The government has announced a raft of measures which it says will better protect victims of domestic abuse (intimate partner violence).
The announcement was made on 20th February, and as we are a little pressed for time this week, we’re adding the press release in full below. We are concerned that it only mentions protection for “women and girls”, when we know boys can also be affected, as can men.
Domestic abusers will face tags and tougher management under new measures to protect women and girls.
The new proposals go further than ever before in protecting women and girls from harassment, aggression and violence, and focus on stopping domestic abuse before it takes place.
The law will be changed so that the most dangerous domestic abusers will be watched more closely. For the first time, controlling or coercive behaviour will be put on a par with physical violence, which will mean offenders sentenced to a year or more imprisonment or a suspended sentence will automatically be actively managed by the police, prison and probation services under multi-agency public protection arrangements. A range of agencies will have a legal duty to cooperate to manage the risks posed by these dangerous offenders. This will make it easier to deliver a joined-up approach to protect the public.
While we are pursuing this legislation, police and the probation service will start work immediately to ensure that from now offenders sentenced to a year or more for controlling and coercive behaviour are recorded on the violent and sex offender register, so that they don’t fall through the cracks.
In addition, abusers could be fitted with a tag, prevented from going within a certain distance of a victim’s home, and made to attend a behaviour change programme, as part of a trial of domestic abuse protection notices and domestic abuse protection orders in three areas in the UK.
Also from today (20 February), those at risk of, or suffering from, domestic abuse will be able to receive emergency help from one of 18 jobcentres and jobs and benefit offices across the UK, and a new postcode checker will tell them their nearest location to access the service.
The Ask for ANI (Action Needed Immediately) scheme is already in operation in over 5,000 pharmacies across the UK in over 88 cities, towns and villages. It is delivered in partnership with Hestia’s Safe Spaces. Anyone who is suffering from or fearful of domestic abuse can ask for ANI, and they will be guided to a safe and private space and offered support to call the police or specialist domestic abuse services.
Since the scheme launched in 2021, the emergency support has been accessed on average once a week.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:
No woman or girl should ever have to feel unsafe in her home or community and I am determined to stamp out these appalling crimes.
The Ask for Ani scheme provides a lifeline for anyone suffering from domestic abuse and we will continue to expand the scheme so that more people can access it, including piloting this service in the first jobcentres.
As well as extra support for victims, we’re making it a priority for the police to tackle violence against women and girls and toughening up the way offenders are managed – preventing more of these crimes from happening in the first place, and bringing more perpetrators to justice.
Government will also require police forces to treat violence against women and girls as a national threat, as set out in a new strategic policing requirement published today. This means tackling these crimes will be as important as tackling threats like terrorism, serious and organised crime and child sexual abuse.
On top of this, the National Police Chiefs’ Council is writing to every force in England and Wales to reiterate the expectation that forces must proactively identify the most dangerous domestic abusers in their area to prevent them from committing further crimes. To support this, the Home Office will help develop a new risk assessment tool so that police forces can quickly identify domestic abusers most likely to commit the greatest harm – even where they have no conviction – and stop them in their tracks.
Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, said:
Domestic abuse is a despicable crime that leads to people’s closest relationships becoming a frightening existence of torment, pain, fear, and anxiety.
It is completely unacceptable and as Home Secretary I will do everything in my power to stop it.
The wide-ranging measures announced today will mean the most dangerous offenders will be watched more closely and added to the violent and sex offender register.
Also, police forces in England and Wales will now have to treat violence against women and girls as a national threat and more victims will be protected from harm.
The full set of measures being set out today include:
- Tougher management of the most dangerous offenders: The government will change the law to ensure that offenders with a conviction of controlling or coercive behaviour who are sentenced to 12 months or more imprisonment or a suspended sentence are automatically eligible to be managed by the police, prison and probation services under multi-agency public protection arrangements. This means agencies will have a legal duty to cooperate to manage the risks posed by these dangerous domestic abuse offenders. These offenders will also be added to the violent and sex offender register going forward.
