Morgan Wiseman Solicitors and Café Zandra’s join forces for victims of domestic abuse
Local legal aficionados from the Domestic Abuse Alliance (DA Alliance) at Morgan Wiseman Solicitors (MWS) have banded together with a local coffee shop to provide support for victims of domestic abuse. The scheme allows the victims to come forward in a safe environment to discuss their concerns with a legal professional over a complimentary cup of coffee.
The idea comes through a bid to join and build on the dialogue around domestic abuse and to raise awareness of the plight. The scheme aims to support victims by offering free walk-in consultations in order to identify their best course of action. This also follows on from an article published by Bedfordshire Police highlighting the links between summer holidays and an increase in domestic abuse incidents.
Launching the scheme, Sahiel Shoeb, Head of Operations at MWS said: “Domestic abuse is an unacceptable fact. Beyond providing legal services we are always looking for new ways to encourage victims to come forward and talk. Zandra’s is our local coffee shop and the idea of a free consultation and a cup of coffee in relaxed surroundings, we hope will reassure victims.”
“The idea to use coffee to bring people together is a great way for victims to come forward without fear. I really hope that together we can change people’s lives by helping them to get out of a bad situation”, added John Duncan, owner of Café Zandra’s.
As a member of the Bedfordshire Domestic Abuse Partnership (BDAP) the DA Alliance is committed to supporting the dialogue and raising awareness to fight domestic abuse.
BDAP is a partnership that brings together key agencies in Bedfordshire and works closely with local authorities to help provide services in and around the local areas to improve local response to domestic abuse.
Notes to editor
- Morgan Wiseman Solicitors is based at 66-68 Alma Street, Luton, LU1 2PL
- The total number of domestic-abuse related offences in the year ending March 31, 2018 across Bedfordshire stood at 5561
- Victims or agencies can contact the DA Alliance via:
- Walk-in: 66-68 Alma Street, Luton, LU1 2PL
- Telephone: 0800 1017 110
- Email: email@example.com
For media enquiries contact:
07814 491 581
07926 127 630
The Prime Minister has long made it a priority to update the law in this area but amid fears it could be sidelined by whoever replaces her she wants to get it through Parliament and onto the statute book.
A senior government source told The Sunday Times: “When she entered Downing Street, she promised action on domestic abuse as part of her commitment to tackling society’s burning injustices.
“She will make sure that she delivers on that promise by introducing the domestic abuse bill before she leaves office so there can be no backtracking on the issue by whoever succeeds her.”
The domestic abuse bill is expected to be introduced to the Commons on 16 July, just a week before Mrs May is expected to exit Number 10.
The proposed legislation will introduce a definition of domestic abuse to include “emotional” and “economic” abuse for the first time, and is aimed at making it easier to prosecute perpetrators and provide more support for victims.
It is one of a number of legacy issues the PM has undertaken since she confirmed a date for when she resigns, but the spending implications have caused tension with the Chancellor Philip Hammond.
It has led to Mrs May rebuking him in a veiled attack by pointing out she was still in charge of the country for the time being.
Whilst at the G20 summit in Tokyo she signalled she is determined to press ahead with her plans, including boosting the education budget by £27bn.
She told reporters: “Look, government is continuing. I’ve still got work to do as prime minister until I hand over to my successor.
“And I think it’s important that we continue to take decisions that are right decisions for this country.”
The PM was speaking after urging world leaders to do more on climate change after leading a meeting at the summit.
She called on the rest of the G20 countries to follow the UK’s lead by enshrining in law a commitment to be a net zero emitter of CO2 by 2050.
But instead they were only willing to agree a statement which committed them to the “irreversibility” of the 2015 Paris agreement and pledged the full implementation of its targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Original article available here: //www.politicshome.com/news/uk/education/news/104941/theresa-may-use-final-days-office-pass-new-domestic-abuse-legislation
This week, from the 24 to 28 June, is Safeguarding week where police, local councils, agencies and charities come together to raise awareness around abuse, how to recognise and report it and where to access help and support.
As part of the week of action, we’re looking behind the scenes and seeing what the roles of those who work at the very forefront of safeguarding involves.
Today’s blog comes from Rebecca Cobby, who works as a Domestic Abuse Coordinator here at North Yorkshire Police:
“My day starts with a review of the domestic abuse incidents that have happened overnight. We assess the risk, and decide what plans need to be put in place to safeguard that victim and the family.
“One of the first things we do is ask the victim what they want to happen. Domestic abuse can take many forms, but most of the time the abuse comes from a partner. So we need to establish, does the victim want to stay with that partner, and if that’s their choice, we try to help them manage that relationship and move it from being an abusive relationship to a healthy one. If they want it to end the relationship, we help the victim to manage that safely. Domestic abuse is not about anger, it’s about control. And if you end a relationship, the perpetrator is losing control, so we help people to think about how to end the relationship without putting themselves in danger.
