Tag Archives: domestic abuse

Alex Cole-Hamilton presses Sturgeon for action on violence against women

On Sunday 20th November, Scottish newspaper the Sunday Post outlined the most horrific failures of several public services towards Adrienne McCartney, a victim of domestic abuse who died by suicide earlier this year.

The paper reports how the Police dismissed her calls for help and then arrested her, holding her in dreadful conditions, over a social media post.  Then prosecutors  did a deal with her husband to drop the most serious charges before failing to ask for a non harassment order. And then when she tried to get help for her deteriorating mental health,  the NHS could not provide it.

Adrienne’s lawyer told the paper:

“In all my years working in the field of domestic abuse, this case is the worst. Adrienne was let down by every agency she turned to. It is unforgivable.

“She should be here today and the fact that she is not is an indictment of the system and how it addresses domestic abuse. What happened to Adrienne keeps me awake at night but tragically she is not the first and, unless there is dramatic change, she will not be the last.”

He also described his frustration on the night Adrienne was arrested:

“She eventually ­managed to get a phone call to me. When I told officers that I would happily bring Adrienne to the police station myself to answer any questions they had, I was told to ‘f*** off’. That is also currently the subject of an official complaint.

“So a young mother is taken from her home late at night, in front of her children, handcuffed, only to be released after several hours without any charge and this, it has to be stressed, is a ­documented victim of domestic abuse.”

This week’s Sunday Post had details of a letter Scottish Lib Dem Leader Alex Cole-Hamilton wrote to the First Minister after reading Adrienne’s story, alongside calls for action from MSPs from all parties. Alex repeated our call for a Commission to look at ways of ending men’s violence against women in all its forms:

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Women’s Aid highlights impact of cost of living crisis on women experiencing domestic abuse

Steep rises in the cost of food and energy are hard enough to deal with if you are on a low income. If you are in a situation where you are not safe at home, the impact is so much worse.

Women’s Aid have published the results of a survey of women who have experienced domestic abuse and the results make terrifying reading.

They found that:

Almost all survivors (96%) responding had seen a negative impact on the amount of money available to them as a result of cost of living increases. 

Two thirds (66%) of survivors told us that abusers are now using the cost of living increase and concerns about financial hardship as a tool for coercive control, including to justify further restricting their access to money. 

Almost three quarters (73%) of women living with and having financial links with the abuser said that the cost of living crisis had either prevented them from leaving or made it harder for them to leave. 

It is hard enough to leave an abusive partner and it is awful to think that there are even more barriers to women reaching safety because of the current economic situation.

Women’s Aid call for the following:

An Emergency Domestic Abuse Fund to support  survivors of domestic abuse through this crisis period, to pay for essential items and energy bills. 

Reduced energy costs for all refuges during the cost of living crisis, for example by extending the remit of Warm Home Discount Scheme to include refuges;

Better provision of legal services for survivors; reduce the impact of legal aid costs for survivors; fairer access to legal aid and other advocacy services and interest-free loans for legal support where necessary.

Their Chief Executive, Farah Nazeer, said:

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Why should we have to move?

“Why should we have to move everywhere and everything because of him?”

That question is on the front of Change, Justice, Fairness, a Scottish Women’s Aid community research project into homelessness caused by domestic abuse in Fife.

Too often, the trauma suffered by victims of domestic abuse is exacerbated when they are forced to leave their homes, often with their children. It is not acceptable that they should be forced into this situation.

It is unlikely that the event that led to them seeking help was the first incident. Safe Lives suggest that someone will endure 50 incidents of abuse or violence before getting effective help.

So you have very vulnerable, traumatised individuals, the vast majority of whom are women, having to declare themselves as homeless. That means that they are put in temporary accommodation, perhaps for short periods into bed and breakfast accommodation with no cooking facilities, where they don’t have the comfort of having their own things around them, the children don’t have their toys. They are perhaps in an unfamiliar area away from their support networks. They could get moved at any time to different temporary accommodation. That instability and insecurity piling even more distress on to them.

