Victims and Prisoners Bill Debate

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Department: Ministry of Justice
Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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My Lords, from listening to this debate, I am struck again and again by how so much of what we are saying was said in this House during the passage of the Domestic Abuse Bill. We need to listen to and be aware of that. I hope the Minister will reflect on that.

I agree with much of what has been said this afternoon. I will briefly add my voice in support of Amendment 79, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, to which I have added my name. I simply echo her frustration that we are no further forward in securing a long-term solution for migrant victim survivors of domestic abuse who are subject to the no recourse to public funds condition. I raised this during the passage of the Domestic Abuse Bill. As has been said, we were told then that the Government needed more evidence before implementing policy change, and here we are three years later, with so much evidence produced, both officially and unofficially, about the need for reform but a reluctance from the Government to make the much-needed change. I simply hope that the Minister might answer the very valid questions raised by the noble Baroness, especially on the inadequacy of the reform to the migrant victims of domestic abuse concession.

Baroness Benjamin Portrait Baroness Benjamin (LD)
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My Lords, I fully support my noble friend Lady Brinton’s Amendment 19 and her passionate and common-sense contribution, which I hope the Minister will consider. I will speak on Amendments 62 and 71, to which I have put my name.

Child abuse and exploitation affects hundreds of thousands of children across this country each year. Sadly, any child, in any place, can be a victim of abuse. Children are also disproportionately impacted by abuse. The Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse found that children are the victims of 40% of sexual offences. Being a victim of abuse has a devastating effect on children, with the impacts often staying with them for the rest of their lives. Yes, childhood lasts a lifetime.

Despite this, we are leaving our most vulnerable children without access to essential child-specific victim support services and child-specific victim support roles. It is key that, when commissioners decide what services and roles to commission to support victims, they must pay attention and due regard to the need for child-specific victim support services and roles to meet the need in their local area.

That is why I put my name to Amendments 62 and 71. These amendments would strengthen the duty to collaborate in the Bill and have a huge impact for children who have experienced the most horrific crimes. Child-specific victim support services play a crucial role in helping a child to start to recover from abuse and trauma, giving children a space to work through their trauma and offering mental health and counselling services.

However, support services are hugely underfunded and undervalued, and children are facing a postcode lottery in accessing them. Recent research by the Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse found that across England and Wales there are only 468 services providing support to victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. This is despite an estimated half a million children suffering from some form of sexual abuse every year. Barnardo’s, which offers child sexual exploitation services—I declare an interest as its vice-president—has found that an additional 1,900 child independent domestic violence advisers and almost 500 child independent sexual violence advisers are needed across England and Wales to support the number of identified child victims of domestic and sexual abuse.