SARAH CHAMPION MP STATEMENT ON GOVERNMENT'S ENDING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS STRATEGY

"It's right that the Government is recognising violence against women and girls as one of the most pressing issues of our day. However, the Government still has a long way to go in actually protecting all women and girls. The Government's plan to improve commissioning practices is welcome. It is correct that the Government demands a high level of service from local partnerships with a National Statement of Expectations. However, the Government must not shirk from its own commitments to provide the necessary support to give local providers the resources needed to succeed and not be set up to fail.

The Government's commitment to provide core funding to refuges is welcomed. However, as local authority budgets continue to be cut, it will be of small comfort to the 17% of women's refuges that have closed on this Government's watch, with a third of all referrals being turned away due to lack of capacity. I hope the Government is fully committed to its pledge to support refuges and ensure that no more of these vital services are forced to close during due to cuts. Additionally, it is worrying that the Government is doing very little in the area of protecting black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) domestic violence services for women. For the pledge of 80 million of funding to tackle violence against women and girls to be effective, it is essential that the Government ring-fences long term funding for specialist domestic violence charities.

Another concern is the fact the Government highlight that they have created new protection orders for Female Genital Mutilation cases, allowing authorities to take protective action before harm occurs. These protection orders were designed to protect 10,000 girls at risk but my parliamentary questions have shown in reality they have only been used on sixteen occasions. Creating legislation does not solve the issue. It is essential that the Government ensure that local authorities and police forces are using these protection orders so women and girls are protected from violence.

I am disappointed to see that compulsory relationship education is not part of this strategy. Education is key in ending abuse. I welcome the announcement that education and earlier interventions will take a prominent role, but it is essential that it is statutory so that every child from a young age can learn about respecting themselves and others.

Whilst welcoming a number of the steps outlined in the Government's strategy to address violence against women and girls, I am determined to see that these commitments made to vulnerable women and girls are followed through and are not just warm words and a recording of existing funding."

You can read the Government's Ending Violence against Women and Girls Strategy here

NewsVanessa Johns