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What it does include

The Liberal Democrats dedicate a whole chapter of their manifesto to Rights and Equality (chapter 19). This chapter contains a number of plans to support survivors of violence against women and girls (VAWG), including:

  • Fully implementing the Istanbul Convention, to extend protection against VAWG and domestic abuse to all women, regardless of immigration status
  • Expanding the number of refuges and rape crisis centres to meet demand (although no specific target is given)
  • Providing sustainable funding to domestic abuse support services, with a specific mention for ‘by and for’ services - although again, no specific funding figure is given.

This chapter of the manifesto also includes a specific plan to address online VAWG, by requiring social media companies to publish reports on the action they have taken in this area. The Liberal Democrats also mention a new Digital Bill of Rights, which will include the ‘right to participation without being subjected to harassment and abuse’. There is also a commitment to uphold the UK’s responsibilities to the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Liberal Democrat’s plan for Families, Children and Young people includes reducing backlogs in the family courts, although specific actions aren’t described.

Other chapters of the Liberal Democrat Manifesto also relate to VAWG and domestic abuse. Chapter 11 sets out plans to restore trust in policing, including full implementation of the recommendations of the Casey Review, which includes tackling sexism in the Met Police. This chapter of the manifesto also mentions online crime, with plans to establish an Online Crime Agency to tackle illegal content, including revenge porn.

The Liberal Democrats’ chapter on crime and policing lays out plans to increase support for domestic abuse survivors in the criminal justice system. These include embedding domestic abuse specialists in every police force and 999 operator assistance centre, as well as addressing delays in domestic abuse referrals from the police to the CPS, acknowledging the risk that these delays pose to women’s safety. There are also plans to reduce backlogs in criminal courts; delays here can often contribute to victims of VAWG from wanting to withdraw from proceeding with their cases.

The Liberal Democrats also plan to create a new Women’s Justice Board, with specialist training for staff in contact with women on the other side of the criminal justice system, in order to reduce reoffending. Over half of women in prison report having suffered domestic violence.

Fear of homelessness often prevents those experiencing domestic abuse from leaving to find safety, and lack of available onward housing creates backlogs in refuges. The Liberal Democrats describe a plan to ensure sufficient financial resources for local authorities to provide accommodation for survivors of domestic abuse.

Finally, Chapter 22 of the Liberal Democrat manifesto describes a commitment to gender equality in foreign policy, including education and training, ending FGM and eradicating sexual violence in conflict, by increasing funding for international initiatives that focus on this issue.

What's missing?

The Liberal Democrats Manifesto places a strong emphasis on social care, but domestic abuse training for health and social care professionals is not mentioned. No plans are laid out to increase availability of trauma-informed counselling for domestic abuse survivors.

We’re pleased to see specific mention given to online VAWG, but more plans for prevention are needed, such as public awareness campaigns, and increased availability of quality assured intervention programs.

The Liberal Democrats do describe the need to reduce backlogs in the family and criminal courts, as well as plans to improve support for survivors in the criminal justice system. Given the scale of the issues faced by survivors in the family court system (raised by members of our Survivors Network and described formally in the 2020 Harm Report) more detailed plans are needed in order to make real improvements for survivors in the family court, as well as the criminal courts.

It’s positive to see that the Liberal Democrats plans directly address many key issues relating to preventing and responding to VAWG; elements of almost all of our five priorities for a new government are included in their Manifesto. However, despite much of the Liberal Democrats campaigning focussed on health and social care, there isn’t any reference to the importance of these sectors when it comes to identifying domestic abuse and helping survivors to access support.