25 June: Oppose amendment proposed by Jess Phillips MP which would include children in the definition of victims of domestic abuse.
We are inundated with cases of mothers who’ve suffered domestic violence fighting in the family court to protect their children from abusive fathers. Based on our experience over many years, we are very concerned that this amendment, rather than protect children, would result in even more being taken from their mothers.
Since the Adoption and Children Act 2002 extended the definition of significant harm to include witnessing domestic violence, it has been used by social workers, CAFCASS, psychiatrists, and judges –- all of whom have been heavily influenced by the fathers’ lobby – as yet another reason to decide the mother is “unfit” and/or “unable to protect the children”. Little or nothing is done to get the perpetrators prosecuted and removed from the family home to protect the mother or children from abuse nor to provide support to recover. Instead, victims are punished and traumatised, starting with the children.
Given this deep-seated sexist bias, especially against single mothers on low incomes, who are often also women of colour and/or with disabilities, any change to legislation has to be considered in the real context of how it is likely to be implemented. If a child is treated as a victim separately from her/his mother, it is likely that again the mother will be blamed for causing her child to be a victim. Rather than allowing this amendment to increase the power of professionals to act against mothers, legislation which already exists –- Section 17 of the Children Act – must be implemented to give mothers resources to increase their power to escape violent situations and protect their children.
Professionals must be directed to prioritise protecting women and children, rather than take children away from mothers, siblings and extended family to be “cared for” by strangers. The shocking 44% increase in children being taken into foster care during Covid19 confirms the urgent need for resources to go to families and NOT to separation.
If this amendment is presented at Report Stage we urge you to vote against it.
Please contact us if you would like to discuss further.
Lisa Longstaff Anne Neale
Women Against Rape Support Not Separation
See our other Briefings on the Bill further down this page