Rachel Maclean – 2021 Statement on the Domestic Abuse Commissioner

The statement made by Rachel Maclean, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, in the House of Commons on 1 November 2021.

Tackling domestic abuse remains a key priority for this Government. Our landmark Domestic Abuse Act 2021 received Royal Assent in April of this year, setting the legal framework to provide further protections to the millions of people who experience domestic abuse, and strengthen measures to tackle perpetrators.

A number of provisions of the Act have already come into force, including for the first time in history a wide-ranging legal definition of domestic abuse which incorporates a range of abuses beyond physical violence, including coercive or controlling behaviour, emotional and economic abuse.

Today, further provisions have been implemented as we establish the domestic abuse commissioner as a statutory office holder. As part of this, there is a requirement that the Secretary of State issue a statutory framework document that deals with matters relating to the commissioner such as the functions, powers, governance, funding and staffing linked to the role. The document sets out in detail how the Home Office will work with the commissioner, and outlines the relationship between the independent commissioner and Government.

The UK Government have worked closely with the Welsh Government to consider and develop the arrangements set out in the document. The framework document has been laid before Parliament today and is also available on www.gov.uk.

Background

The designate domestic abuse commissioner, Nicole Jacobs, was appointed on 18 September 2019 to ensure that the crucial work of the commissioner could begin.

The office of the domestic abuse commissioner will provide public leadership on domestic abuse issues and play a key role in overseeing and monitoring the provision of domestic abuse services.

The commissioner will be responsible for encouraging good practice in preventing domestic abuse; in identifying victims and survivors, including children, and perpetrators; and in the protection and provision of support to people affected by domestic abuse.

The commissioner will have the power and the duty to publish reports and must lay them before Parliament. Within the next year she must publish a report on the need and provision for certain domestic abuse services in England. These reports will hold local commissioners, statutory agencies and national Government to account and make recommendations on how they can improve their response.

Specified public authorities will be under a duty to co-operate with the commissioner, and they and Government Ministers will be required to respond to each recommendation made to them within 56 days.

The commissioner will operate in England and Wales but will consider only reserved matters in Wales, such as criminal justice. They will, however, be expected to work closely with the national advisers for violence against women, gender-based violence, domestic abuse and sexual violence in Wales. The statutory framework document also covers the commissioner’s relationship with the UK Parliament and Senedd Cymru in so far as the activities of the commissioner relate to devolved matters in Wales.

The Domestic Abuse Act forms part of the action this Government are taking to transform our response to domestic abuse and violence against women and girls. In July we published a new cross-Government tackling violence against women and girls strategy, which commits to driving a step change in the response to these crimes, with a whole system approach focusing on prioritising prevention, supporting victims and pursuing perpetrators, underpinned by a stronger system. Later this year we will publish a complementary domestic abuse strategy, which will further shift the dial towards preventing domestic abuse from happening in the first place through early intervention, increasing our focus on tackling perpetrators of abuse to reduce reoffending and reaffirming our commitment to supporting victims.