“When it is a high-risk victim we might have to arrange a place in a refuge, or link with social services if there are children involved. Or if the victim is going to stay in the home, we may need to look at the security of the property – the locks on windows and doors – to make sure the abuser won’t be able to get back in.
“It may sound strange, but we even consider what arrangements can be made for any pets in the household – particularly dogs. Domestic abuse victims they can become very isolated, because perpetrators like to isolate their victim, and the family dog might be the only friend they’ve got. Being worried about a pet, and not wanting to leave them behind, can be a big consideration for some people, and if we want to help, we have to take all these practicalities into account.
“The police have more tools these days to tackle domestic abuse. For example we have the Domestic Violence Protection Notice and the Domestic Violence Protection Order. Using these tools, we can give victims some breathing space by preventing the abuser from molesting the victim or entering the property where they live for a certain period of time – usually 28 days. During this time, the victim can access support services without interference, and we may also make use of Clare’s Law.
“Clare’s Law is another name for the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme. It was introduced by the family of Clare Woods, who was murdered by a partner with a record of violence against women. Under Clare’s Law you can ask the police whether your partner has been violent in the past, so you can decide whether or not you want to move forward with that relationship, or end it.
“Clare’s Law also allows for the police to let a person know if they are associating with someone who has previously been violent, so they can make an informed decision about what to do. It isn’t about splitting people up, it’s about providing information and options. In the end, people have a right to make their own decisions.
“We have done more than 100 Clare’s Law disclosures in the last two months. Clare’s Law applies to both women and men, but all the cases I have worked on have involved informing women about the offending history of their male partner. It is difficult, because if you’ve got a new boyfriend, and you’re in the honeymoon period, you may not want to hear that your partner has been in prison for violence, and that he punched his last girlfriend whilst she was holding their baby and broke her jaw. We don’t give names obviously, but we do give details of past behaviour, and it can come as a big shock. Sometimes people deny that their partner could ever behave that way, or believe it must have been the previous girlfriend’s fault. Sometimes they just tell us to get lost. But in other cases people decide it’s a risk they don’t want to take and they end the relationship.
“There are times when you know that there is abuse going on in a household, but the victim insists that no one is hurting them, or that they can handle it. It is really frustrating because you want to help, but people have the right to make their own decisions. We just try to make sure we give them every support and help when they need it.
“Working with other agencies is a big part of safeguarding work, and there is a huge amount of effort goes into tackling domestic abuse, from the police and from others. We have a Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference two or three times a week which involves a lot of different organisations including the police, adult social care, children’s social care, the Independent Domestic Abuse Services charity and representatives from the mental health team, the prevention team, the early help team, education and housing. It’s very comprehensive, but it has to be, because keeping people safe isn’t just the responsibility of the police. It’s all of us. We all need to understand the risks in a particular case, what safeguarding plans are in place, and what each agency will be doing to help that victim and that family.
“There’s a lot more openness about domestic abuse now, and I think that’s a really good thing. TV has helped. If you look at recent story lines in Coronation Street and the Archers for example, they have covered different aspects of domestic abuse and it brings the issue out in the open. People watch these programmes and say, “That happened to me. I’m being controlled like that.” Or sometimes they see their own situation reflected on TV and realize that that things don’t have to be that way. They can do something about it. Years ago society swept domestic abuse under the carpet. People knew about it, but it wasn’t spoken about. Now if you know your neighbour or your friend is in a domestic abuse situation, you are much more likely to tell somebody or take action.
“I talk to hundreds of victims about bad relationships and if it happens to you, you can feel very isolated and alone. You don’t know who you can trust and how you are going to get out of it. It’s important to remember that domestic abuse is not acceptable and we can stop it. But we do need you to tell us. You just need to give us the word.
“Domestic abuse is a challenging area of policing. You have to be compassionate, friendly, and earn people’s trust. You can’t judge and you can’t be shocked. You’ve got to be prepared to have difficult, direct, even intimate, conversations. It isn’t for everyone and it can be hard. It’s a heavy workload but very important and at times you do feel responsible for the actions people take.
“I really enjoy what I do. It can be very frustrating, but it can also be very satisfying. I feel very honoured because people let me into their lives at a really difficult time, and they trust me, and they talk to me. You can’t dictate to people what to do, but you can give them information, options and support. And when you see someone you’ve worked with going into a new relationship, and it’s a positive relationship, you think, yeah. I’ve played a little tiny part in making that relationship good. That’s very rewarding.”
Original Article available here: //northyorkshire.police.uk/news/safeguarding-week-2019-the-role-of-a-domestic-abuse-coordinator/
It’s a sparkling Saturday afternoon in Bella Vista, in Sydney’s Bible belt. The people who live here have faith and money: the streets are immaculate and the houses are huge. Outside one house, a pile of household items is all that blights the row of manicured lawns. As is typical in suburbs like this, there are signs of life, but nobody on the street.
