Media Release – for immediate release
The DA Bill provides a welcome legal framework, however, the law alone cannot create a safer society
There is a need for a common purpose with mutual recognition and understanding of the trauma suffered by all victims, especially children affected by family separation
Early intervention, support services and fair access to justice are needed to improve outcomes for children and victims
FNF Statement on the Domestic Abuse Bill
Families Need Fathers – because both parents matter (FNF) is a charity that works for the well-being of children in separated families to ensure they have meaningful relationships with both parents, wider family and friends. Our service users include dads, mums, grandparents and wider family.
Given our service users experience of dealing with domestic abuse related issues, as the Domestic Abuse Bill receives Royal Assent, it is our view that the Bill will only achieve its objectives if the issues it addresses are properly supported beyond the actual legislation.
FNF recognises that Domestic Abuse is one of the biggest challenges facing society today.
- It ruins family life
- It impairs the development of children
- It devastates lives
- It causes mental and physical scars
- In the extreme cases, it is fatal.
FNF also accept that more serious incidents are inflicted on women or that women are the majority of victims. We believe that all victims of abuse and their children deserve the full protection of the law. The Domestic Abuse Bill provides a helpful legal framework to address much of this, particularly in relation to coercive and controlling behaviour.
Our experience of domestic abuse is primarily in the context of family separation when emotions such as anger, jealousy and feelings of hurt can dominate.
FNF is a charity that is the first point of contact for thousands of traumatised parents. As such we are uniquely placed to understand the trauma caused by contested family court proceedings and the miscarriages of justice that take place when there is no ‘equality of arms’ i.e. where only one party has access to legal aid and the other cannot afford professional representation. Just 15% of legal aid is granted to fathers. Almost all mothers and fathers, without substantial private resources, defending allegations of domestic abuse, are unrepresented in family courts. It is vital, when the issues being determined affect the wellbeing of children, the right decision must be reached. Such cost limitations must not be allowed to impact on the children’s right to a healthy family life.
The legal framework of the Domestic Abuse Bill alone will not, however, make society safer. Zero tolerance has not reduced the epidemic of incidents that is a stain on the nation. Children’s best interests and access to justice will only be served if there are actions beyond legislation.
FNF believe that to achieve a safer society there needs to be a joint approach so that organisations dealing primarily with issues concerning children, men or women can have a better understanding of each other’s concerns.
We urge the Secretary of State to consult a range of organisations, including Families Need Fathers, in the way the role of Domestic Abuse Commissioner engages with stakeholders to ensure that society as a whole supports programmes to address the scourge of family violence. We also invite the Government, judiciary, police and domestic abuse agencies that support children, women and those that support men to work together and with us to ensure that those programmes enable us collectively to achieve a safer society for all. Such programmes are likely to include:
- Addressing delays in access to justice that:
- traumatise all parties, not least the children involved
- do not take place on child-appropriate timescales
- puts children at risk from violent parents
- expose children to risk of depression and emotional harm when parents and other significant family attachments are removed from their lives simply though lack of money
- Support for victims and perpetrators in breaking the cycle of inter-generational abuse
- Support for families in abusive or mutually abusive relationships
- Development of an Early Intervention Pathway in family justice:
- to protect all parties in family justice
- to prevent the family justice system from imploding on itself under a deluge of contested Finding of Fact hearings dominated by self-represented parties struggling with the process.
- The creation of an equality of arms and access to justice (possibly by making funding available to children’s representatives rather than their parents).
We look forward to working towards a common purpose and urge all those who are touched by the issues of domestic abuse to do likewise.
Chair of FNF, Greg Downing says: “We welcome the Domestic Abuse Bill, however, we must not waste the opportunity it provides by not then following up, not only with support for all victims of abuse, but also children caught up in family conflict. Issues such as unacceptable delays in family and criminal justice must be addressed. The miscarriages of justice caused by the inequality of funding for litigants in person in family courts and the lack of effective measures or support in ensuring compliance with orders made in children’s best interests need to also be resolved. Early intervention and support programmes are needed, along with findings of fact in weeks rather than months and years when allegations are contested. Developing an understanding of the experience of different stakeholders will almost certainly prove to be even more important than the legislation alone.”
Further information on our views how domestic abuse needs to be addressed in the context of family court proceedings in included in our Strategy for Separated Families and Protection of Children and Adults.
Notes for editors:
Families Need Fathers - because both parents matter
FNF is the leading registered UK charity providing information and support on shared parenting issues arising from family breakdown, and support to divorced and separated parents, irrespective of gender or marital status. FNF is NOT a fathers' rights group - we support the best interests of children - namely mature and collaborative parenting by both parents - an objective which is inadequately promoted in the family court system and associated services.
FNF receive approximately 30,000 calls a year to our Helpline and thousands more rely on our local branch network and online support.
Our primary concern is the maintenance of the child’s meaningful relationship with both parents. Founded in 1974, FNF helps thousands of parents every year. Further information please contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message on 0300 0300 110.
30th April 2021
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