Loughton calls for local domestic abuse commissioners

By Joe Lepper

| 03 October 2019

Local domestic abuse commissioners should be appointed to ensure councils are protecting vulnerable children and families, according to former children's minister Tim Loughton.

Tim Loughton said there is a "postcode lottery" of support for families affected by domestic abuse

The MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, who was children's minister from 2010 to 2012, believes that planned legislation through the Domestic Abuse Bill to tackle rises in abuse does not go far enough to ensure children are protected.

He supports the recent appointment of a national domestic abuse commissioner but says local commissioners are also needed to ensure that councils are properly supporting victims, in particular children with experience of, or at risk of, living in violent households.

Measures all councils need to take is to appoint domestic abuse experts, says Loughton.

He praised areas like Stockport, which has a domestic violence specialist social worker and where agencies work in partnership to tackle abuse.

"We need to embed in local authority delivery domestic abuse specialists able to draw together all the agencies involved to ensure an effective and comprehensive local offer, said Loughton during a House of Commons debate on the bill.

"I welcome the national domestic abuse commissioner, but there is also a case for local domestic abuse commissioners - high-profile figures who can ensure that local authorities are living up to their duties to provide a local service."

He added: "I have spent a lot of time on the doorstep with social workers. I spent a week being a social worker in Stockport. I met a fantastic and very experienced domestic violence specialist social worker who was the linchpin of that safeguarding team, a great authority who joined together various agencies.

"It is, however, a postcode lottery whether that experience is available in local authorities."

Loughton also highlighted how better protection of children is needed due to the high prevalence of domestic abuse in children in care cases.

"Children need to feature more prominently in the bill," said Loughton.

"Domestic abuse is the single most common factor that leads to children requiring support from local authority children's services - and we know the pressure they are under."

Home affairs committee chair Yvette Cooper MP urged parliamentarians to ensure that both adults and children are protected from domestic abuse.

"We owe it to those who experience terrible coercive control, and to their children, who can bear the greatest scars, to ensure we use this bill to make the maximum possible change in people's lives," she said.

This week's second reading of the Domestic Abuse Bill, which was passed by MPs, also featured an impassioned speech from Labour MP Rosie Duffield who spoke of her own experience of domestic abuse.

"Abuse is not just about noticeable physical signs," she told MPs.

"Sometimes there are no bruises. Abuse is very often all about control and power; it is about abusers making themselves feel big, or biggest, but that is not how they present themselves. It is not how they win your heart."

Theresa May also used the debate to make her first House of Commons speech since resigning as Prime Minister this summer.

She said: "Domestic abuse blights lives; it can destroy lives, and not just the life of the immediate victim but of the children and other family members as well."

The bill had been temporarily dropped from the House of Commons agenda after Boris Johnson had prorogued parliament last month, but was restored after the Supreme Court ruled this suspension unlawful.

The draft legislation of the Domestic Abuse Bill was first published in January.

This week the Local Government Association called for measures to ensure councils are supported with funding to help tackle domestic violence and support victims, including through children's services and housing.

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