Local authority leaders have welcomed the re-introduction of a Bill aimed to protect victims of domestic abuse, but called on the Government to fund services designed to prevent violence in the home.
The Government’s Domestic Abuse Bill will receive its first reading in Parliament today and marks, according to home secretary Priti Patel, a ‘monumental step’ to empower victims of abuse.
It will place a legal duty on tier one local authorities – county councils and unitary authorities – in England to offer secure homes for those fleeing violence, as well as protection for their children.
Vice president of the Association of Directors of Children's Services, Jenny Coles, said: 'The funding package on offer does not reflect the scale, reach and severity of this issue given recent research puts the annual social and economic costs of domestic abuse at £66bn.
'It’s the ultimate invest to save case – preventing domestic abuse in the first place will save money but, crucially, it will save lives.
'Women’s refuges are among the many vital services that have been affected by austerity.
'It’s important that any new duty on local authorities to provide accommodation is fully funded by government if it is to have the desired impact.'
Chair of the Local Government Association’s safer and stronger communities board, Cllr Simon Blackburn, warned that councils needed extra money to deal with their new duties, as well as to fund preventative services.
He continued: ‘The new statutory duty to provide safe accommodation for victims and their children has only been placed on councils, but they cannot tackle this crime alone.
‘Councils will need the cooperation of other public services, including the police, to work together on this.
‘There needs to be a greater focus on prevention and early intervention measures to tackle the root causes, support more victims and stop domestic abuse occurring in the first place.
‘This will require funding and investment for evidence-based perpetrator programmes and for key learning and best practice from domestic homicide reviews to be shared on a national level.
‘However, the ability of councils to fund services for victims is limited by significant pressures on their budgets.
‘Ahead of the Budget, we want to work with Government to ensure councils receive long-term and sustainable funding to protect individuals and families from the physical and psychological harm of domestic abuse.'