Recommendations focus on helping those suffering domestic abuse during COVID19 lockdown and beyond

Dame Vera Baird QC, the Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, has backed the call from parliament’s Home Affairs Committee to make tackling domestic abuse a central pillar of the Government’s strategic response to the Coronavirus epidemic.

The Committee has also recommended a formal cross-government working group, tasked with producing and implementing a co-ordinated action plan that deals with the period of lockdown and immediately after, should be created.

The group would be compose of minister from across Government alongside the Dame Vera, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner Nicole Jacobs and Anne Longfield the Children’s Commissioners, as well as consulting frontline providers.

The action plan should be a core part of Government emergency planning.

It also supports the introduction of new schemes which would help ensure victims can access urgent help in places which are still accessible during the restrictions such as pharmacies and supermarkets – something Dame Vera and the Ms Jacobs have been championing.

In total, the Committee made 24 recommendations in its report ‘Home Office preparedness for Covid-19: Domestic Abuse and risk of harm within the home’ published today (27 April).

Reacting Dame Vera said: “I was grateful to the committee for the opportunity to give evidence on this vitally important topic. It is a tragic reality that the COVID19 lockdown measures imposed to help keep society safe are putting some people at increased risk.

“This report recognises the desperate position that many people are finding themselves in which are being amplified by the restrictions.

“I am glad that it acknowledges that the changes necessary need to remain in place after the current emergency has passed. Unfortunately, the epidemic of domestic abuse will not end when the pandemic does.

“I urge the Government to act on these recommendations as a priority so that victims can receive the help and support they need as quickly as possible,” she said.

The report has been compiled after the Committee following a series of evidence sessions which saw Dame Vera, together with the Domestic Abuse Commissioner and the Children’s Commissioner all share their experience.

Representatives from a variety of charities also gave evidence including:

  • Calls to Refuge increased by 49% in the week prior to 15 April compared to the average;
  • Chayn reported that visits to its website had trebled in March 2020 compared to the same month the previous year;
  • The Men’s Advice Line saw an increase in calls of 16.6%; and
  • Research by Counting Dead Women calculated that at least 16 domestic abuse killings of women and children had taken place between 23 March and 12 April, double that of an average 21-day period in the last decade.

Chair of the Committee Yvette Cooper MP said: “There are already alarming signs of the rise in domestic abuse. Our cross-party Committee is calling for an urgent action plan from Government setting out practical measures to tackle domestic abuse as an integrated part of the fight against Covid-19.

“This isn’t just about supporting victims in periods of lockdown. When restrictions are eased, and victims try to leave or to return to normal life the threat to them could be even greater and the need for support will be acute.

“The emotional, physical and social scars from domestic abuse can last a lifetime. If we don’t act to tackle it now, we will feel the consequences of rising abuse during the Coronavirus crisis for many years to come”, she said.

The full report can be read here.