I very much welcomed the Government publishing the ground-breaking Domestic Abuse Bill which aims to support victims and their families, whilst pursuing offenders.
The Government is introducing a series of measures to promote domestic abuse awareness, support victims, tackle perpetrators and improve services, after it was revealed that domestic abuse affects 6 per cent of all adults. We’ve made a total of 120 commitments to tackle this horrific crime, including the first ever statutory definition of domestic abuse to specifically include economic abuse and recognise the impact of controlling and manipulative non-physical abuse.
In support of this vital work, in my capacity as both an MP and Minister in the Department for Work & Pensions, I have been working closely with national charities Women’s Aid & Refuge. They have helped us review our training and guidance for frontline DWP staff, so that they can be best placed to identify those who are either victims or at risk of any form of domestic abuse. I am glad that we have established what I hope will be a long-term partnership, utilising the expertise of these important charities.
We are also making sure that we have a Partnership Manager in every job centre, who will link up with all of the potential support agencies where a victim can be referred to for additional support. For example here in Swindon we have the fantastic Women’s Refuge, a facility helping people rebuild their lives and I have been incredibly impressed with the staff and volunteers when I have visited both. It is this sort of support that staff in the Job Centre will be able to offer for those in need.
Finally, we are reviewing the financial support available to make sure there isn’t a financial barrier to somebody fleeing abuse. This already includes fast-tracking a full benefit claim and accessing Advance Payments, potentially in just a few hours.
Domestic abuse shatters lives around the country. Protecting victims and their children, as well as supporting survivors, is at the heart of our strengthened response to this horrific crime. I am determined to do my part and ensure that we do everything we can to support the principles of ‘Identify, Refer and Support’, building on the wider measures within the Domestic Abuse Bill.
Elsewhere, it was fantastic to welcome The Duchess of Cornwall to the North Swindon Library to see the work of the National Literacy Trust at one of its trailblazing literacy hubs and meet the winners of the Swindon Voices competition.
Of course, the real stars of the show were the youngsters reading out their stories and poems at the ‘booknic’. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing just how creative the youngsters were, and a huge congratulations to the winners of the competition. I am a huge supporter of the literacy trust, having worked closely with them across many of our local schools and communities.
I have also worked closely with them in Parliament since I was first elected, due to my support for libraries, and it’s through them that I get the great honour to host the launch of the annual Summer Reading Challenge, which thousands of children in Swindon sign up for each year.