The White Ribbon campaign which seeks to end male violence against women, House of Lords, 25 November 2021

White Ribbon UK is part of the global White Ribbon movement to end men’s violence against women. UK White Ribbon Day, on 25 November 2021, is a national day to raise awareness, educate and campaign to change the cultures that lead to violence against women and girls and marks the start of the 16 days of Action to end gender-based violence. 


Key messages

  • Councils are determined to help tackle Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG), working alongside the police and criminal justice services, Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs), health and education services, the voluntary and community sector and wider support services, to ensure women and girls are protected from all forms of abuse.
  • White Ribbon UK is part of the global White Ribbon movement to end men’s violence against women. UK White Ribbon Day, on 25 November 2021, is a national day to raise awareness, educate and campaign to change the cultures that lead to violence against women and girls and marks the start of the 16 days of Action to end gender-based violence. 
  • All of society needs to take responsibility for driving a cultural shift in our attitude towards preventing abusive and violent behaviour, so that it is considered ‘everybody’s business’ and not simply a criminal justice response. Leadership and education are key to achieving this. 
  • Councils’ youth services and early-intervention children and family services, which play a vital role in identifying and supporting victims of abuse and preventing escalation to stop violence occurring in the first place, remain under significant pressure. It is essential that local preventative and specialist victim support services are put on a long-term sustainable footing to meet the level of demand and support all those who need it. 
  • We welcome the Government’s new Safety of Women at Night Fund, which will finance a variety of new initiatives to improve women’s safety in public spaces. Given the importance of accelerating action and that the fund was oversubscribed, we are calling on the Government to increase the Fund and extend it beyond March 2022.
  • The LGA has published 12 case studies showcasing councils’ and their partner organisations’ innovative work to tackle domestic abuse before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. The case studies aim to share and disseminate best practice from across local government to support locally led solutions.
  • As a key pillar of a preventative approach, a domestic abuse perpetrator strategy must be introduced to address perpetrator behaviour and put in place effective interventions that prevent offending. We are pleased that the Government has listened to calls from the LGA and domestic abuse sector and has committed to bring this forward as part of the forthcoming Domestic Abuse Strategy. To make the progress that’s needed, the strategy must be shaped by victims and survivors and be backed with long-term, adequate funding. 
  • The Government has introduced several overlapping strategies, pieces of legislation and guidance, which seek to tackle violence against women and girls (VAWG), with more in the pipeline. To deliver the best outcomes, it is important that there is an integrated and coordinated approach to tackling VAWG, that is embedded across all Government departments, local government and relevant agencies in a coherent way. 

National coordination

There must be a co-ordinated, whole-system approach to tackling violence against women and girls embedded across all Government departments and relevant agencies. The Domestic Abuse Act was ratified in April 2021; the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is progressing through Parliament; the Government has just published its Beating Crime Plan; and a Draft Victims Bill and a separate Domestic Abuse Strategy are expected in the Autumn 2021. The Government has also recently published a separate Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy update for 2021-2024, which includes a commitment to refresh the National Statement of Expectations on VAWG Commissioning.  All of these are linked to VAWG, and – while noting the importance of recognising that domestic abuse is not perpetrated against women alone - it is important that there is a co-ordinated approach to tackling violence against women and girls that is embedded across all Government departments and relevant agencies in a coherent way. 

For example, through our work on the Domestic Abuse Act we highlighted the importance of a holistic approach that includes sustainable funding for a range of critical services, including children and family services, to help drive an early intervention and preventative approach that can help stop domestic abuse occurring in the first place. A similar crosscutting approach is also needed in relation to the new VAWG strategy. A wider culture change is required, spanning education, health, housing, families, and communities through to policing and criminal justice measures. Prevention and early intervention must be the cornerstone of this approach. 

Cultural change

All of society needs to take responsibility for driving a cultural shift in our attitude towards preventing abusive and violent behaviour, so that it is considered ‘everybody’s business’ and not simply a criminal justice response. Leadership and education are key to achieving this. National personal, social, health and economic, and relationships and sex education curricula in schools should include actively tackling harmful gender stereotypes (for men and women), including the impact of media online. All young people should learn about healthy relationships, consent, domestic and gender-based violence, hate crime and their right to report and right to justice.  Informal group settings, such as youth services, Scout groups or sports clubs could also be good opportunities to share learning and raise awareness. We would also welcome more attention on some of the emerging forms of online abuse, such as revenge porn or abuse via dating apps.

