In the July Budget George Osborne announced over £3 million of support to ensure that “domestic violence victims get the help they need.” This is the second time in a year that Mr Osborne has pledged additional cash to prevent the closure of refuges for women fleeing domestic abuse. On this occasion he did so following The Sun’s high profile “Give Me Shelter” campaign.
For most of recent history The Labour Party has led the charge to ensure that victims of domestic abuse are given proper support. For example, Ed Miliband appointed the first ever Shadow Minister for Preventing Violence Against Women and Girls. However, Mr Osborne’s interventions mean that there is now a very real risk that Labour will be eclipsed by the Conservatives on this issue.
If Labour wants to continue to show leadership they must press for improved support for children who either witness domestic abuse or who are victims of domestic abuse. 1 in 5 children fall into this category, according to the NSPCC. Their needs are too often ignored or poorly served.
There are more children living in refuges for victims of domestic abuse than there are women, but there is often very little support for these children. Safer Lives, a charity that promotes strategies to decrease domestic violence, found that only 9% of children in domestic violence refuges had received any mental health support from a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), and a Women’s Aid survey revealed that 42% of refuges have difficulty finding schools for the children in their care.
Just as there is often a lack of support for children who are living in refuges, there is also too often a lack of appropriate support for all children who either witness domestic abuse or who are victims of domestic abuse. That’s why Hestia, the largest provider of domestic abuse refuges in London, is calling on the Home Office to include the needs of all children, including those living in domestic abuse refuges, in its next national Violence Against Women & Girls strategy. If it doesn’t want to get left behind, Labour should adopt this policy as its own.w