Tory manifesto: New domestic violence offence among raft of pledges

By Neil Puffett

| 18 May 2017

A new criminal offence will be introduced for perpetrators of domestic abuse directed at a child, the Conservative Party has said.

Conservative Party leader Theresa May launched the Tory manifesto today. Picture: Number 10

The party's manifesto for next month's general election, launched by party leader Theresa May today, states that moves to boost help for victims of domestic abuse will be among a number of child-focused policies, if it triumphs at the polls. It also includes a pledge to review support for children in care, and boost childcare provision. 

The manifesto sets out proposals for a Conservative government to bring forward a Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill to consolidate all civil and criminal prevention and protection orders and create "a new aggravated offence if behaviour is directed at a child".

The bill will also create a statutory definition of domestic violence and abuse and establish a domestic violence and abuse commissioner to stand up for victims and survivors, monitor the response to domestic violence and abuse and hold the police and the criminal justice system to account.

News of the pledge comes just days after charity Buttle UK warned that the number of children affected by domestic violence has increased significantly. The charity received 9,909 referrals about children affected by domestic abuse during 2016 - up 33.1 per cent on the 2015 figure of 7,446.

The manifesto also sets out a number of other new children and families polices including plans to boost the quality of childcare, improve children's health and increase the support provided for children in care.

"We will review support for children in need to understand why their outcomes are so poor and what more support they might require, in and out of school," the manifesto states.

A Conservative government would also look at ways to improve the family justice system.

"The family courts need to do more to support families, valuing the roles of mothers and fathers, while ensuring parents face up to their responsibilities," the manifesto states.

In terms of childcare, the manifesto reveals that a Conservative government would remain committed to introducing 30 hours of free childcare for three- and four-year-olds from September, and will look into the best ways that childcare is provided elsewhere in Europe and the world.

It will also establish a capital fund to help primary schools develop nurseries where they currently do not have the facilities to provide one. Meanwhile, a presumption that all new primary schools should include a nursery will be introduced.

The manifesto also contains a pledge of better access to mental health care for children and young people, promising a green paper on young people's mental health before the end of the year.

Mental health first aid training will be introduced for teachers in every primary and secondary school by the end of the parliament and ensure that every school will have a single point of contact with mental health services.

"Every child will learn about mental wellbeing and the mental health risks of internet harms in the curriculum," the manifesto states.

"And we will reform child and adolescent mental health services so that children with serious conditions are seen within an appropriate timeframe and no child has to leave their local area and their family to receive normal treatment."

In terms of education, the manifesto commits a Conservative government to building "at least" 100 new free schools a year. Councils will be prohibited from creating any new places in schools that have been rated either "inadequate" or "requires improvement" by Ofsted.

Meanwhile the ban on the establishment of selective schools will be lifted, subject to conditions, such as allowing pupils to join at other ages as well as eleven.

"Contrary to what some people allege, official research shows that slightly more children from ordinary, working class families attend selective schools as a percentage of the school intake compared to non-selective schools," the manifesto states.

"While the attainment gap between rich and poor pupils stands at 25 per cent across the country, at selective schools it falls to almost zero."

There will also be a review of school admissions policy while pupil premium payments to support disadvantaged children will be retained.

However universal free school meals for children in the first three years will be scrapped.

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