- Piloting new civil orders: The Home Office and Ministry of Justice will pilot the new domestic abuse protection notices and orders in Gwent, Greater Manchester, and three London boroughs (Croydon, Bromley and Sutton), with the Metropolitan Police, British Transport Police, and other criminal justice partners. The new cross-jurisdictional order will provide flexible, longer-term protection for victims. The court will be able to impose requirements such as attendance on perpetrator behaviour change programmes, alongside electronic monitoring and making it mandatory for offenders to notify the police of name and address changes. Breach of any requirement will be a criminal offence.
- Ask for ANI codeword scheme pilot: Building on the success of the scheme in pharmacies across the UK, domestic abuse victims will be able to ‘Ask for ANI’ in 18 jobcentre and jobs and benefit offices through a pilot launching today across the UK, and receive support from a trained staff member who will guide them to a safe and private space, where they can help a victim call the police or support services. A new postcode checker has also been launched today to enable anyone to find their nearest participating pharmacy, jobcentre or jobs and benefits office.
- Adding violence against women and girls to the strategic policing requirement: The Home Secretary has published the new strategic policing requirement, which for the first time categorises violence against women and girls as a national threat and sets clear expectations about how this threat should be tackled by police forces.
- Identifying dangerous perpetrators before conviction: The government will develop a new digital tool which will use police data to identify individuals who are high risk and likely to commit domestic abuse offences. The tool will also include perpetrators without conviction – in the year ending March 2022 there were 910,980 domestic abuse-related crimes recorded by the police in England and Wales, compared to 40,647 convictions.
- Strengthening Clare’s Law: We have published new guidance which reduces the timeframes for police to disclose information about an individual’s violent or abusive behaviour, through the scheme known as Clare’s Law, meaning it will be quicker to access information on a partner’s or ex-partner’s previous abusive or violent offending. The guidance will be placed on a statutory footing next month (March 2023).
- Funding specialist victim support programmes: Up to £8.4 million will be allocated over two years to fund projects run by specialist organisations to provide tailored, trauma-informed support from 1 April 2023.
- Investing in perpetrator interventions: police and crime commissioners (PCCs) will be granted up to £36 million over the next two years for tackling perpetrators through interventions which directly address abusers’ behaviour, bringing total funding for these projects to more than £70 million since 2020.
In April 2021, the landmark Domestic Abuse Act updated the definition of domestic abuse, recognising it refers to a range of abusive behaviour – physical, sexual, violent or threatening, psychological, emotional and coercive or controlling acts are now recognised as criminal abuse.
For the first time, the Act recognised children as victims, and economic abuse as a form of domestic abuse. It established a statutory duty on local authorities relating to the provision of support to victims and survivors and their children within safe accommodation which was supported by £125 million worth of funding, and created new offences of non-fatal strangulation and threats to disclose intimate images.
Tackling violence against women and girls (VAWG) remains one of the government’s top priorities and we are doing everything possible to make our streets safer for women and girls. Through our tackling VAWG strategy, we are prioritising prevention, supporting survivors, and strengthening the pursuit of perpetrators.
This includes measures in the Online Safety Bill to strengthen the law around the sending and sharing of intimate images without consent, and committing to introduce a package of new offences when Parliamentary time allows that tackle the taking and sharing of these vile images – which will include downblousing.
The government is also supporting the Protection from Sex Based Harassment in Public Bill, which introduces harsher sentences if someone who deliberately harasses, alarms, or distresses someone in a public place does so because of the victim’s sex, with the maximum sentence increasing from six months to two years.
Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Dominic Raab said:
Domestic abuse is an abhorrent crime which can make people’s lives a living hell and we will do whatever we can to bring these offenders to justice.
This new plan will crack down on those carrying out this abuse with tougher monitoring of offenders, including electronic tagging, while investing millions more in specialist support services for the most vulnerable.
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Mel Stride said:
As safe spaces with strong links to the wider community, DWP jobcentres are uniquely placed to help vulnerable people access help on a local or national level.
