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MPs call for ‘stronger action’ to tackle domestic abuse

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Almost 200 women and children, who are victims of domestic abuse, are turned away from emergency refuges every day due to a “desperate lack” of bed spaces.

The figure was revealed by MPs from the Home Affairs Select Committee who have urged the government to provide more support for victims and to widen its reforms as a matter of urgency.

The charity Women’s Aid said 60% of referrals to their refuges are refused due to lack of bed spaces, which equates to 90 women and 94 children every day.

Chair of the committee Yvette Cooper MP said: “Millions of people are affected each year, and two women a week die at the hands of a partner or ex.

“The government is rightly proposing new legislation and a new strategy, but our inquiry found much stronger action is needed across the board.

“We urgently need more refuge places – provision should be a requirement of local authorities, backed by national ring-fenced funding.”

She added: “Rightly the government has recognised the serious problem of economic abuse. But Universal Credit is making it much harder for women to maintain financial independence or to leave abusive relationships and the government’s insistence on a single household payment is a serious retrograde step.”

Sky's Tom Parmenter with victim 'Sophie'
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Domestic abuse victim ‘Sophie’ tells Sky’s Tom Parmenter she has lived in fear for over 30 years

One victim “Sophie”, which is not her real name, told Sky News she has lived in fear of her violent ex-partner for over three decades. His abusive behaviour began with him taking total control of her finances, it then escalated to physical and mental abuse.

She told Sky News: “Every time he walked past me he would hit me on the head, he spat at me and when I tried to resist that’s when he tried to strangle me, pour hot fat on me and he tried to get me to hang myself with some spare washing line we had in a cupboard. There’s just no escape.”

The subsequent “nightmare” of trying to convince the authorities that she was being abused made the situation even worse.

“Not being believed was awful,” she said. “I can’t calculate it, they have created lasting damage.”

Having moved to a different country for several years, Sophie has now resumed her life in the UK with the help of charities such as Surviving Economic Abuse which supports survivors.

The Home Affairs Select Committee report also called on the government to introduce a national register for serial stalkers and for a new commissioner to help stand up for victims’ rights.

In response, a government spokesman said: “Domestic abuse is a devastating crime that shatters the lives of victims and families. We are determined to transform our response so we welcome the committee’s support for the government’s planned Domestic Abuse Bill.

“The landmark bill will create stronger powers to protect and support victims and survivors, pursue perpetrators and ensure agencies are able to respond effectively. It is right that the bill, and the new Domestic Abuse Commissioner, focus solely on supporting the near two million victims and working towards tackling this crime.”

The National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for domestic abuse, Deputy Chief Constable Louisa Rolfe, said inspections on the police response to domestic abuse have acknowledged “substantial improvements in leadership, training, initial response, safeguarding of victims and investigations”, adding that successful prosecutions, particularly for coercive and controlling behaviour, have increased substantially.

She said: “Crime is rising and so is the demand on our service but our commitment to safeguarding victims of domestic abuse and bringing perpetrators to justice is evident.”

Katie Ghose, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said: “The domestic abuse bill is a golden opportunity to transform the lives of survivors and tackle the root causes of domestic abuse once and for all.

“To achieve this, the bill must reflect the reality of survivors’ experiences.”

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