Those who aren’t married and aren’t named on the tenancy face a lengthy and complicated battle to gain occupancy rights if they wish to stay in their home.

The process of transferring a tenancy can also take time, during which the victim can be homeless. This needs to be sorted with greater speed. The Scottish Government needs to produce guidance that strengthens the rights of the victim to prevent them going down the stressful homeless route.

This is why I persuaded the Scottish Liberal Democrats to pass policy calling for better support for housing for victims of domestic abuse. In a very moving debate, members shared their own experiences.

We call on the Scottish Government to do more to ensure that they have the right to stay in their own home if they wish to do so. If they are to be moved, that should be done in a planned way. We recognise that the statutory homeless route is not appropriate for families who are suffering the effects of abuse.

I was surprised to learn that not all social housing providers have stand alone domestic abuse policies so we call on housing associations to do more to support people in this situation

The Women’s Aid research identified serious flaws in the way victims were treated. Women described how they had to talk about what had happened to them in an open plan office.

A third of the staff who dealt with disclosures of abuse said that they had not had any training.

Particularly troubling was the fact that the majority of service providers didn’t have any idea that the moment of leaving an abusive partner was the most dangerous for the victim.

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25 June 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Lib Dems “delighted” by move to increase protection for abuse survivors in family courts
  • Cross-party group urge Govt to agree to increased aid scrutiny in wake of DfID axe
  • Lib Dems: Jenrick must resign or be sacked
  • Irresponsible for Govt to change social distancing at schools
  • Govt must guarantee NHS Test & Trace fully functional before lockdown eases

Lib Dems “delighted” by move to increase protection for abuse survivors in family courts

The Government has confirmed it will strengthen protections in courts for survivors of domestic abuse through an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill, following calls from campaigning organisations and the Liberal Democrats.

During Committee Stage of the Bill, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Christine Jardine tabled an amendment calling for the introduction of ‘special measures’ in family courts during Committee Stage of the Bill.

The Government has today announced that it will bring in these changes in their own version of the amendment.

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10 June 2020 – the overnight press releases

  • Record levels of domestic abuse demands tougher law, warn Lib Dems
  • New flexible employment rights for carers in new Bill proposed by Ed Davey

Record levels of domestic abuse demands tougher law, warn Lib Dems

Responding to reports from the NSPCC that children impacted by domestic abuse have soared to an average of one an hour during the coronavirus lockdown, Liberal Democrat Homes Affairs spokesperson Christine Jardine said:

Domestic abuse leaves a devasting, lifelong impact on survivors. To know that cases have spiked to a record level during the coronavirus lockdown is terrifying.

Ministers must act. Not only must the Government address shortages

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12 November 2019 – today’s press releases

  • Refusal to publish Russian interference shows Johnson morphing into Trump
  • Gyimah: Labour plans fail meet the needs of working people
  • Lib Dems set out plans to strengthen support for survivors of violence and abuse
  • Lib Dems: Johnson’s speech shows he is misleading voters again
  • Lib Dems: Selection of Chris Davies shows Tories’ contempt for voters

Refusal to publish Russian interference shows Johnson morphing into Trump

Following the reports that Hillary Clinton has said it is “inexplicable and shameful” that the UK government has not yet published a report on alleged Russian interference in British politics, Liberal Democrat Shadow Foreign Secretary Chuka Umunna said:

No-one knows the extent

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16 July 2019 – today’s press releases

  • Umunna: Ministers asleep at the wheel in the face of online shopping time bomb
  • New Lib Dem leader to hold Brexit talks with Barnier
  • Lib Dems: New PM must not delay Domestic Abuse Bill

Umunna: Ministers asleep at the wheel in the face of online shopping time bomb

The introduction of Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) will lead to two-factor authentication for all online purchases. The aim of this is to cut down on fraud and improve digital security, however the Government have failed to both support retailers or inform consumers about this change.

