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The Drive Partnership responds to the release of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 Statutory Guidance

Last week the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 Statutory Guidance was published. This document has been written as a supporting framework to provide a comprehensive definition of domestic abuse and to help organisations and agencies to identify and respond to all types of domestic abuse.

The Drive Partnership welcomes this statutory guidance and many of the changes that have been made since the draft guidance was published last year. We are pleased to see an improved focus on how to address domestic abuse perpetrators throughout the document. This includes recognition of the fact that perpetrators are often able to manipulate professionals and agencies to continue exerting control over their victims and that to enable safeguarding teams to be confident in engaging with perpetrators, they should receive skills-based training on dealing with perpetrators of different types and their tactics. We are also glad to see that references to ‘parental alienation’ have been removed from the guidance after we were one of the many voices in the sector who called on the Government to make this change.

However, the guidance does represent a missed opportunity in giving clear and comprehensive guidance on the benefits of commissioning a full range of perpetrator programmes for different cohorts from early intervention to high-harm and high-risk. The appropriate intervention will depend on the individual needs and characteristics of the perpetrator and should be identified by trained assessors. Given the inclusion of the ‘Pursuing Perpetrators’ strand in the recently published Tackling Domestic Abuse Plan, this statutory guidance could have ensured aligned commissioning of perpetrator programmes as an integral part of reducing risk for victim-survivors across England and Wales.

We were disappointed that the statutory guidance does not contain a commitment to tackling the barriers faced by migrant victim-survivors in accessing support, as identified by the Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS). Looking forward, the Drive Partnership is calling for the Victims’ Bill to contain a commitment to sustainable, dedicated funding for community-based services that work with victim-survivors and with perpetrators, particularly those from minoritised communities. This will ensure a holistic response to domestic abuse and increase safety for all victim-survivors.