Children ‘will remain at risk’ under new domestic violence legislation

The government’s new proposals on domestic violence fail to
adequately protect children from abusive fathers, an expert has

Alan Coombe, a policy and practice manager at children’s charity
Barnardo’s, said last week that the domestic violence bill,
published last December, “fell short” of addressing the needs of

He said the bill did not consider the issues of contact with
children granted by the family courts in cases where there had been
allegations or concerns about domestic violence.

Some of the fathers in these cases went on to kill their children,
Coombe said. To tackle this, he urged the introduction of risk
assessments and for children to be listened to. Children should be
given long enough to be able to open up about how they feel.

Coombe, who was speaking at a conference on children and young
people, concluded that in cases where there were concerns about
domestic violence all contact with fathers should be supervised to
ensure children’s safety.

He called on the government to ensure that every local authority
had a place where such meetings could take place, such as
children’s centres, and to resource them accordingly.

He said he had received reassurances from the home secretary David
Blunkett and the children’s minister Margaret Hodge that the
effects of domestic violence on children would not fall into a gap
between their departments and would be addressed in forthcoming

He criticised the low level of government funding of refuges for
women who have fled domestic violence. “The government is quite
happy to celebrate what women’s refuges are doing, but the level of
funding means that the child care that refuges provide does not
meet Ofsted standards. Frankly that is a complete disgrace,” he

Coombe called on the Home Office and the Department for Education
and Skills to “get their act together right now” and address the

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