Nobody except for a slight man in an oversized white singlet, leaning into a car. As I approach, he waves. “My son’s selling his car, so I’m taking off the most valuable part of it,” laughs Rob Sanasi, triumphantly waving an eTag above his head.
We walk into the house at the bottom of the drive to find a tall, elegant blonde woman and two twenty-somethings milling around the kitchen, joking and making plans for the weekend. This is the house Rob shares with his wife, Deb, and their two adult children.
Deb puts on the kettle and Rob brings out the biscuits, one of which has already been partially enjoyed. “Oh, nice,” he says apologetically. “Someone graciously put that one back there.”
Deb guffaws from behind the kitchen counter. “You don’t want to feel the guilt of taking a whole one!”
Rob shrugs, smiling. “Yeah, it’s the quirk in this family.”
As the kids wave their goodbyes, new biscuits are found and tea is poured. Then we sit down together at the kitchen table to talk about Rob and Deb’s history of domestic abuse.
Rob begins his story in 2006. It was a bad time: his business was failing, his family life was falling apart. “Deb and I were … well, when I say Deb and I were fighting, I was fighting more, but it looked like we were fighting. I remember driving along on the M2 and I was in a bad way. Actually, that day, I thought: this is probably going to be my last day.”
Rob, a devout Christian, thought about driving his car into a tree. Then he put on a recording of a church minister addressing a large auditorium. “And he just said something … It was, ‘Do you love your children?’ And I answered in the car, ‘Yeah, of course I do.’ And then he said, ‘Would you die for them?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, I would.’ And he said, ‘Well, this is Australia, and you’ll probably never have to die for your children, but if you’re willing to die for them, why won’t you change for them?’ And when I heard that, I just thought, ‘Wow’.” At that moment, Rob says, he realised he had to seek counselling.
Deb shakes her head. “Can I interject? The reason that Rob went into counselling was I went into the workforce. The control had been very strong in our relationship, but actually neither of us really realised to what degree Rob was controlling me, until I did something that he couldn’t control. Within three weeks of me starting that job, Rob had a nervous breakdown. He lost 15 kilos, he was having anxiety and panic attacks, he became addicted to Xanax, he was suicidal. That’s what drove him into counselling. He was a mess.” Rob nods quietly.
During their first session, Rob says his counsellor asked him a series of questions. “Do you raise your voice, do you yell, do you throw things, do you call your wife names, do you swear, do you bash things – not her, but things – and it was kind of tick, tick, tick,” Rob remembers. “And then he went to a filing cabinet in his office, and pulled out an A4 piece of paper with a preprinted ‘Cycle of Violence’ on it, and he whacked that on the table and he said, ‘That’s what you do. This is what we call domestic violence.’
“So that was the first session. And he said, ‘Take that with you and discuss it with your wife.’ So I was like, ‘I don’t think that’s a very good idea, right?’”
Rob wasn’t physically violent, but he behaved like a typical perpetrator: he constantly criticised and bullied his wife, tried to stop her from working, made it hard for her to see family and friends, and kept total control over their bank accounts. The bullying and criticism wasn’t always overt; sometimes Rob would use humour to demean Deb. But it was always sending the same message: he was more important than her, and she was there to serve him. The only thing that wasn’t typical about Rob was that he had sought counselling without being forced.
At first, Rob kept the piece of paper to himself. “And then eventually I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll just bring it out casually’, you know. But when I brought it out, things got a lot worse. Because then Deb realised what was going on. It’s kind of like the scales fell off our eyes – both of us.”
I ask Deb what it was like for her to see that piece of paper. “I remember actually what Rob said to me. He said, ‘What’s going on in our relationship is domestic violence, and the type of violence that I’m using on you is called emotional abuse, which means I don’t bash you with my fists, I bash you with my emotions, to keep you under control.’”
That shocked Deb. As she understood it, domestic violence was “the guy that goes down the pub on a Friday night and comes home and beats up his wife … it doesn’t happen in suburbs like where I’m from.” (As Deb has since discovered, she wasn’t the only anomaly in her suburb – or even her street. Later she told me that the items I’d seen on the lawn next door belonged to her neighbour, who had dumped them there before fleeing her violent husband.)
Now, after almost 10 years and much intense counselling, Rob and Deb are happily married, and both counsel domestic abuse victims and perpetrators: Deb in private practice, and Rob more informally, with abusive men who seek him out for advice.
Deb says one thing stands out about abusers: it’s as if they’ve studied some kind of domestic abuse handbook. “They all have the same tactics. So, for example, they may not come out and say, ‘I don’t want you seeing your friends, or having hobbies, or being around your parents,’ but they’ll just make it hard. Like, ‘What do you want to see them for? I don’t think they’re good for you.’ And eventually women go it’s just all too hard, because they don’t want the fight. So that’s how it starts over time … And then your world gets smaller. And then if the perpetrator becomes your main frame of reference, which is what happens, it’s very much like a cult. Because you’re essentially getting your main input from him.’”
“It’s like you go to abuse school,” Rob says. “They all do it.”
