We must halt the erosion of specialist Black and minority ethnic domestic abuse support services
The Domestic Abuse Bill is our chance to ensure that all women receive the same level of support no matter their ethnicity or immigration status, says Meg Hillier MP | Credit: PA Images
Abuse is not one size fits all, and support shouldn't be either. The Government must recognise that specialist ‘by and for’ services provide Black and minority ethnic women with a lifeline
We know that domestic abuse affects women and girls regardless of ethnicity and socioeconomic status.
However, Black and minority ethnic and migrant women are particularly vulnerable to high rates of domestic abuse. With research showing that Black and minority ethnic women are generally trapped in violent relationships for longer than white British women.
In Hackney, since July 2017, 169 women and 146 children have been placed in refuges. Of the 169 women, 110 were Black or minority ethnic. Clearly, it is essential that services listen to and reflect the needs and cultural differences of different communities.
It is also important that we understand and acknowledge that the experiences and discrimination faced by Black women is different from other minority ethnic women.
Using the term BAME as an all-encompassing term, homogenises vastly different lived experiences. We therefore need to ensure that an accurate representation of the needs of Black women are listened to when decisions over services that disproportionally affect them are being made.
Despite the increase demand for domestic abuse services, austerity measures implemented by the Government since 2010 have meant budget cuts to local authorities of up to 50 per cent.
This has resulted in a move towards generic lower cost services for domestic abuse and violence against women services.
It is essential that future funding systems for domestic abuse understands that a one size fits all policy will not address the problems currently within the sector
With higher levels of competition to receive funding, smaller specialist organisations do not have the finances or resources to bid for larger contracts, leading to the erosion of Black and minority ethnic specialist services. Currently, only 32 in England currently run for Black and minority ethnic women.
In my role as chair of the Public Accounts Committee I have seen the failures in awarding contracts to larger organisations rather than smaller specialist companies who are experts in their line of work.
Defining who is awarded a contract based solely on financial factors, fails to acknowledge the wealth of expertise and longer-term vision.
We need to ensure that this framework for awarding contracts changes within the domestic abuse sector.
Specialist ‘by and for’ services provide black and minority ethnic women with a lifeline when they are at their most vulnerable while having limited financial resources available.
However, official statistics on domestic abuse by ethnicity are not published below national level.
The failure to collect this data means we cannot ensure the necessary support is provided to the women that need it.
It is important that detailed data is collected to a granular level to help implement policies that prevent domestic abuse rather than just working reactively.
The Domestic Abuse Bill is our chance to ensure that all women receive the same level of support no matter their ethnicity or immigration status
The Domestic Abuse Bill has previously been pushed back and delayed by this Government, but with the Bill now at report stage it is the Government’s chance to listen to the voices of specialist organisations and ensure legislative changes are implemented to guarantee all women protection against domestic abuse.
It is essential that future funding systems for domestic abuse understands that a one size fits all policy will not address the problems currently within the sector.
The Domestic Abuse Bill is our chance to ensure that all women receive the same level of support no matter their ethnicity or immigration status and I will be raising these issues in my adjournment debate.
Meg Hillier is Labour and Co-operative MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch and chair of the Public Accounts Committee
Get the inside track on what MPs and Peers are talking about. Sign up to The House's morning email for the latest insight and reaction from Parliamentarians, policy-makers and organisations.