Domestic abuse laws should extend to children – report

Barnardo’s called on the Government to expand its plans for the Domestic Abuse Bill Credit: Danny Lawson/PA

Children should get support under forthcoming domestic abuse laws designed to protect victims, campaigners have said.

The charity Barnardo’s called on the Government to expand its plans for the Domestic Abuse Bill so it “explicitly recognises the impact of this crime on children”.

Its report also called on ministers to ensure the Bill includes a “statutory duty on public authorities to commission specialist domestic abuse support for all victims and perpetrators of domestic abuse”.

The Bill was among several proposed laws which stalled after Prime Minister Boris Johnson decided to prorogue Parliament and the general election was called.

Campaigners have previously raised concerns the proposed laws were missing key elements to help protect victims.

The Government pledged to bring the Bill back to Parliament but a date is yet to be set.

Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan said the Bill was a “unique opportunity” for change, adding: “For far too long child victims of domestic abuse have been ignored, often spending their lives struggling to cope with the impact of this trauma.

“All children exposed to domestic abuse must have access to the specialist support they need to end the toxic cycle and make sure they don’t suffer in silence.”

The Barnardo’s report said under-16s were “directly affected by abuse towards a parent or carer”, adding: “Making this explicit on the face of the Bill will help ensure children’s needs are fully reflected in policy and practice.”

According to the charity: “Some young people affected by domestic abuse mirror their parents’ behaviour and express the trauma they have suffered by being violent to the abused parent and also to their boyfriend or girlfriend.

“This violence can also spill over to them being aggressive at school but also engaging in violent or criminal behaviour.”

The report said there is “growing evidence that experiencing domestic abuse as a child or young person can result in youth offending”.

Drawing on studies from several charities and considered analysis of some official data for its conclusions, the report also warned children who had experienced domestic abuse may lead to mental health problems like anxiety and depression later on.

Last year the Government appointed Nicole Jacobs the country’s first domestic abuse commissioner.

The independent Office of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, which is still being set up, will be made a statutory body and publish reports on its findings.