Speak to anyone who’s worked with survivors or perpetrators and they’ll tell you the same thing: domestic abuse almost always follows the same script. It’s a truly confounding phenomenon: how is it that men from vastly different cultures know to use the same basic techniques of oppression?
That’s something we’ve only recently begun to investigate. Domestic abuse may be as old as intimacy, but we only really started to understand it after the first women’s refuges opened in the 1970s. When women in their thousands fled to these makeshift shelters, they weren’t just complaining about black eyes and raging tempers. They told stories of unfathomable cruelty and violence, and what sounded like orchestrated campaigns of control. It became clear that, although each woman’s story was individual, the overarching narratives were uncannily alike. As one shelter worker said at the time, “It got so I could finish a woman’s story halfway through it. There was this absolutely eerie feeling that these guys were sitting together and deciding what to say and do.”
In the early 1980s, researchers noticed something else extraordinary: not only were the stories of victims uncannily alike, they also resembled the accounts of a seemingly unrelated group of survivors: returned prisoners of war. It may seem odd to start a book about domestic abuse with a story from the cold war. But this is where our modern understanding of domestic abuse really begins: in a small town on the border of North and South Korea.
A sophisticated new weapon called ‘brainwashing’
On 24 September 1953, the Korean war was officially over, and Operation Big Switch was underway. In the back of open-built Russian trucks, 23 American POWs were being driven to a prisoner exchange complex in the village of Panmunjom, on the North–South Korean border. The atmosphere at the complex had been electric with anger for months, as American prisoners returned from North Korean camps with shocking stories of cruelty. But on this day, as the trucks drew closer, American observers noticed that something about these prisoners was different. They looked tanned and healthy, and were dressed in padded blue Chinese uniforms, each pinned with Pablo Picasso’s dove of peace.
As the trucks screeched to a halt, the prisoners laughed and shook hands with their captors. “See you in Peiping, old man,” said one, as they climbed down off the trucks. Turning to the shocked crowd who had gathered to greet them, the POWs clenched their fists and shouted, “Tomorrow, the international Soviet unites the human race!” Then, instead of walking over to their countrymen, they turned the other way and defected to communist China.
These shocking defections were just the tip of the iceberg. In the North Korean camps, American POWs had cooperated with the enemy to an unprecedented extent. Not only did they inform on their fellow prisoners; hundreds of POWs gave false confessions to atrocities, and made radio broadcasts extolling the virtues of communism and condemning western capitalism. Never before had captured soldiers betrayed their country so flagrantly.
For America, this was the stuff of nightmares. What could have driven their men to align with this diabolical creed? Frantic newspaper reports described how the communists had bewitched the American POWs with a sophisticated new weapon called “brainwashing”: a method of mind control that could render a man’s brain a blank slate and implant new thoughts, memories and beliefs. This wasn’t a fringe conspiracy theory: it was the earnest belief of people in the highest positions of government, including the head of the CIA. By the mid-1950s, hysteria over brainwashing was at fever pitch.
Albert Biderman, a social scientist with the US Air Force, was not convinced. He thought “brainwashing” sounded like a lot of propaganda, and not much science. As paranoia peaked in Washington, the air force – similarly unpersuaded – despatched Biderman to uncover the real reason so many well-trained American airmen had cooperated with the communists.
The chart of coercion
After extensive interviews with returned POWs, Biderman’s suspicions were confirmed: their compliance was not won using an esoteric new technique; instead, the Chinese communists who ran the North Korean camps had used age-old methods of coercive control. These methods were based “primarily on simple, easily understandable ideas of how an individual’s physical and moral strength can be undermined”. There was nothing new about them, but nobody had ever seen them used in war before. That’s why the American soldiers were so unprepared to resist.
Biderman established that three primary elements were at the heart of coercive control: dependency, debility and dread. To achieve this effect, the captors used eight techniques: isolation, monopolisation of perception, induced debility or exhaustion, cultivation of anxiety and despair, alternation of punishment and reward, demonstrations of omnipotence, degradation, and the enforcement of trivial demands. Biderman’s “Chart of Coercion” showed that acts of cruelty that appeared at first to be isolated were actually intricately connected. It was only when these acts were seen together that the full picture of coercive control became clear.
In Biderman’s chart, there was no category for physical abuse. Though it was frequently used, actual violence wasn’t “a necessary nor particularly effective method” to gain compliance, and the more skilled and experienced interrogators avoided it. They only needed to instil the fear of violence, which they did with “vague threats, and the implication that they were prepared to do drastic things”. The Chinese communists were not like the Germans or the Japanese – they didn’t want to just brutalise their prisoners or work them to death. They wanted to control their hearts and minds.
When Biderman released his findings, people were incredulous. Could people really be manipulated so easily? Was he sure there was not something he had failed to detect? But Biderman was adamant: “Probably no other aspect of Communism reveals more thoroughly its disrespect for truth and the individuals,” he wrote, “than its resort to these techniques.”
