Domestic Abuse Act

The Domestic Abuse Act provides a vital opportunity to transform responses to economic abuse and to improve the lives of victims.

SEA led the successful call for economic abuse to be included in the new statutory definition of domestic abuse. Our successful campaigning and advocacy work was recognised by the 2020 Charity Awards.

Recognition of the broad nature of economic abuse will help to improve the response to domestic abuse. However, intentions to better address economic abuse within the new definition are at risk of being undermined by other Government policies that currently inadvertently facilitate it.

With the support of SafeLives and other organisations, SEA then called for the legislation on controlling or coercive behaviour to be extended to post-separation abuse. Coercive control, including economic abuse, often continues after separation and victims are at heightened risk of homicide in this period. The government accepted this amendment in March 2021 after months of SEA’s engagement.

“He can’t physically get me, he can’t emotionally hurt me, and yet still, economically he can cripple me.”

We also have a dedicated resource on what difference the Act will make to responses to economic abuse, as well as a Frequently Asked Questions page.

Below is a timeline of our engagement with the Domestic Abuse Act, from the draft stages of the Bill to it becoming law.

Our engagement

  • 29 April 2021: The Domestic Abuse Bill receives Royal Assent in the House of Lords and becomes the Domestic Abuse Act. It is now law.
  • 27 April 2021: The Bill passes, and awaits Royal Assent into law from the Queen.
  • 26 April 2021: The Bill returned to the Commons after the Lords refused to reject four of the amendments (including the migrant women protections). SEA produced a briefing for this stage of the Bill.
  • 8 April 2021: Dr Nicola Sharp-Jeffs and Meena Kumari, founder and director of H.O.P.E Training and Consultancy, write to urge the government to listen to the demands of the ‘Step Up Migrant Women’ campaign and others in the sector and support amendments protecting migrant women.
  • 24 March 2021: The third reading of the Bill takes place.
  • 8 March 2021: SEA produced a briefing for the Report Stage in the House of Lords.
  • 1 March 2021: SEA is delighted by the government’s announcement that it will support an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill which will lead to post-separation abuse becoming a criminal offence.
  • February 2021: SEA speaks at a roundtable on post-separation abuse chaired by the Designate Domestic Abuse Commissioner. 
  • 25 January: SEA briefs Peers ahead the Committee Stage in the House of Lords and welcomes government’s commitment to “continue to consider” the post-separation abuse amendment, either in the review of the coercive control offence or later in government.
  • 5 January 2021: The Bill was given its Second Reading. SEA produced a joint briefing with coercive control legal expert Cassandra Wiener of Sussex University, on the need for a post-separation abuse amendment ahead of Committee Stage in the House of Lords.
  • September 2020: SEA reiterates the need for a post-separation economic abuse amendment in the lead up to the Second Reading of the Bill in the House of Lords.
  • 7 July 2020: The Bill is introduced into the House of Lords.
The House of Commons 
  • 6 July 2020: The Bill reaches Report Stage and is given its Third Reading in the House of Commons.
  • June 2020: At Committee Stage, MP Jess Phillips tables an amendment on post-separation abuse. Whilst withdrawn, MP Alex Chalk states: “I entirely agree with the Surviving Economic Abuse charity raising the issue, and it has done an important public service in doing so.”
  • April 2020: SEA welcomes the Second Reading of the Domestic Abuse Bill.
  • March 2020: The Domestic Abuse Bill was reintroduced to Parliament.
The Bill fell with the dissolution of Parliament 
  • October 2019:  The Bill was given its Second Reading. SEA proposed an amendment to the Bill to extend the offence of controlling or coercive behaviour to post-separation abuse.
  • July 2019: The Domestic Abuse Bill was introduced to Parliament.
  • June 2019: SEA responds to Joint Committee report on the draft Domestic Abuse Bill and arranged for an Expert by Experience to give oral evidence to the committee.
  • May 2019: SEA responded to a call for evidence on transformative policies and practices, by the Women’s Budget Group Commission on a Gender-Equal Economy.  The submission focused on the inclusion of economic abuse in the definition of domestic abuse in the Bill.
  • April 2019: SEA submits written evidence to the Joint Committee on the draft Domestic Abuse Bill.
  • January 2019: SEA responds to the publication of the draft Domestic Abuse Bill.
  • October 2018: Both SEA’s written and oral evidence were reflected in the Home Affairs Committee report on Domestic Abuse (ninth report of Session 2017-19)
  • October 2018: SEA was invited by Women’s Aid to speak on a panel discussing economic abuse alongside Victoria Atkins MP (Minister for Women and Safeguarding Minister at the Home Office) which took place at a Conservative Party fringe event.
  • July 2018: SEA submitted written evidence to the Home Affairs Committee after it launched an inquiry into domestic abuse. The Committee asked SEA to provide oral evidence to its inquiry and to submit further written evidence in September 2018.
  • May 2018: To ensure that victim-survivor voices were at the heart of the new Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill, SEA offered to organise a special meeting of women who are ‘Experts by Experience’ in the form of a roundtable at the Home Office. Eighteen women attended, along with officials from the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Economic Crime lead from West Midlands Police.
  • May 2018: SEA’s written response to the consultation harnessed the roundtable findings with the expert knowledge we hold around economic abuse as well as the practice experience of members of the National Working Group on Economic Abuse (which is convened by SEA).
  • March 2018:  The consultation document ‘Transforming the Response to Domestic Abuse’ was published by HM Government. It proposed including economic abuse within the new statutory definition. The work of SEA was recognised as influencing this decision.
  • December 2017: Our analysis of economic abuse within successful prosecutions of controlling or coercive behaviour also recommended that economic abuse be named as part of the statutory definition of domestic abuse proposed by the new Bill.
  • June 2017: SEA welcomed the announcement that legislation would be brought forward to protect victims of domestic violence and abuse in the Queen’s Speech. From the outset, we called for the concept of financial abuse within the policy definition of domestic abuse to be broadened out to economic abuse. This is because abusers control more than ‘just’ their partner’s access to money and finances, but also those things that money can buy, including food, clothing, transportation and a place to live. We met with Home Office Ministers Sarah Newton MP and Victoria Atkins MP ahead of the consultation paper being published.