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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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If there are no safe households, there are no safe neighbourhoods

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A recent seminar held in Nottingham discussed how the two areas of violent crime and health can be jointly met at a local level. Meg gave the following speech.

 

Good morning, it’s good to be back in Nottingham. I lived here for a number of years, so it’s always interesting to get back and have a look at the changes to the city, of which there have been many.

 

Good work is being done by committed individuals tackling violent crime, or helping the victims of such crime. Today’s event provides a good opportunity to renew links, and develop new ones, with people from different organisations here. I hope you will take this chance; we all have experience and ideas to offer.

 

A Gender Perspective

The Government is committed to tackling all violent crime, however as I’m the Minister for Women and Equality you won’t be surprised that my contribution is focussed on violence against women. Part of my job in Government is ensuring that all our policies contain what is called ‘the gender perspective’.

 

Domestic violence affects more women and to a greater extent than men. This is why the first ever Gender Equality Public Service Agreement, introduced in 2003, included a target to tackle this issue. This was important because it sent a signal that gender equality is a core function of Government activity, not a distraction from the main event.

 

It set the scene for a more inclusive policy approach, addressing gender-based violence more widely, such as sexual assault and human trafficking. Indeed, the last Public Service Agreement event focused specifically on violence against women, and on spreading best practice in tackling it. The officer leading on domestic violence from the Association of Chief Police Officers spoke, and we had people attending from a number of police forces.

 

Violence against women is a serious public health, criminal justice and equality issue. It has a devastating effect on victims. It affects women’s mental and general health; their economic well-being and blights their lives. But the repercussions go wider still, impacting on the health and well being of children. Families are broken up; the wider community is affected - all regardless of race, geography or social background.

 

This is an issue that affects us all in different ways - remember where there are no safe households, there are no safe neighbourhoods.

 

Public Authority’s Role 

Local authorities play a vital role in tackling violence against women. Since April 2005 their performance on addressing domestic violence is being measured by the Best Value performance Indicator BV225. This highlights both the individual authority’s performance, and demonstrates that domestic violence is not just an issue for the criminal justice system.

 

In April 2007 the new Gender Equality Duty will come into effect. This duty will require public authorities to pay due regard to promoting gender equality and eliminating sex discrimination. This means service providers and public sector employers will have to design employment and services with the different needs of women and men in mind. It will require public bodies to set their own gender equality goals in consultation with their service users and take action to achieve them.

 

The new duty is enforceable by law. Instead of depending on individuals taking complaints about sex discrimination, the duty places the responsibility on public bodies to demonstrate that they treat men and women fairly and are taking active steps to promote gender equality.

 

The Gender Equality Duty should mean a significant change to how public authorities operate, leading to;

  • policy-making that is sensitive to gender differences,
  • services tailored to meet the different needs of women and men,
  • employment practices that challenge occupational segregation and remove the barriers to women reaching their potential, and
  • procurement practice that promotes equality.

 

Living in the Community

Whilst domestic violence is more talked about now than used to be the case, its extent is still not widely understood. Some facts;

  • domestic violence accounts for 17% of violent crime,
  • of victims suffering four or more attacks, 89% are women, and
  • on average, one woman is killed every two to three days as a result of domestic violence.

 

Both victims and perpetrators of domestic violence live in our communities. They are our neighbours, friends, and our families. Identifying what is going on within families is difficult. It’s embarrassing to admit to harbouring thoughts that someone we know, perhaps love, is a batterer. Could that woman we like really be a victim? Unfortunately, as I said earlier - domestic abuse happens regardless of race, geography or social background.  

 

?However, the consequences of domestic abuse are not only physical injury. It often perpetuates a cycle of destruction, whereby victims may suffer long term mental illness or seek inappropriate means of comfort, for example through alcohol or drugs.

 

We know that witnessing domestic violence can profoundly affect a child’s development, educational attainment and health. We can go further; children who live in violent households are three to nine times more likely to be abused themselves.

 

It is not just individuals who count the cost of domestic violence. Professor Sylvia Walby’s ground breaking research, The Cost of Domestic Violence, has been invaluable in highlighting that;

  • £3 billion was spent on public services, including,
  • £1.2 billion by the National Health Service, and
  • £1 billion by the Criminal Justice System.

 

We know that as in so many other areas, prevention and early identification equals cost savings in terms of both money and lives.

 

National Delivery Plan on Domestic Violence

 

There are a number of key goals in the National Delivery Plan on Domestic Violence:

  • reduce the number of domestic violence related homicides,

2.?  increase the rate that domestic violence is reported,

3.?  increase the rate of domestic violence offences that are brought to justice,

4.?  ensure victims of domestic violence are adequately protected and supported nationwide; and,

5.?  reduce the prevalence of domestic violence.

 

We want to develop court systems that put domestic violence victims at the heart of the process. Part of doing this is through the Specialist Domestic Violence Court Programme.

 

The evaluation of the Programme demonstrated significant benefits for both courts and victims of domestic violence. Two key positive outcomes were;

  • an increase in the number of domestic violence incidents reported to police that result in a case at court, and,
  • a reduction in the number of cases lost before trial.

 

It’s important for all Local Criminal Justice Boards and Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships to adopt a co-ordinated community model to tackle domestic violence. This ensures that high risk victims of domestic and sexual assault are supported with essential services such as housing, health and child care through the criminal justice process. 

 

Closely Linked

Closely linked to domestic violence, sexual violence is also a major public health issue. The physical, sexual, and mental health implications of sexual violence can be severe and long-lasting;

  • internal and external injuries,
  • unwanted pregnancies, and
  • sexually-transmitted infections.

 

Providing a fast and effective response for the victim reduces the potential for long-term health problems. Victims of rape should be seen by well trained forensic doctors, receive STI screening and emergency contraception. Advice and support should be available, and access to specialist counselling.

 

One answer lies in Sexual Assault Referral Centres. These are multi-agency, one-stop shops that aim to provide a holistic response in the immediate aftermath of an assault. Government have provided start-up funding for 13 of these new centres over the last three years.

 

We are also seeking to provide effective multi-agency support to victims of sexual violence through Independent Sexual Violence Advisors. Advocacy services play a vital role in meeting the support and safety needs of victims, and reducing withdrawals from the Criminal Justice Service.

 

Your delegate packs should contain more information about both of these initiatives.

 

In closing, can I ask you to be sure and complete the yellow and red forms in your packs, and to list the key objective you will take forward from this seminar. I understand that a final report will be circulated to all who have attended the nine regional seminars.

 

May I thank each of you for the work you have done, and the work you will do in the future.

 

Thank you.


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