In the 1970s, when women began fleeing to newly opened shelters, they spoke about being isolated from friends and family, instructed on how to behave, degraded, manipulated, sexually violated and threatened with death. Physical violence was common, and could be sadistic in its extremes, but survivors insisted it was not the worst part of the abuse – and some were not physically abused at all. In her groundbreaking book Rape in Marriage, Diana Russell presented two lists side by side: Biderman’s Chart of Coercion, and the common techniques of domestic perpetrators. The lists were virtually identical. The only difference was that whereas captors in North Korea deployed the techniques tactically, husbands appeared to be replicating the system of coercive control unconsciously.
In 1973, Amnesty International included Biderman’s Chart of Coercion in its report on torture, declaring these techniques the universal tools of torture and coercion. As Harvard psychiatrist and trauma specialist Judith Herman would later write, “The [coercive] methods that enable one human being to enslave another are remarkably consistent.” In situations of domestic abuse, the effect of coercive control is the same: the perpetrator becomes “the most powerful person” in the victim’s life, and their psychology is “shaped by the [perpetrator’s] actions and beliefs”. Domestic perpetrators don’t need physical violence to maintain their power – they only have to make their victims believe they are capable of it. This threat is particularly effective, wrote Herman, when it is directed towards loved ones: “Battered women, for example, frequently report that their abuser has threatened to kill their children, their parents, or any friends who harbor them, should they attempt to escape.” This atmosphere of threat is enough to “convince the victim that the perpetrator is omnipotent, that resistance is futile, and that her life depends upon winning his indulgence through absolute compliance”.
Today, we know that that the techniques common to domestic abuse match those used by practically anyone who trades in captivity: kidnappers, hostage-takers, pimps, cult leaders. What this reveals is that there is nothing uniquely weak, helpless or masochistic about victims of domestic abuse. Faced with the universal methods of coercive control, their responses are no different from those of trained soldiers.
This is an edited extract from See What You Made Me Do, by Jess Hill, published by Black Inc.
Original Article from the Guardian alailable here: //www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jun/24/its-like-you-go-to-abuse-school-how-domestic-violence-always-follows-the-same-script
The chief inspector of criminal justice in Northern Ireland, Brendan McGuigan, has confirmed recommendations made by the Criminal Justice Inspectorate (CJI) in Northern Ireland, nine years ago, still haven’t been implemented.
The CJI previously recommended that a properly funded Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA) service should be established as a matter of urgency – this has not yet happened.
Mr. McGuigan added: “Likewise, we have endorsed the practice of listing or grouping domestic offences together at court on a specific day, as piloted in Londonderry Magistrates’ Court since 2011, and support its roll out across Northern Ireland, in order to speed up the progress of domestic abuse cases and offer a more appropriate environment for victims attending court.”
This initiative has also not yet been put in place in Northern Ireland. Mr. McGuigan said there was “no excuse” for these failings.
His comments followed the publication of a CJI report on Wednesday, June 19th regarding how domestic violence and abuse is handled in Northern Ireland.
Mr. McGuigan said: “Domestic violence and abuse can occur in any relationship. It transcends gender, class, religion, race, age, disability and sexuality.
“Its destructive impact can have far reaching physical, emotional and mental implications for victims and those closest to them.
“In 2017-18 the police recorded the highest number of domestic abuse incidents to date with 29,913 incidents reported in Northern Ireland, which equates to one incident being reported approximately every 17 minutes.”
Mr. McGuigan stated the need for fresh legislation to create a new offence of domestic abuse has been accepted and the Department of Justice (DoJ), and other agencies, have undertaken work in preparation for this.
But without Stormont functioning, and in the absence of Westminster filling this void, the requisite legislation cannot be introduced.
Mr. McGuigan concluded by calling for progress on the issues raised in the inspection report to be made within the next six to nine months.
He said: “Sustained political and social pressure must be maintained in the coming weeks and months to ensure the issue of domestic abuse remains to the forefront of all our minds and improvements are delivered for the benefit of all victims.”
Following the report, the head of the PSNI’s Public Protection Branch, Detective Chief Superintendent Paula Hilman, said the PSNI welcomed its publication, and the “small number of recommendations contained within it for the Police Service of Northern Ireland”.
“As a police service we are committed to putting victims’ needs at the heart of what we do and anything that can be done to improve their experience within the criminal justice system is a positive development,” she said.
Original Article available here: //www.impartialreporter.com/news/17715686.criminal-justice-report-states-no-excuse-for-domestic-abuse-failings/
The school admissions code in England is to be changed to make it easier for families escaping domestic abuse to switch schools, says the Education Secretary Damian Hinds.
He wants vulnerable children to get a school place “as quickly as possible”.
Mr Hinds says more needs to be done for 1.6 million children who have needed support from social workers.
But the children’s commissioner Anne Longfield warned of political “paralysis” in delivering such changes.
