Theresa May’s plan “to completely transform the way we think about and tackle domestic violence and abuse” is falling apart after a lethal combination of fresh benefit and funding cuts and new figures from the Office for National Statistics showing a postcode lottery for prosecutions and refuge provision.
Employers’ failure to help victims of domestic abuse was also highlighted at an employer’s conference at the BBC on Wednesday addressed by the Met Police commissioner, Cressida Dick; Lord Hall, director general of the BBC, and Elizabeth Filkin, chair of the steering group for the Employers Initiative on domestic abuse and former Parliamentary standards commissioner.
New research released by Ipso-Mori at the conference revealed that 80 per cent of senior managers at firms do not see domestic abuse as their problem – and are therefore unlikely to offer employees facing such problems flexible working or support.
Elizabeth Filkin described domestic abuse “ as the worst of all crimes “since it often led to children turning to violent crime after being brought up in an atmosphere of violence and abuse.
The ONS figures disclosed a huge range of complaints and crimes reported between police forces across England and Wales. Altogether some two million people have reported domestic abuse in the last year according to the ONS.
The ten highest figures were in Durham, Cleveland, Gwent, South Wales, London, Humberside, Greater Manchester, South Yorkshire, Staffordshire and Northumbria , all reporting between 22 and 37 cases per 1,000 population.
The lowest five were Cheshire, Dyfed-Powys, Surrey, North Yorkshire and Thames Valley, all reporting between 8 and 12 cases per 1000 population.
Where the police did prosecute they were successful in over 80 per cent of cases in both areas that reported high incidents of domestic abuse and low incidents – examples include Durham, Cheshire, Gwent and Dyfed-Powys – though Wiltshire reported the highest number of successful prosecutions.
The ONS also revealed the huge variation via the Women’s Aid Federation for England and Welsh Women’s aid in the number of bed spaces in refuges for victims. The South West has 1.96 spaces per 1000 women victims while Wales has over five times as many at 10.31 bed spaces per 1000 female victims. Many areas were there high rates of reported domestic abuse – such as Yorkshire, the North East and North West had low provision of bed spaces.
On top of this the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Communities and Local Government are proposing to remove housing benefit from women using refuges and replace it with a local government grant. Since housing benefit funds 53 per cent of refuge places – there are fears that an already shortfall of places will only get worse.
Local authorities are also under pressure to cope even when they do spend money on refuge places Doncaster for example spend £1m a year and has housed 1800 women and children over two years.
But this authority is also in dispute with a local women run advice charity, South Yorkshire Women’s Aid, which it gave a £30,000 start up grant last year – but says it can’t continue funding. The centre was due to close on December 1, but thanks to donations, mainly from trade unions, will now remain open until next March.