Joint letter submitted to Government urging action during COVID-19 crisis

The Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales Dame Vera Baird QC, along with other victims and domestic abuse Commissioners, has written to senior Government Ministers calling for urgent action to protect people at risk of domestic abuse and Violence Against Women and Girls during the current COVID-19 crisis.

The joint call from the Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioner Victims leads, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner for England and Wales and the Victims’ Commissioner for London, is for funding to support services and accommodation and to urgently establish a cross-departmental ministerial working group to deliver national leadership and action across Government.

The letter was sent as the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced £750m would be made available to support the charity sector.

And while the additional funding has been welcomed, it is not clear how this money will be allocated.

Working together, the five signatories have reiterated their offer to assist the Government in any way they can to take this forward.

The joint statement, which was sent to to the Home Secretary, Justice Secretary and Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary, reads:

“We are writing to you jointly to request that you take urgent action to protect people at risk of domestic abuse (DA), in particular, and Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) more broadly, in the current Covid-19 crisis. We urge you to put funding in place to support services and accommodation and to urgently establish a cross-departmental ministerial working group to deliver national leadership and action across Government. 

“This is essential both to ensure join up in the Government response given the cross-cutting nature of DA and VAWG and to ensure that not only is action taken to deal with the sadly inevitable rise in DA and VAWG we will see, but that this is backed up with the necessary funding to tackle this rise and support victims.

“We understand that on 19 March, the Government announced £1.6 billion of additional funding for local government to help them respond to Covid-19 pressures across all the services they deliver and that the position was that any additional funding for domestic abuse services should be met from this additional funding. The reality is that with local authorities facing so many competing demands this funding could be spent many times over and, in any case, will be largely spent on adult social care and will not be available to fund DA services. So, further funding is required from Government specifically to tackle DA and other forms of VAWG. 

“This is a matter of urgency and it is important that we take action now. We must not wait for the inevitable rise to be seen in official data, as this delay would mean a lost opportunity to take action and protect people. We know from the evidence of other countries experiencing lockdown that one of the impacts of confining people to their homes is an increase in DA and VAWG and we should prepare for this now. The Government, rightly, did not wait until we ran out of ITU beds before building the Nightingale hospitals and neither must we delay in our response to the impact of Covid 19 measures on DA and VAWG until recording increases. It goes without saying that we stand ready to assist in any way we can to take this forward.”

The letter – which can be read here – was signed by the following:

Dame Vera Baird QC, Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales
Nicole Jacobs, Domestic Abuse Commissioner for England and Wales
Sophie Linden, Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), Joint APCC Victims Portfolio Lead
Julia Mulligan, PFCC for North Yorkshire, Joint APCC Victims Portfolio Lead
Claire Waxman, Victims Commissioner for London