New laws to protect survivors of domestic abuse in England and Wales will be introduced in Parliament later.
The Domestic Abuse Bill would place a legal duty on councils to offer secure homes for those fleeing violence and their children, and proposes creating a dedicated domestic abuse commissioner.
Victims Minister Victoria Atkins said the bill addressed “an injustice that has long needed to be tackled”.
But charity Women’s Aid said it was not enough and more resources were needed.
It is estimated that almost two million adults in England and Wales are victims of domestic abuse every year.
Measures in the bill, seen as a key part of Theresa May’s legacy, include:
- The first government definition of domestic abuse, which will include financial abuse and controlling and manipulative non-physical behaviour
- Proposals for a Domestic Abuse Commissioner to champion survivors and hold local and national government to account on their actions
- Domestic Abuse Protection Notices and Domestic Abuse Protection Orders, which would allow police and courts to intervene earlier where abuse is suspected
- Prohibiting the cross-examination of victims by their abusers in the family courts
- Automatic eligibility for special measures to support more victims to give evidence in the criminal courts
Ms Atkins told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire: “Domestic abuse takes many forms, including emotional, economic and sexual abuse, and we’re reflecting that in the definition.
“And that’s important because that then has repercussion in terms of how services are commissioned locally to support victims and survivors.”
Local authority spending on refuges for abuse victims fell from £31m in 2010 to £23m in 2017.
Charities say there is a dearth of services in many areas, and victims are being turned away when they seek help because refuges with diminished budgets cannot cope with the demand.
The minister said she “absolutely accepts” that funding “is part of this jigsaw”, and amendments – proposed tweaks – to reflect that were likely to be made to the bill at the next stage of the Parliamentary process.
She said there would be a “dialogue with the charities”, but added: “We’re absolutely clear that refuge accommodation must be part of this bill.
“There is more work to do on this bill, but we wanted to continue the momentum, get this bill introduced before recess, so we have a clear run in the autumn to begin the process of legislating it properly.”
Councillor Simon Blackburn, chairman of the Local Government Association’s safer and stronger communities board, said councils “support a greater focus on prevention and early intervention measures” continued in the bill, but echoed the call for more funding.
When the draft of the bill was published in January, Women’s Aid said it had “the potential to create a step change in the national response, to create a more effective approach to tackling domestic abuse”.
“Sustainable funding for our life-saving network of specialist support services must be at the centre of this if we are to make a real difference to survivors’ lives.”