Furthermore, it is estimated that around 2 million people do not have …

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Scottish Lib Dems pass policy to make it easier for domestic abuse victims to stay in their homes

I was really pleased that Scottish Conference passed a motion I proposed which aims to ensure that victims of domestic abuse don’t have to suffer the added nightmare of going through the homeless procedure when they finally seek help. It should be much easier for them to be able to stay in their home and for the perpetrator to leave.

Commonspace reported on the debate:

Across the UK, two women are killed by their partner or ex-partner every week.

Scottish Lib Dem member, Vita Zaporozcenko told the conference of her personal experience of being raised in a house with domestic abuse.

She said: “I have always wondered why my mum did not leave and I have come to the conclusion that she had simply no where else to go.”

Zaporozcenko added: “I want you to support this motion because I don’t think anyone who has gone through this at whatever age can understand the emotional strain that this puts on the person or the people who have been abused and the fear of leaving. We should not be making it harder and by removing the perpetrator is the right way to do it.”

Specifically, the conference backed calls for the Matrimonial Homes Act – where abusers can be swiftly moved out of the family home – to be updated, claiming that it is not fit for purpose.

Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP told the conference how the rollout of Universal Credit has impacted on those who are victims of domestic abuse, saying the ending of split payments within the household was “a tool of coercive control” for men.

Below is the speech that I made proposing the motion.

“Why should we have to move everywhere and everything because of him?”

That question is on the front of Change, Justice, Fairness, a Scottish Women’s Aid community research project into homelessness caused by domestic abuse in Fife.

Too often, the trauma suffered by victims of domestic abuse is exacerbated when they are forced to leave their homes, often with their children. It is not acceptable that they should be forced into this situation.

It is unlikely that the event that led to them seeking help was the first incident. Safe Lives suggest that someone will endure 50 incidents of abuse or violence before getting effective help.

So you have very vulnerable, traumatised individuals, the vast majority of whom are women, having to declare themselves as homeless. That means that they are put in temporary accommodation, perhaps for short periods into bed and breakfast accommodation with no cooking facilities, where they don’t have the comfort of having their own things around them, the children don’t have their toys. They are perhaps in an unfamiliar area away from their support networks. They could get moved at any time to different temporary accommodation. That instability and insecurity piling even more distress on to them.

Those who aren’t married and aren’t named on the tenancy face a lengthy and complicated battle to gain occupancy rights if they wish to stay in their home.
The process of transferring a tenancy can also take time, during which the victim can be homeless. This needs to be sorted with greater speed. The Scottish Government needs to produce guidance that strengthens the rights of the victim to prevent them going down the stressful homeless route.

Conference, this motion demands better for victims of abuse.

We call on the Scottish Government to do more to ensure that they have the right to stay in their own home if they wish to do so.

If they are to be moved, that should be done in a planned way. We recognise that the statutory homeless route is not appropriate for families who are suffering the effects of abuse.

We call on housing associations to do more to support people in this situation. I was surprised to learn that not al social housing providers have stand alone domestic abuse policies.

The Women’s Aid research identified serious flaws in the way victims were treated. Women described how they had to talk about what had happened to them in an open plan office.

One said:

“having to repeat my circumstances over and over again was humiliating and distressing to me. I was also worried about a negative reaction of not being believed every time I had to explain to a new person.”

A third of the staff who dealt with disclosures of abuse said that they had not had any training.

Particularly troubling was the fact that the majority of service providers didn’t have any idea that the moment of leaving an abusive partner was the most dangerous for the victim.

