The Queen’s speech wasn’t all bad news

The new Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill has the potential to save lives says our Chief Executive Paul Streets. A version of this blog was first published on Third Sector on 4 July 2017. 

speechThe Government recently voted on the Queen’s Speech including the new Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill – one of the few pieces of legislation outside of Brexit to make it onto the statute book.

It’s been interesting hearing the response to this Queen’s speech. “Empty, tired or weak” are just some of the terms commentators have used. It makes me wonder what words people affected by Domestic Abuse would use to describe a Bill designed to save lives.

Let’s not forget that two women are killed by their partner or ex-partner every week in England and Wales.

Apart from the impact on lives it has a massive impact on our hospital, Police, court and benefit systems and, as our colleagues at Lloyds Banking Group know all too well, it destroys financial health and drives people into debt.

The movement fighting domestic abuse is an embodiment of the immense power of voluntary action. Starting with the first refuge in Chiswick in 1971 and now encompasses hundreds of small, local charities as well as the larger representative bodies such as Women’s Aid and Safe Lives.

As a Foundation, we’ve been funding charities supporting women on the frontline since we were founded and while it’s still one of the areas we invest in the most, we’ve grown and evolved our approach.

In 2016, we became the lead philanthropic funder of Drive, a pioneering programme that works with perpetrators of abuse to tackle their behaviour. It’s astonishing that there is still controversy around getting people to ask “Why doesn’t he stop?” instead of “why doesn’t she leave?”

An important development but we must recognise that it is still small, local charities that provide the lion’s share of support to victims and survivors.

Trust

And rightly so. This is an issue that requires a high degree of trust, understanding and specialist knowledge.

Much of our grant making has therefore been targeted at core service provision for these charities but we know there is more they want to do and more we as a funder need to do to  improve the environment that affects how these charities work.

That’s why we developed Transform. A one-off grants programme, we invited bids from charities and partnerships wishing to influence policy, build the evidence base, develop models which can be grown and replicated, or create collaborative partnership models to tackle abuse and violence.

We had a terrific response demonstrating the range of innovation and partnership working across the sector and recently announced the 17 diverse projects we have chosen to fund.

From tackling domestic abuse of disabled people to improving the response to those in LGBT relationships. Because this stuff matters. 16% of disabled women and 8% of disabled men experience domestic abuse and most mainstream support doesn’t work for people in LGBT relationships.

And whilst domestic abuse increasingly receives public and political attention the greater unspoken taboo is sexual violence – perpetrated by people who the victim doesn’t know.

Small local charities are often the only major source of support for people experiencing sexual violence and we’re therefore also supporting some important collaborations in this space.

One in Manchester that is researching the needs of female survivors of sexual violence and exploitation with an aim of developing a model that reaches across Greater Manchester. And whilst women are the most frequent victims: 16% are men so another project is looking to improve how organisations support male victims.

Our overall aim is to influence responses to domestic and sexual abuse and strengthen the sector which supports it. It’s a huge issue. Affecting more than twice as many people as the 2 million that Cancer Research UK estimate have survived cancer.  And yet it is not a ‘popular’ cause. Cancer charities have 30 times the combined incomes of those working on domestic abuse.

There are other funders investing in this space but even together we can’t make up the shortfall between demand and their income and it’s an area where the state, and state funding – both local and national – will always be critical.

Thankful

We should therefore be thankful to the thousands of small local organisations that are working with people in their local communities.

We hope, through Transform we can begin to find new and effective ways to reach individuals and families who need support. And as the new Bill makes its way through parliament, I hope we never hear the words weak or empty used to describe society’s attempt to tackle these destructive issues.

Paul Streets is the Chief Executive of Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales. Tell him what you think @PaulStreets_

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