Amendment 90

Victims and Prisoners Bill - Report (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords am 8:04 pm ar 23 Ebrill 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Earl Howe:

Moved by Earl Howe

90: After Clause 25, insert the following new Clause—“Child victims of domestic abuse(1) The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 is amended as follows.(2) After section 49 insert—“Notifying schools etc if child is suspected victim of domestic abuse49A Arrangements to notify schools etc(1) A chief officer of police of a police force maintained for a police area must ensure that arrangements are in place to secure the objective in subsection (2).(2) The objective is that, if a member of the force has reasonable grounds to believe that a child who resides in the police area may be a victim of domestic abuse, any relevant educational establishment is notified as soon as is reasonably practicable except in such circumstances as may be specified in regulations made by the Secretary of State.(3) For the purposes of this section, each of the following is a relevant educational establishment in relation to a child—(a) a school at which the child is a registered pupil;(b) if the child is not a registered pupil at a school—(i) if the child is receiving education at only one educational establishment, that establishment;(ii) if the child is receiving education at more than one educational establishment, such one or more of those establishments as is determined in accordance with the arrangements in place under subsection (1) for the police area in which the child resides.(4) In this section—“child” means a person under the age of 18 years;“educational establishment” means—(a) a school in England or Wales;(b) an institution within the further education sector, within the meaning given by section 91(3) of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992;(c) in relation to England, a 16 to 19 Academy, within the meaning given by section 1B of the Academies Act 2010;“registered pupil” , in relation to a school, has the meaning given by section 434 of the Education Act 1996;“school” has the meaning given by section 4 of the Education Act 1996. 49B Power to extend section 49A to childcare providers(1) The Secretary of State may by regulations amend section 49A so that the objective in subsection (2) of that section applies in relation to childcare providers, or childcare providers of particular descriptions, as it applies in relation to relevant educational establishments.(2) In this section—“childcare” —(a) in relation to England, has the meaning given by section 18 of the Childcare Act 2006;(b) in relation to Wales, means anything that amounts to child minding or day care for children for the purposes of Part 2 of the Children and Families (Wales) Measure 2010 (nawm 1) (see section 19(2) to (5) of that Measure);“childcare provider” means—(a) in relation to England, a person who provides childcare—(i) in respect of which the person is registered under Part 3 of the Childcare Act 2006,(ii) in respect of which the person would, but for section 34(2) or 53(2) of that Act, be required to be registered under Chapter 2 or 3 of Part 3 of that Act, or(iii) in respect of which the person would, but for section 63(3) of that Act, be able to be registered under Chapter 4 of Part 3 of that Act;(b) in relation to Wales, a person who provides childcare in respect of which the person is registered under Part 2 of the Children and Families (Wales) Measure 2010.”(3) In the italic heading before section 50, for “and orders” substitute “, orders and notification arrangements”.(4) In section 56 (interpretation of Part 3), in subsection (4), after paragraph (b) insert—“(c) section 3 (children as victims of domestic abuse).”(5) In section 87 (regulations), in subsection (6), after paragraph (a) insert—“(aa) regulations under section 49B,”Member's explanatory statementThis amendment requires police chiefs to ensure that arrangements are in place for relevant schools and colleges to be notified if a member of the force has reasonable grounds to believe that a child who resides in the police area may be a victim of domestic abuse.

Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe Deputy Leader of the House of Lords

My Lords, I will speak on behalf of my noble and learned friend Lord Bellamy. Government Amendment 90 would require the police to notify schools as soon as possible when they have reasonable grounds to believe that a child in their police force area may be a victim of domestic abuse. That means that all children who may be a victim of domestic abuse will receive the necessary support and relevant safeguarding interventions.