Ask for ANI provides victims with a discreet route to get urgent help and is an important part of the extensive support offer already in place nationally across our network.
National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Domestic Abuse, Assistant Commissioner Louisa Rolfe, said:
Policing is committed to protecting victims of domestic abuse and bringing perpetrators to justice. We welcome the raft of measures aimed at tackling domestic abuse in many forms.
Adding violence against women and girls to the strategic policing requirement, puts it on the same level of priority at terrorism and child abuse, where we believe it belongs. All forces are already prioritising VAWG and we welcome this prioritisation from the government.
Domestic abuse is a complex and entrenched societal problem and requires a multi-agency approach. Providing support for victims and their families and to introduce effective and sustainable solutions for perpetrators is vital.
We will work together with the Home Office to ensure the measures announced today can aid policing and the criminal justice system in their fight to tackle domestic abuse.
Caroline Bernard, Head of Influence at Respect, said:
Respect welcomes these additional measures to respond to perpetrators of violence against women and girls, including domestic abuse. They echo our calls to address the root cause, as well as the consequences of violence and abuse.
In particular, we are pleased to see that violence against women and girls will be added to the strategic policing requirement. Implemented effectively and resourced appropriately, this could have a major impact on the policing response to perpetrators of VAWG.
We look forward to working with government to ensure that these additional measures are delivered successfully alongside the tackling domestic abuse plan, so that survivors of domestic abuse can be safe and free from harm.
Today’s announcements sit alongside wider work the government is doing to tackle domestic abuse. Since the publication of the tackling domestic abuse plan the government has:
doubled funding for the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, which sees on average 15,000 users every three months, and an uplift for all other national tackling VAWG helplines, to a combined total of over £2 million a year
launched a new communications campaign, ‘Enough’ to change societal attitudes towards domestic abuse and violence against women and girls, taking long term actions to prevent violence and encourage bystander intervention. The campaign includes online information at enough.campaign.gov.uk, television adverts, billboard signs, social media posts and radio advertisements highlighting the different actions we can all take to challenge perpetrators of abuse
committed over £79 million since 2020 for domestic abuse perpetrator interventions and research which includes up to £36 million over the next two years for interventions which is the first time we are providing multi-year funding to tackle perpetrators
introduced new measures in our Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, which will give victims of domestic abuse longer to report offences to the police so that abusers cannot evade justice
as part of quadrupling funding for victim and witness support services by 2024/25, up from £41m in 2009/10, we have also committed increase the number of independent sexual and domestic abuse advisors by 300 to over 1,000 – a 43% increase over the next three years
Ask for ANI
A postcode checker is available at gov.uk/ask-for-ani where victims can check their nearest Ask for ANI location, including pharmacies, jobcentres and jobs and benefits offices.
Training materials and further information for pharmacies on Ask for ANI is available.
Information on the support available to victims of domestic abuse and other VAWG harms is available.
Ask for ANI is delivered in partnership with Hestia’s Safe Spaces, a safe and confidential room where victims can take some time to reflect, access information on specialist support services or call friends or family. Safe Spaces are available anywhere Ask for ANI is offered.
The Ask for ANI scheme is being rolled out in the following jobcentres and jobs and benefit offices:
Newport Charles Street
DWP domestic abuse support already in offer across jobcentres:
DWP supports victims of domestic abuse to claim benefits through a range of measures. These include giving split payments when requested, relaxing benefit conditions, making referrals to local support, arranging special provisions for temporary accommodation, and signposting to expert third-party support;
Since 2017, DWP have delivered mandatory training to staff on how to identify domestic abuse, offer support to those experiencing abuse and check that the abuse has been reported to the courts, police or social services; and
All customers are asked if they have experienced or witnessed domestic abuse, or if they feel their claim will put them in danger. Staff will then signpost them to immediate help including Victim Support and the Forced Marriage Unit. If they are in immediate danger, jobcentre staff will phone the police.