Most staff think domestic violence bill falls short in protecting victims

Four in five social care sector workers believe the new domestic
violence bill does not go far enough to protect victims, a
Community Care survey has revealed.

In particular, nearly all the 1,400 front-line workers surveyed
believe the law on contact visits must be reviewed if children are
to be protected from violent parents.

Changes to the law on contact visits had been expected to be
included in the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Bill or the
Children Bill, both of which are now going through parliament, but
appeared in neither.

However, there is provision for supervised contact in the Adoption
and Children Act 2002 and, in March this year, the government said
it would provide £3.5m for 14 new supervised contact

Women’s Aid is urging the government to stop courts granting
children residence or unsupervised contact with violent parents
unless they are satisfied it can be arranged safely. It also wants
a mandatory risk assessment checklist to be used in all family

The charity claims that, between 1994 and 2003, 23 children in
England and Wales were killed during unsupervised visits. More than
one-third of these were killed as a consequence of a family
dispute, usually relating to the end of their parents’

A spokesperson said: “We need to review current contact
arrangements in cases of domestic violence so that we can ensure
the safety of children.”

Victim Support has also lobbied the government to include “better
protection for victims in court”.

It has submitted an amendment to the domestic violence bill that
would update the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 so
that all domestic violence victims automatically receive the status
of vulnerable or intimidated witness.

According to the survey findings, about two-thirds of workers have
seen a rise in domestic violence incidents in the course of their

Most believe an integrated strategy, incorporating the police,
health, housing and social services, would help reduce the

– The survey findings and other issues arising from the domestic
violence bill were due to be debated at Community Care
LIVE in London this week.

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