Debates between Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe and Baroness Finlay of Llandaff during the 2019 Parliament

Domestic Abuse Bill

Debate between Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe and Baroness Finlay of Llandaff
Wednesday 10th March 2021

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Portrait Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I declare an interest as chair of the National Housing Federation, the trade body for housing associations.

I do not need to repeat the statistics so vividly described by my noble friend Lady Lister and others on the use of coercive control after separation. Suffice it to say that they are clear and troubling enough for the Government to acknowledge both that economic abuse is linked to physical safety and that something must be done swiftly to protect these women. I support all the points raised by my noble friend so powerfully in introducing this amendment; I also pay tribute to the noble Baronesses, Lady Campbell of Surbiton and Lady Grey-Thompson, whom I would have supported. I hope the Minister can respond positively to the dilemma in which they have so troublingly found themselves.

In my brief contribution I will highlight just three things, focusing on what further action is needed once the amendment is incorporated into the Bill and implemented. First, there has been in the past a missed opportunity to see patterns of behaviour which should have led to greater awareness of coercive control behaviours, so it is vital to create greater awareness and understanding of these patterns of behaviour and how economic abuse fits into them. That can be done only through training of professionals right across the police and criminal justice system. This has come up on other parts of the Bill, including very recently, and I hope the Minister will address it in her response.

Secondly, when legal aid is sought, survivors could be unfairly assessed as failing the means test due to money or assets they appear to own but which they are unable to access or control due to economic abuse. Will the Minister acknowledge this and undertake to refer it to her MoJ colleagues to ensure it is taken into account in the legal aid inquiry? In that context, I very much support Amendment 71 in the name of my noble friend Lord Kennedy.

Thirdly, the SEA charity, whose briefings on this—as every contributor to this debate has said—have been invaluable, highlights the inadequacy of data collection on controlling or coercive behaviours in both the Crime Survey of England and Wales and ONS reports. Can the Minister, in taking forward this legislation, undertake to ensure that this is brought to the attention of the relevant government department so as not to undermine the effectiveness of this excellent piece of legislation, which she has so ably steered through this House?

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Portrait Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (CB) [V]
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My Lords, Amendment 45 is crucial and unreservedly welcome. It is awful to see someone subject to coercive control; to see how the woman—I have seen only women subject to it—is made mentally and physically ill by such passive-aggressive behaviour. Sometimes it is more active than passive. By adding her name to this amendment, the Minister has shown her understanding of this.

Amendments 46 and 47 are similarly essential. Coercive control can be very difficult to pick up under safeguarding. As the noble Baroness, Lady Jolly, stated, disability applies to those with profound learning difficulties as well as serious physical difficulties, but their communication difficulties can make it very hard to detect what is going on. As the noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, described, the terrible fear induced in the victim is something that feeds the controlling coercive behaviour from the abuser.

None of us wants to delay the Bill. I hope the Minister will take to heart and address the difficulties that my noble friends Lady Campbell of Surbiton and Lady Grey-Thompson have been put in, and will seek to ensure that the statutory guidance relating to the Bill recognises that there is true domestic violence occurring from personally connected intimate care providers.