HC Deb 08 July 2004 vol 423 cc1006-7
20. Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con)

What assessment she has made of the services available for women fleeing domestic violence or abuse. [182669]

The Deputy Minister for Women and Equality (Jacqui Smith)

Domestic violence accounts for one fifth of all violent crimes, affects one in four women and causes the death of two women each week. Those are shocking statistics that we are determined to tackle. Our hand will be strengthened by the new Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Bill, which includes a range of measures and services that will provide additional protection and support for victims and help to bring perpetrators to justice.

Bob Spink

Could the Minister ensure that the services that must be available to women in those circumstances always take children into consideration, and that women, particularly those with children, who have to flee from violence, perhaps to a women's refuge, can get on to the local council's housing register without any impediment?

Jacqui Smith

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. Frequently, children, too, are victims of domestic violence. That is why we need more refuges and why the increase in Government support of between £7 million and £9 million this year and next year will be important. The hon. Gentleman is right—I am sure he has had constituency cases, as I have—that we need to ensure that our housing authorities are open and responsive to the needs of women fleeing domestic violence, especially those with children.

Kali Mountford (Colne Valley) (Lab)

Does not the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Bill, together with the Children's Bill, mark a unique step forward in protection and security for families in their home? In addition to that legislative framework, should not the inter-ministerial group consider the wider social context and encourage collaborative and partnership working not just with local authorities, but right across the social framework, in order that the legislation can do its work effectively?

Jacqui Smith

My hon. Friend is right. There is a series of responsibilities at national and local level, in the voluntary sector and more broadly for ensuring that the widest framework of support is available, helped by additional Government investment through the supporting people programme, which received £57 million this year for housing-related support services. That is backed up by the activities of housing associations and other support organisations, and by the important work of voluntary organisations in this area, particularly Women's Aid and Refuge, which are working together to provide a single national 24-hour freephone helpline.

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