Community level initiatives and communications campaigns also have a key role to play in engaging with the wider population and driving behavioural change. These campaigns should help signpost support for victims; raise awareness about abuse, sexism and harassing behaviour and encourage people to call it out; and prompt perpetrators to recognise their own abusive behaviour and seek help to change.

Funding for local services

We welcomed the Spending Review 2020 announcement of £125 million new burdens funding to help enable local authorities to deliver the new statutory duty to support domestic abuse victims and their children in safe accommodation in 2020-21, and it is helpful that the Domestic Abuse Commissioner will be undertaking a review and reporting on community based domestic abuse services.

Long-term, sustainable Government funding is needed to help councils and their partners deliver a comprehensive approach to addressing VAWG, which enables long-term planning and the delivery of appropriate and accessible provision. Councils’ youth services and early-intervention children and family services play a vital role in identifying and supporting victims of abuse and stopping escalation to prevent violence occurring in the first place. There is clear evidence on the social and fiscal benefits of prevention and early help programmes, which shows that these interventions deliver both improved outcomes and cost-savings. Despite the recent Budget, these services remain under sustainable pressure with many councils consistently having to overspend on their children’s services budgets. Long-term and sustainable funding for specialist services for domestic abuse survivors is also needed to ensure help is available to all who need it. The Domestic Abuse Commissioner’s work to map community-based support services will help to provide an evidence-base for the needed investment and value of these types of services.

In particular, we welcome the Government’s recently announced £5 million Safety of Women at Night Fund that intends to support a variety of local initiatives to make women safer in public spaces. Given the importance of the issue and that the fund was oversubscribed, we are calling on the Government to increase the fund and extend it beyond March 2022. It is important that we shift focus from what safety precautions women and girl can take to ensure their own safety, towards how can we disrupt and prevent a perpetrator’s abusive and violent behaviour and the scope of the Fund should reflect this.

Perpetrator strategy

Introducing a comprehensive perpetrator strategy, which identifies those who commit violence and helps them to change their behaviour, is an essential pillar of work to tackle violence against women. There are approximately 400,000 perpetrators causing high and medium levels of harm across England and Wales, and yet fewer than 1 per cent receives a specialist intervention that might prevent future abusive behaviour. There is a growing evidence that quality-assured interventions are highly effective at turning perpetrators away from committing violence, yet the availability and quality of existing programmes is patchy. There is an urgent need for further investment to fund and develop effective perpetrator interventions, as part of an integrated, multi-agency approach.

We support the Drive Projects’ Call to Action (pdf) for a strategic approach to perpetrators as part of the Government’s Domestic Abuse Strategy. The Domestic Abuse Act (2021) committed the Government to legally publishing a strategy focussing on perpetrators of domestic abuse within one year. We are pleased that the Government announced that they will bring this forward as part of the forthcoming Domestic Abuse Strategy. To ensure the strategy is effective, it must be shaped by the experience of victims and survivors and be backed with adequate, long-term funding. We look forward to contributing to the strategy, to ensure that it makes the progress that is needed. 

Consideration should also be given to accommodation for perpetrators. This is an important aspect of allowing domestic abuse victims to remain in their own home (if it is safe to do so), by ensuring the perpetrator leaves. This will require a cross-Government approach and we look forward to working with the Department for Levelling Up, Communities and Housing, the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office on possible solutions. 

Access to justice

Action should be taken to improve the number of people prosecuted and convicted for rape and sexual assault cases, fast-tracking these cases through the courts, alongside improved support for survivors. We would also like to see the length of sentencing for domestic abuse, sexual assault and rape be reviewed.

When a victim takes the brave step of reporting their rape to the police it is vitally important that they feel supported, believed and that something is being done about it. All too often this doesn’t happen. One in two of victims who report their rape to the police drop out of their own cases. As the Government’s end-to-end Rape Review (pdf) identified “Victims of rape are being failed. Thousands of victims have gone without justice. But this isn’t just about numbers – every instance involves a real person who has suffered a truly terrible crime”.

We welcome the Government’s commitment to looking at this important issue in more detail – and it was positive to see the 2021 Spending Review commitment to recruiting more Independent Sexual Violence and Domestic Violence Advocates and improving the prosecution rates in rape cases. 

Notes

To mark the 16 Day of Action, the Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse (EIDA) have complied a helpful list of events and resources to encourage all employers to take action and contribute to ending violence against women and girls. 

Contact

Megan Edwards, Public Affairs and Campaigns Adviser

megan.edwards@local.gov.uk