Labour pledges support for victims of domestic abuse

Victims of domestic abuse will be allowed up to 10 days of paid leave so they can access support, Labour has said.

Speaking at the Labour Party Women's conference, shadow minister for women and equalities Dawn Butler said the move could help save the lives of more than 100 victims a year, and address its impact on those around them.

The time off work would provide an opportunity for men and women to find help without putting their employment at risk.

According to latest Office for National Statistics figures, 130,000 children in England and Wales live in homes where there is a "high risk" of domestic abuse.

Department for Education figures released in November revealed that domestic violence is the single most common problem experienced by children in need and is prevalent in around half of all cases (49.9 per cent).

Butler said the new employment legislation could save lives, as on average "two women a week are murdered by a current or former abusive partner".

"This crucial time will allow women and men to leave their abusive partners safely - get the help, protection and support they need knowing their livelihood is secure," she said.

In July, New Zealand became the first country introduced paid domestic violence legislation. A similar act was passed by the Philippines in 2004.

Women's Aid chief executive Katie Ghose said the new policy would help victims of abuse to protect their children.

"From our work with survivors of domestic abuse we know that many women not only have to leave their homes but must also leave their job as they are at risk of the perpetrator finding them," said Ghose.

"They are forced to rebuild their lives from scratch, often struggling to make ends meet.

"Having additional paid leave there as an option would help give survivors the security and support they need to leave their abusive partner, find a new home and protect themselves and their children."

In June it emerged that women and children fleeing domestic abuse are being forced to sleep rough or "sofa surf" due to a lack of support from councils.

Figures published in May showed that teenage girls and single parents with children are among the most likely victims of domestic abuse.

The government is currently considering responses to a consultation on plans to tackle domestic abuse. It is proposing to, among many proposals, improve education for young people about relationships and make changes among statutory agencies to ensure they handle reported cases correctly.