Royal Assent of the Domestic Abuse Bill, after which the new regulations will be laid in Parliament. The duty is expected to come into effect this summer.