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21 January 2019 – today’s press releases

Some good news today, as the Government has withdrawn the £65 charge for EU citizens to register for settled status. Admittedly though, they’re still at the mercy of a Home Office not necessarily recognised for its compassion or competence, but it is at least a start…

And with that, here are today’s press releases…

  • Home Office settled status scheme risks new Windrush scandal
  • Swinson: Govt Chief Whip must resign if he is blocking proxy voting
  • New laws only help domestic abuse victims if there’s cash to enforce them
  • Lib Dems: Will Corbyn agree with Gardiner and vote for a People’s Vote?
  • Government cave on unfair EU

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22 November 2018 – today’s press releases (part 1)

Our Press Team have been incredibly busy today, so much so that I’m going to have to deal with this in two parts, both of which are going to be larger than usual. So, without further ado…

  • Lib Dems: Levels of homelessness an ‘absolute disgrace’ (see article here)
  • Tory paralysis failing domestic abuse victims
  • Health Sec knows UK in critical condition
  • PM’s deal goes from fudge to farce
  • Tory bucket list for pupils ‘an insult’
  • Lamb: Tories must not neglect young people with mental illness
  • (see article here)

  • Davey: Reducing climate-changing gases demands real leadership

Tory paralysis failing domestic abuse victims

Responding to official statistics published …

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22 October 2018 – today’s press releases

It’s been a busy day in HQ, and there’s news of a victory over the Government in the Lords…

Lib Dems: Research shows hard border for NI puts lives at risk

Research by the Liberal Democrats and PoliticsHome has shown how crucial a soft border is between Ireland and Northern Ireland, specifically in relation to emergency service call-outs.

A series of freedom of information requests has shown that 182 ambulances and 270 fire engines crossed into the Republic during 2016-17 in response to 999 calls, highlighting how a hard border could potentially leave people with far slower emergency responses if the UK …

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Ratifying the Istanbul Convention

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. It is also the start of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign which runs to December 10th, Human Rights Day. Two women each week are killed by a male partner here in the UK. One in four women in the UK (one in three internationally) experience abuse. Whilst the majority of victims are women, 700,000 men each year suffer domestic violence.

The Istanbul Convention, which the UK Government has signed but not ratified, was devised to tackle all forms of violence against women and domestic abuse worldwide. The full title, the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combatting Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, covers all forms of violence against women and within domestic situations (including men, women and children).

As it happens, I was present at a conference on Violence and Human Rights in Istanbul back in 2012, the year after Istanbul Convention was written. Hearing Turkish academics and lawyers talk about domestic violence, often from a personal point of view which has influenced their public advocacy, was enlightening and brought home to me the global nature of this issue. 

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The reality of living with, leaving and surviving domestic abuse

I’ve written this in response to Tim Farron’s article regarding domestic violence:

This is a subject very close to my heart, as I have been through this and come out of the other end. The problems started in 2008 when my now ex-husband lost his mother. He subsequently took this out on me, both verbally and physically. As a result I lost all confidence; I lost my career, my self-esteem and I was totally alone. Had I told anyone we still would have been alienated; we needed help as a family, not judgement from those around us.

Anyway, eventually I left. Not because it got worse, but because I could not forgive him for what he had done. Because I was perceived as not being in any immediate danger I found myself homeless. That’s ok. I understand that there are people who needed more immediate shelter. I had no access to funds. He had all the money. I had nowhere to go. I sofa-surfed; homeless. Living out of a holdall at the tolerance of others.

Eventually I scraped the money together for a deposit on a flat. I could rent a bedsit, which I am still renting. I was still contributing to the marital home and had little access to any money (my £1000 savings was barely cutting it, all my cash was tied up in the home). I spoke of the prospect of selling but he was never “ready” to sell. Then, after a year of polite negotiations, he told me I wasn’t entitled to half our flat (bearing in mind I wasn’t planning on looking at his savings and assets, just the home) and he told me to get a solicitor.

At this point my take-home earnings were about £1000 per month. Out of this came my rent (£550 per month), bills and council tax. I was also trying to pay off my credit card debt which I had accumulated as a result of needing to set up a home again (I was allowed 2 pieces of furniture and my clothes from the marital home). This left me with £200 disposable income; not including food. I had no car and never went out. I guessed my life was miserable enough for legal aid. I guessed wrong.

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