Today marks the beginning of the 16 Days of Action against Gender-Based Violence, a time for the voices of women and girls to be heard loud and clear - voices sharing experiences of violence, harassment and abuse, but also hopes and aspirations for a future free from violence.
With London boroughs working closely together to tackle the violence on our streets, we must not lose sight of the fact that too many women and girls in London are living with the threat of violence on a daily basis, often at home or at the hands of those closest to them. We know that violence and abuse destroys lives, hopes and aspirations. We know that we need to be intervening earlier, so that children are not left with the damaging effects of domestic abuse, and we know that we need be addressing the fact that increasingly high numbers of girls and young women are experiencing domestic and sexual violence and abuse.
As the government prepares to bring forward legislation for the Domestic Abuse Bill, these next two weeks should remind us of the importance of getting it right on a national and local level. As local authorities, we have a vital role in ensuring our communities are safe from all forms of violence; this includes violence against women and girls. Any public health approach to violence reduction must also speak to the needs of women and girls in all communities across London.
London boroughs have been working closely with partners to make the most of our stretched resources and improve responses to violence against women and girls. We know that early intervention works in preventing violence and abuse; targeting the problem at its root causes. At Lambeth, in partnership with Southwark and Lewisham, we have been working on a multi-agency approach targeted on prolific perpetrators, with the aim of holding them to account and encouraging behaviour change. A Whole Schools Approach to prevention work in schools has potential to transform responses to children and young people at risk and embed healthy attitudes and values at an early age, an approach which is being piloted by Croydon and adopted by other boroughs.
However, we all know there is much more to do. Across all forms of violence prevention, there is an important role for collective London leadership and cross-borough collaboration. Working collaboratively and strategically in how we co-ordinate resources and commission services across London offers significant potential, such as around refuge provision. This must be balanced, however, with the value of local provision and pathways. Many specialist service providers in this sector offer a wealth of expertise and have strong, long-standing relationships with boroughs on a local level; we cannot afford to lose this.
Such considerations will be important for MOPAC in developing an integrated victims and witnesses service for London, particularly in relation to pan-London specialist domestic abuse provision. Balancing the ambitions of a pan-London integrated service with effective delivery on a local level presents challenges but, by working closely with boroughs and other stakeholders, this much needed investment could offer promising improvements for all victims and their experience of the criminal justice process.
The Domestic Abuse Bill offers a unique opportunity to drive forward meaningful change for survivors of domestic abuse, so we will make sure that London’s voice is heard as the Bill makes its way through parliament in the coming months. The Government must back its commitment to transforming responses to domestic abuse with sufficient investment, so that local areas are supported to deliver lasting change on the ground.
In London, the VAWG strategy has set out a blueprint for all partners, including boroughs, to work together to tackle all aspects of violence against women and girls. The rising levels of domestic and sexual violence in our capital are concerning, particularly among girls and young women. As co-chair of the London VAWG board, I will work to ensure that this strategy delivers for women and girls in all communities across all boroughs, especially for those who are most vulnerable and marginalised.