Thousands of victims of domestic abuse will be better protected by a new legal duty for councils to provide secure homes for them and their children.
Theresa May says the move, backed by funding, will help end the “postcode lottery” across the country and bolster protection for those seeking help in the Domestic Abuse Bill being considered by MPs.
The prime minister said: “I’ve always vowed to leave no stone unturned in tackling domestic abuse – this abhorrent crime has no place in our country.
“Today we are ending the postcode lottery by placing on local authorities a legal duty to deliver support, including secure housing, to survivors of domestic abuse and their children.
“Whoever you are, wherever you live and whatever the abuse you face, you will have access to the services you need to be safe.”
The Domestic Abuse Bill will introduce the first-ever statutory government definition of domestic abuse to specifically include economic abuse and controlling and manipulative non-physical abuse.
It will establish a new Domestic Abuse Commissioner and prohibit the cross-examination of victims by their abusers in family courts.
Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, said the decision could secure “life-saving services”.
“Refuge is delighted by the government’s decision to place a legal duty on local authorities to provide funding for accommodation based support for survivors of domestic abuse,” she said.
“This has the potential to end the postcode lottery for refuge places and could put these life-saving services on a secure financial footing for the first time.”
Nicki Norman, acting co-chief executive of Women’s Aid, said many of her member services were delivering services on “a shoestring budget”, so a move to consistent, dedicated funding is “desperately needed”.
She said: “Safeguards to ensure that experienced women’s services – including smaller specialist organisations led by and for black and minority ethnic women – are sustainably funded through a new statutory system will be vital.
“We look forward to working with the government to ensure that this important move to fund refuges is safe, sustainable and delivers the resources that services urgently require to support all women and children fleeing domestic abuse.”
Ministers have launched a consultation to determine how much funding is needed and where it should go by talking to victims and survivors, as well as organisations supporting victims and their children.
The Local Government Association’s safer and stronger communities board chairman, Councillor Simon Blackburn, said: “Councils cannot tackle this crime on their own. It requires a range of public services, including the police, to work together.
“Our ambition must be to reduce the number of victims, with greater investment in early intervention and prevention schemes that helps stop domestic abuse occurring in the first place.”