In a speech on tackling disadvantage at the Reform think tank, Mr Hinds highlighted that there was no “simplistic” stereotype about who was likely to underachieve in school.
White British pupils were among the lowest achievers, while those who spoke English as a second language were likely to get above-average results.
- Domestic violence families ‘should have priority over school places’
- Education spending now skewed towards disadvantaged, says IFS
- DFE funding claims ‘exaggerated’ says statistics watchdog
Mr Hinds showed the scale of the success of disadvantaged pupils in London, who were twice as likely to get into top universities than their counterparts in other parts of England.
Young people in big cities were more likely to get good results – while those in coastal areas were particularly likely to underachieve.
He called for attention for 1.6 million children who were not in care, but who were classified as being “children in need” and whose families had been supported by social workers during the past three years.
These pupils had high levels of absenteeism and exclusion, and were likely to get much lower exam grades.
“We need to improve the visibility of this group, both in schools and in the system as a whole,” said Mr Hinds.
The move to improve access to schools for families affected by domestic violence follows a report in March by two charities – Hestia and Pro Bono Economics.
This called for children forced to move home to be given priority over school places.
The education secretary also responded to calls for more school funding from candidates in the race to become the new Conservative party leader and prime minister.
Theresa May, in her last days in office as prime minister, is also believed to be considering announcements over education spending.
“It’s a good thing that education has been such a prominent topic in the leadership debate,” said Mr Hinds.
“Part of that is about resourcing – but not only.”
Mr Hinds has been under pressure from school leaders who have complained about worsening budget shortages.
“I have been making the case for investment in education – it has a unique role in its reach,” he said, arguing that it was vital to social cohesion, social mobility and economic productivity.
But Mr Hinds said that the budget needed for schools would keep changing as extra demands emerged, such as for special needs.
“We will always want to do more,” he said.
Implementing any announcements will depend on the outcome of the Conservative leadership contest – and Mr Hinds said he would be ready to serve under Boris Johnson, if he became prime minister.
But he warned strongly against calls for Parliament to be suspended to allow Brexit to be pushed through – describing it as a “dangerous” idea and the opposite of taking back control.
Ms Longfield, England’s commissioner for children, warned that arguments over Brexit meant that “government itself has ground almost to a halt”.
She said the lack of political activity meant the prospect for these disadvantaged youngsters “remains wretched”.
The children’s commissioner said funding decisions had not been taken and promises “to get a grip of tackling childhood vulnerability” were likely to be “delayed again”.
Original Article available at: //www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-48665613
Domestic Abuse: Committee of MPs and Lords urge Government to protect migrant women in forthcoming Bill
In a report published today (14 June), MPs and Lords support better for protection for women reporting domestic abuse, including the creation of a firewall between support services and immigration control.
Members of the Step Up Migrant Women (SUMW) campaign – a coalition of more than 30 organisations – welcome recommendations by the Joint Committee of MPs and Lords examining the draft Domestic Abuse Bill, which echo their call for migrant women reporting domestic abuse to be protected and supported as victims, before any consideration of immigration status.
Calling the draft Domestic Abuse Bill a ‘missed opportunity’ to address the needs of migrant women, the Committee also urged that a new statutory definition should recognise a broader range of abusive behaviour, including perpetrators using insecure immigration status as a form of coercive control.
Acknowledging that migrant women experiencing domestic abuse had been effectively excluded from the draft Bill, and that this was not compliant with domestic and international human rights laws, the Committee also recommends strengthening protections against discrimination through a duty on public authorities to protect the rights of all victims of domestic abuse. They recommend this duty should mirror the language of the Istanbul Convention – the ‘gold standard’ treaty for combatting violence against women and girls.
SUMW campaigners welcomed the acknowledgement that migrant women with no recourse to public funds are effectively barred from accessing refuges and other support services. However, campaigners warned that the Government must do more to safeguard migrant women and calls for the Bill to remove no recourse to public funds restrictions for all survivors of domestic abuse.
Lucila Granada, Director Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS) said:
“At LAWRS we are very concerned about the growing number of women who choose not to report because of the lack of protection and anti-migrant attitudes. It is shameful that women facing abuse also fear the agencies that are there to support people at risk.
“For the past two years, the #StepUpMigrantWomen coalition has urged Government to listen to the survivors and to the expert specialist and human rights organisations. We now urge them to listen to their own peers and to take responsible steps and follow the Committee’s recommendations to protect migrant women. We need a firewall, we need safe reporting, we need specialist support for women exiting violence, but with a dead-end road women won’t be able to come forward. A ‘NRPF label’ should not trap women in abuse.”
Marchu Girma, Director Women for Refugee Women said:
“At Women for Refugee Women we see how asylum-seeking women struggle to find protection from domestic violence and abuse. We see time and again the barriers that women with no recourse to public funds face in accessing services and reporting crime. I was glad to be able to give evidence to the committee and remind them that protection must be needs based, not status based.
