Domestic Abuse Contents


1.Domestic abuse is one of the most common, and most dangerous, crimes in the country with deep, long-term consequences for families. In the year ending March 2017, nearly 2 million people in England and Wales were victims of domestic abuse.1 Many of these people, and their children and other family members, will endure long-term harm from their experiences. In addition to the immediate trauma and physical harm, domestic abuse contributes to a number of health problems, including depression and anxiety, alcohol and substance misuse, and sexually transmitted diseases. The social and economic consequences of abuse can include homelessness, loss or separation from family and friends, isolation, loss of employment, debt and destitution. Children exposed to domestic abuse are at higher risk of having mental ill health, poor relationships, and physical health as adults.2 On average two women are killed by their partner or ex-partner every week in England and Wales.3

2.On 17 February 2017 the Prime Minister announced a programme of work leading towards the introduction of a Domestic Abuse Bill. In the Queen’s Speech in June 2017, the Government subsequently committed to bring forward a draft bill that proposes to:

3.In March 2018, the Government published a consultation paper setting out its proposed strategy for responding to domestic abuse.4 In the paper, the Government stated that its main aim was to prevent domestic abuse “by challenging the acceptability of abuse and addressing the underlying attitudes and norms that perpetuate it.” The consultation ran until 31 May 2018 and received over 3,200 responses, as well as information and data gathered from six regional events and almost 30 focus groups which directly reached over 1,000 people.5 The proposals in the consultation paper focused upon policy in England or England and Wales, reflecting the fact that the matters dealt with in the paper were generally devolved to the Scottish Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly.6

4.In addition to the consultation on the future strategy, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) is carrying out a review of all local authority commissioned domestic abuse services, including refuges, together with an audit to help understand what impact current domestic abuse services are having and to identify any gaps in services. This review will explore options for future delivery of domestic abuse services in England. Once the data has been collected and analysed, MHCLG will then make decisions on the future arrangements for domestic abuse services.7

5.We received over 130 written submissions from a range of organisations and individuals. Many of these highlighted the complexity of tackling domestic abuse, the wide variety of influences on the behaviour of perpetrators, and the range of support needed to help victims and their families leave the abuse and recover from their experiences. We would particularly like to thank those individuals who wrote about their personal experiences of domestic abuse and helped us understand the issues involved.

6.A successful outcome for victims of domestic abuse requires an effective response from mainstream public services as well as from specialist providers. For example, some witnesses pointed to welfare reform, and in particular the design of Universal Credit, as a particular area of concern. Other issues identified by witnesses included the shortage of suitable housing for victims trying to leave abusive partners, and the need for better integration of domestic abuse services with health services, and in particular with mental health services and support for victims with alcohol or drug dependencies.

7.The aim of our inquiry was to help inform the Government’s draft bill which is expected to be published this autumn. In order to meet the anticipated timetable for the draft bill, we took only a small amount of oral evidence, and have focused this report on specific issues which were highlighted extensively in both the oral and written evidence we received. Our report is organised according to the themes in the Government’s consultation paper, but we have not attempted to respond to every issue raised in that paper.

8.We heard oral evidence from a range of representatives from statutory agencies, support organisations and academics. We are grateful to all those who contributed to this inquiry.

9.We welcome the Government’s commitment to develop a domestic abuse strategy and the preparation of a draft bill on domestic abuse. This is an important and wide-ranging cross-Government initiative which has the potential to bring significant benefits to people who are currently experiencing or who are recovering from domestic abuse.

1 According to the March 2017 Crime Survey for England and Wales, an estimated 1.9 million adults aged 16 to 59 years experienced domestic abuse in the previous year; Office for National Statistics, Crime in England and Wales: year ending Mar 2017, 20 July 2017

3 Between 1 April 2014 and 31 March 2017, a total of 241 women were killed by their partner/ex-partner In England and Wales. This gives an average of 1.54 women per week (241/[52 weeks*3]) – rounded up to two women per week; Women’s Aid, ‘How Common is domestic abuse?’, (accessed at 8 Oct 2018). (accessed at 8 Oct 2018).

4 HM Government, Transforming the Response to Domestic Abuse: Government Consultation, 8 March 2018

6 The matters dealt with in the consultation are generally devolved to the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly. Some of the matters in the consultation are devolved matters in Wales. The Government has said that it will seek a legislative consent motion for any legislative measures that may impact or fall within the legislative competence of the National Assembly for Wales.

Published: 22 October 2018