Exclusive: Domestic abuse victims are too low on the Government's 'perverse' priority list, says Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds

Domestic abuse victims are too low on the Government's "perverse" priority list, with only a "derisory amount" of funding pledged to tackle the crime, despite the number of female homicides hitting a record 15 year high, it has been claimed.

Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds states funding to tackle domestic abuse across England and Wales must be a top priority for the Government, with more than 1.2 million domestic-abuse incidents and crimes reported to police in one year.

Mr Thomas-Symonds said the £19 million announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in the 2021 Budget - earmarked for programmes working with domestic abuse perpetrators in a bid to reduce the risk of reoffending - and the £125 million allocated back in February to help councils in England provide therapy and support in safe accommodation for victims - is a "derisory amount" and "speaks volumes" as to where victims sit on the Government's priority list.

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In the two years to March 2020, 448 women were killed in domestic-related incidents in Great Britain - the highest number in a decade.

Domestic abuse victims are too low on the Government's "perverse" priority list, with only a "derisory amount" of funding pledged to tackle the crime, despite the number of female homicides hitting a record 15 year high, it has been claimed.

The police also recorded a total of 1,288,018 domestic abuse-related incidents and crimes in England and Wales in the year ending March 2020.

Speaking exclusively to The Yorkshire Post, Mr Thomas-Symonds said: "Clearly the amount of funding earmarked by this Government is grossly inadequate when you look at the prevalence of domestic abuse across the country.

"I think it speaks volumes as to where victims of violence against women and girls sit in this government's priority list.

"The Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill going through parliament at the moment was proposing to lock people up who vandalise statues for 10 years. The minimum sentence for rape - which I say should be higher - is a five year sentence, and the Government are talking about locking people up for vandalism for 10, which shows the perverse sense of priorities they have."

Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds states funding to tackle domestic abuse across England and Wales must be a top priority for the Government, with more than 1.2 million domestic-abuse incidents and crimes reported to police in one year.

"This government has to make domestic abuse a top priority and I am afraid it hasn't been for too long and this is why we have ended up in this inadequate situation. It frustrates me as there is so much more that needs to be done"

The Domestic Abuse Bill currently working its way through the parliamentary process promises to place a legal duty on local authorities to commission and procure domestic abuse services once it passes into law.

Mr Thomas-Symonds said: "The Domestic Abuse Bill is really important and has some significant parts but the Government has to implement it properly and provide appropriate support both to commission accommodation and refuges that are required for victims, but also the support for many victims who don’t go into refuges, so the specialist support that a lot of victims require as well."

The Shadow Home Secretary's comments have been echoed by domestic abuse organisations across Yorkshire, who say so much more could be done to tackle the issue if more funding was available.

Sinead Cregan, director of development at Inspire North has said services like hers need more support for victims and an increase in financial investment, stating that the £19 million recently announced to tackle perpetrators is a "paltry" amount when shared between 343 councils across England.

Ms Cregan said funding needs to be allocated to children who have been impacted by domestic abuse. She also believes there is a lack of decent move on accommodation and perpetrator programmes need increased funding.

Based in Leeds, the charity's wide-ranging work across the north of England includes running a refuge and working with perpetrators of domestic abuse.

Ms Cregan said: "This amount is just not sufficient when you look at the actual levels of funding required. Many domestic abuse services are funded through local authorities and over the last 12 years their budgets have been absolutely decimated.

"We know from experience as some of our own contracts have been reduced because of significant funding cuts. The Government is putting local authorities in the position where they have to decide who they prioritise in terms of client groups and we know most spend budgets on older people's agenda.

"It is as if the Government has created competition between services."

"The only way we are truly going to make a change and for abuse to stop is through education to tackle the root cause. If the funding was available we could do so much more."

A report from Women's Aid reveals that funding life-saving specialist domestic abuse support, for every survivor who needs it, will cost £393 million per year.

Women's Aid state that a crisis in funding has severely damaged specialist domestic abuse services over the last decade, with many life-saving services struggling to survive with lower levels of funding than they need to meet the support needs of women and children.

A Home Office spokesman said: "The new Domestic Abuse Act is fundamentally transforming our response to this devastating crime and is providing greater protection for victims.

"We will provide almost £151 million to victim and witness support services in 2021-22, including an extra £51 million to increase support for rape and domestic abuse victims.

"At the same time, we are clear that we can only tackle the root causes if we hold perpetrators to account which is why we are spending £25 million on preventative programmes."