“We therefore welcome the statement from the committee that the bill is ‘currently a missed opportunity to address the needs of migrant women who have no recourse to public funds’ and that the committee recognises the need for ‘action to help this most vulnerable group of individuals’. We hope that action will indeed follow and that this will now be addressed by the government. Women’s lives are at stake.”
Andrea Simon, End Violence Against Women Coalition said:
“The Committee are absolutely right to highlight that the Government’s landmark Domestic Abuse Bill has neglected the situation and urgent needs of migrant women and children who do not have secure immigration status.
“Currently women’s support services really struggle to provide beds and other help for these women and their children because they are not entitled to housing and welfare support. We also know that women in this situation are facing widespread discrimination, and appallingly, often treated as immigration offenders before victims of abuse.
“This shames us as a society – when we put immigration enforcement before the lives of women and children. The Government must now take this opportunity to show it is listening and bring forward legislation that will protect ALL victims of domestic abuse equally.”
Zehrah Hasan, Liberty said:
“We welcome the Committee’s robust recommendations today, which would embed vital protections for migrant women in the Domestic Abuse Bill. Legislating for a ‘firewall’ between trusted public services and immigration enforcement is vital to ensure that all survivors and people with insecure immigration status can report crimes without fear.
“We urge the Government to implement these recommendations and go further still – by ensuring migrant women with no recourse to public funds can access safe accommodation, security and support. Without these comprehensive protections for migrant women, this Bill will be a missed opportunity that prioritises immigration control over public safety.”
Karla McLaren, Amnesty International UK’s government relations manager, said:
“The Committee has clearly listened to migrant survivors of domestic abuse and is rightly urging the Government to offer proper and equal protections in the Domestic Abuse Bill.
“The Government now has an opportunity to make this Bill the landmark piece of legislation it should be, through enshrining protection without discrimination, ensuring safe reporting, and by providing life-saving access to refuge and public funds for all survivors, wherever they are from.”
Jane Gordon, Sisters For Change said:
“Sisters For Change welcomes the Joint Committee’s recommendation of an additional clause in the Bill imposing a non-discrimination duty on public authorities when dealing with victims of domestic abuse that reflects Article 4(3) of the Istanbul Convention.
The UK Government has existing international legal obligations under the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women to combat violence against women without discrimination and to provide protection and support to all women, including refugee women, women seeking asylum, migrant women and stateless women.”
Step Up Migrant Women
Step Up Migrant Women (SUMW) – a coalition of more than 30 organisations, including the Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS), Southall Black Sisters, Amnesty International UK, Sisters For Change, IMKAAN, Liberty and End Violence Against Women Coalition – is urging the government to ensure equal protection for migrant, refugee and BAME women survivors of domestic abuse who often slip through the gaps because of their particular experiences of violence.
The SUMW Coalition believes that the Domestic Abuse Bill must:
· offer a system of full confidentiality, protection and support for all migrant women who report their abuse, regardless of their immigration status. This policy must apply to all statutory services, including the police and GPs;
· make specialist organisations led by and for migrant and black and minority ethnic women – which have had their services decimated by funding cuts – a central part of tackling domestic abuse and violence;
· recognise the gender inequality underlying domestic abuse and the disproportionate impact on women and girls;
· ensure refuge provision becomes a statutory obligation backed by national ring-fenced funding;
· ensure all migrant women at risk of experiencing abuse have access to public funds and routes to regularise their immigration status independent of their perpetrator.
Original Article availblae here: //www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/domestic-abuse-committee-mps-and-lords-urge-government-protect-migrant-women
Domestic abuse: Female survivors ‘three times more likely’ to develop schizophrenia or bipolar disorder
‘Significant public health burden’ of leaving abuse survivors unsupported as study shows anxiety, depression and serious psychological conditions increased
Domestic abuse could play a much larger part in the UK’s mental healthcrisis than first thought after a study found women who experienced abuse were three times as likely to develop a serious psychological disorder.
The landmark study, led by University of Birmingham researchers, is the first to show schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, as well as more common forms of mental illness like depression and anxiety, are increased among abuse victims.
But the findings also show abuse is significantly under-reported in NHS records, and this could undermine efforts to address patients’ mental health needs or direct them to support.
Estimates based on national Crime Survey data suggest one in four women has experienced some form of domestic abuse in their lifetime, but in GP records only 0.5 per cent of women have this recorded.
“The results show the significant public health burden of mental illness in this country,” said Dr Joht Singh Chandan, one of the study’s authors, at a briefing in London.
“That elevation of three times [increased risk], if we think almost a quarter of women in this country have experienced domestic abuse, we’re talking big numbers in terms of mental health demand in this country.”
For the study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, the team used medical records from 18,547 UK women whose medical records made a note of abuse between 1995 and 2017.
They compared them to 74,188 women of a similar age profile who had no record of abuse.
The study found that that half of the women in the abuse group had a mental health diagnosis (49.5 per cent) compared to 24.6 per cent of women without a record of abuse at the start of the study.
