SEA submitted written evidence to the Joint Committee on the draft Domestic Abuse Bill at the end of April. Our submission highlights key areas where the Bill needs to go further in order to meet its objective of comprehensively addressing domestic abuse, with a particular focus on economic abuse.
In addition to ensuring that economic abuse and its impact are legally recognised by naming economic abuse in the statutory definition, the government states that its inclusion in the statutory definition will lead to better support being provided to victims and ensure that perpetrators are held to account.
Overall, we believe that the government’s plans represent an important step forward. However, if they are to truly represent a ‘once in a generation opportunity’ to transform the approach to domestic abuse then they must go further. We will be working to further shape the content of the draft Bill and recommend that the government:
- Recognises post-separation economic abuse as an offence;
- Considers making economic abuse a stand-alone offence;
- Provides for compensation for victims of economic abuse;
- Expands the definition of economic abuse so that it covers behaviour which affects a victim’s ability to obtain or use economic resources more broadly;
- Exempts domestic abuse victims from the legal aid means test;
- Strengthens the use of vexatious litigation procedures to discourage further abuse through the court system;
- Ensures that joint claimants of Universal Credit are offered separate payments as a default;
- Establishes a duty for government to consider welfare policies through the lens of domestic abuse;
- Extends the Destitute Domestic Violence Concession to all victim-survivors of domestic abuse, regardless of their immigration status; and extends the time period for which it is provided;
- Establishes independent domestic abuse specialists in Jobcentres;
- Provides for a financial ‘compensation package’ to assist survivors in the process of rebuilding their lives safely;
- Introduces paid leave for victim-survivors of domestic abuse;
- Recognises domestic abuse victims as in “priority need” for accommodation without the need to prove further vulnerability;
- Reforms the policy on funding of refuge places so it does not incentivise working women to give up employment;
- Provide for sustainable investment in specialist support services so that victims can access help when they need it;
- Provides legal clarification on issues related to the division of assets and liabilities;
- Introduces a duty of care on banks so that they must act in the best interests of their customers;
- Addresses women’s economic stability in the National Statement of Expectations for Violence against Women and Girls Services;
- Provides for disaggregated data on economic abuse; and ensures that the Crime Survey for England and Wales adequately targets economic abuse; and
- Ensures that the Domestic Abuse Commissioner established by the Bill conducts a national inquiry into economic abuse.
SEA is also facilitating oral evidence to the Committee from an ‘Expert by Experience’ Group member in May.