Domestic abuse is an abhorrent and sometimes fatal crime, yet it is far too common. It is high volume, high harm and high cost. We fully recognise the devasting impact that it can have on children and young people, which is why we are determined to protect and support better the victims of abuse, including children, and bring perpetrators to justice. The landmark Domestic Abuse Act 2021 acknowledged, for the first time, the appalling damage that domestic abuse can inflict on children and young people and recognised the damage caused to children who see, hear or experience the effects of domestic abuse.

Recognising children as victims of domestic abuse in their own right is a very important step. It helps to ensure that children themselves remain visible in the multi-agency response to domestic abuse. This government amendment will help us take this work one step further. It will legislate that each chief officer of police across England and Wales must ensure that arrangements are in place to notify schools when they have reasonable grounds to believe that a child may be a victim of domestic abuse.

This amendment places the notification scheme, widely known as Operation Encompass, on a statutory footing. It is already in operation across all 43 police forces in England and Wales on a voluntary basis. By enshrining the scheme in law, we can ensure that it is consistently applied across all forces. This will help improve early intervention and enable the most vulnerable children to be safeguarded from the harms of domestic abuse.

This Government are committed to supporting child victims and protecting them from domestic abuse. The amendment will be key in our efforts to do so. I therefore hope that the House will welcome it, and I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Meston Lord Meston Crossbench

My Lords, I support Amendment 90, which provides for the relaying of information to schools. Schools need accurate and prompt information about what is going on. They need to know, and understand, what is happening, or what is suspected. Therefore, I welcome the amendment. It is almost as important as the information going the other way—that is to say, schools relay information to local authorities and, where appropriate, to the police.

I am afraid to say that there are a few cases I have come across where schools, or individual members of school staff, have been reluctant to get involved in child abuse cases, or where there is suspected child abuse. Albeit this amendment provides for the information to pass the other way—from the authorities to the school—if it serves to do anything it may well encourage the passing of information in both directions.

Photo of Baroness Brinton Baroness Brinton Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol

My Lords, from these Benches, we also welcome Amendment 90. I want to add one other issue though. It is very much a one-way system, as the noble Lord, Lord Meston, has announced, and I ask whether the noble Earl will write to me, the noble Lord, and any noble Lords who speak in this group, to report on the Government’s progress on the recommendations that they have accepted following the independent inquiry into child sex abuse. Recommendation 13 is about the need for mandatory reporting, and the Government said, over a year ago, that there would be a full public consultation beginning with a publication of a call for evidence. I have seen neither, but, more importantly, I want to know when we can—perhaps through this Bill—have something going the other way, as the noble Lord so rightly pointed out.

Photo of Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Shadow Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

My Lords, I have a genuine question. Of course, I support the amendment, but the wording here is

“if a member of the force has reasonable grounds to believe that a child who resides in the police area may be a victim of domestic abuse”.

If there is a situation where one of the parents calls the police, and there is what is called a “call-out”, that will be recorded, and that sort of information is made available to courts in particular circumstances. But would the child be seen as a potential victim of domestic abuse because the parents have made that telephone call because of a dispute between the parents?

Nevertheless, I support the duty to notify, but I wonder whether the Minister can answer that specific question.

Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe Deputy Leader of the House of Lords

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lords who have spoken in support of this amendment. I will deal, just briefly, with the points raised.

In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, a child is considered to have suffered the effects of domestic abuse even if they have not been the direct recipient of that abuse. That is why I made it clear in my opening remarks that it is as much about children who see, hear or experience the effects of domestic abuse as it is about a child who themselves have been on the receiving end of such abuse. It is all encompassing in that sense.

In response to the noble Lord, Lord Meston, and the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, as I understand it the position at the moment is that the statutory safeguarding guidance, Keeping Children Safe in Education, outlines that all schools and colleges must have regard to their legal duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. However, as far as the noble Baroness’s specific question is concerned, I shall need to write to let her and other noble Lords know exactly how far we have reached in the process she outlined. I am afraid I do not have that information with me today.

Amendment 90 agreed.

Amendments 91 and 92 not moved.