When they removed these cases and looked at new diagnoses of mental illness over the 22 year study they found anxiety disorders were diagnosed at twice the rate among the group who had experienced abuse.
Diagnosis of depression, or “serious mental illness”, like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, appeared at three times the rate.
The authors said the relationship was “not simple or straight forward” and mental illness may make someone more likely to become a victim of abuse as well as abuse causing psychological disorders.
They were not able to answer questions about the effects of abuse in men, because these are cases are even more poorly recorded.
But more needs to be done to identify and support those who have experienced abuse.
“We know that in primary care and [with] staff at GP practice there is often a lot that can be done for people who have experienced domestic abuse, but it’s not being highlighted to them,” Dr Chandan said.
Encouraging the police to share reports of domestic abuse with the NHS would be one way to improve reporting, as well as policies to prevent abuse, and earlier intervention for those who are victims.
The findings also raise the question of whether there should be more screening of young women being treated for mental health disorders.
“Do we need to think about asking them questions relating to their abuse?” Dr Chandan said.
“We hear everyday from women with mental health problems who have struggled to get the support that they need,” said Vicki Nash from the mental health charity Mind, who called on government to act on women’s mental health and domestic abuse.
“Too many women are not having their needs met by mental health services, which are also not using a trauma-informed approach.”
Original Article available here: //www.independent.co.uk/news/health/women-mental-health-schizophrenia-bipolar-disorder-domestic-abuse-a8947776.html
Councils in England fail to provide safe homes to around 1,960 households fleeing domestic abuse, Crisis found.
Domestic abuse survivors are being forced to choose between sleeping on the streets or returning to their abusers because of local authority rules, a damning report has warned.
Each year, councils in England fail to provide safe homes to around 1,960 households fleeing domestic abuse after deeming them not vulnerable enough for help, a joint investigation by Crisis and parliament’s group for ending homelessness revealed on Thursday.
This is because – under the current system – not everyone escaping domestic abuse is considered “priority need” for help finding permanent housing, they said.
“It’s beyond heart-breaking that people fleeing for their lives are being forced to choose between homelessness or returning to their abusers because the services that should have found them a safe home don’t consider them a priority,” said Labour MP Neil Coyle, who leads parliament’s group for ending homelessness.
“The current system of asking survivors to provide evidence of their vulnerability is incredibly insensitive and traumatic, and often impossible to do.”
MPs have heard “horrifying stories” of victims being asked to return home to gather evidence of their abuse, Coyle added.
One in five of Crisis’ female members have been made homeless by domestic abuse.
Earlier this month, Theresa May announced plans to ensure all abuse survivors have access to support in emergency refuges – but campaigners are calling for the Domestic Abuse Bill to be extended to guarantee victims a more permanent home.
Rebecca Pritchard, director of services at Crisis, said: “It’s simply not good enough that survivors are being forced to sleep rough or are ending up stuck in temporary accommodation unable to move on with their lives because they’re being refused help to find a safe settled home.”
The report comes on the same day the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman called on Oadby and Wigston Borough Council to pay a domestic abuse victim £500 in compensation after it refused to accept a homelessness application from her and her children.
A government spokesperson said: “We recently announced that for the first time ever, councils will be legally required to provide vital support in secure accommodation for survivors of domestic abuse and their children, and Communities Secretary James Brokenshire pledged over £90 million for this.
“This will end the variation in support and ensure that all families are able to recover and overcome their experiences.”
Original Article available here: //www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/domestic-abuse-homelessness-council-crisis_uk_5ceea047e4b07666546f4c4c?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAACsBYDk2HIByC94HPNNvVNWyTNKtYYMCzs4snxbdacOg_VNPhjDvTkfn8RKOoPtKYb9CGmpZ0Mdlk5JdQGmVAu9miypHMyrhlrq0BgL8QeF8VlU3Mr2KZxfmn4AhaIR96CNXsYV1mKaGb6K0bYwuWiz8bf7v-V01ujhEbamB6KNC
Much more needs to be done to safeguard children in domestic violence cases, writes Christina Blacklaws, president of the Law Society of England and Wales
As a former family law solicitor, your recent article on how the family courts treat victims of domestic abuse and their children (15 May) struck a chord with me. As you point out, research by the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme found that four children have been killed in the past five years by parents with a history of domestic violence who were given access to them by the courts.
These tragic figures highlight a failure in the system. While the government’s draft domestic abuse bill marks an important step in the right direction, much more needs to be done to safeguard children in domestic violence cases.
The government’s cuts to legal aid in 2012 have left many victims of abuse unrepresented in court, often unable to argue their case. Updating the legal aid means test and reinstating legal aid for early advice will help to ensure that domestic abuse is identified at the earliest possible point and both victims and their children receive the access to justice they deserve.
President, The Law Society of England and Wales
Original Article available here: //www.theguardian.com/law/2019/may/28/victims-of-domestic-abuse-need-legal-aid