NIHRC Response to the Department of Health and Department of Justice’s Consultation on a Draft Domestic and Sexual Abuse Strategy
Date produced May 2023.
Below is a summary of our recommendations and messages.
You can also download the full document through the links provided.
2.7 that a statement is included that makes it clear that the strategy is adopting a human rights-based approach, which includes compliance with Windsor Framework Article 2.
2.8 that all relevant human rights standards are embedded into the strategy’s priorities.
2.9 that the Department of Health and Department of Justice undertake a human rights training needs analysis. This should be utilised to develop the necessary training to ensure a human rights-based approach, guided by the PANEL principles, is at the foundation in drafting, implementing, monitoring and evaluating the strategy.
2.23 that the final strategy explicitly adopts a gender-sensitive approach, including providing for specialised, gender-sensitive, accessible support for victims of domestic and sexual abuse. The strategy should also recognise the structural and societal issues which result in domestic and sexual abuse disproportionately affecting women and should include measures to address these issues.
2.26 that the final strategy acknowledges the impact of ‘the Troubles’ on domestic and sexual violence and abuse and outlines specific measures to be taken in this area to address the particular circumstances of a post-conflict society.
2.32 that the Department of Health and Department of Justice assess the level of resources necessary and, with the NI Executive, ensure that the maximum available resources are effectively utilised and the necessary resources are ring fenced for the development and effective implementation of this strategy. The resources allocated should be long-term and should have sufficient flexibility to address needs as and when they arise.
2.33 that the Department of Health and Department of Justice maintain a participatory process in the development of the budget relating to the proposed strategy and engage in meaningful consultation with those affected by the strategy and their representative organisations.
2.34 that the Department of Health and Department of Justice ensure that external agencies, particularly civil society organisations, are appropriately resourced to ensure their long-term sustainability in the provision of services.
2.41 that the final strategy includes a clear commitment to improve the collection of disaggregated data on domestic and sexual abuse and sets out specific measures for achieving this. Data should be collected in a way which reflects society in NI and enables comprehensive comparison with other parts of the UK.
2.46 that in drafting the strategy, the Department of Health and Department of Justice develop a clear action plan for delivery of the strategy. This should include appropriate benchmarks and indicators for each agreed action.
3.4 that the Department of Health and Department of Justice develop and publish a list of the key partners that will be relied on for delivery of the strategy.
3.5 that the Department of Health and Department of Justice ensure that outsourcing of responsibilities is subject to a human rights-based procurement process and will be monitored for human rights compliance including compliance with UN CEDAW, the CoE Istanbul Convention and Windsor Framework Article 2.
3.9 that the strategy includes targeted interventions to ensure that the commitments within are effectively applied in practice. This should include the provision of training for all relevant professionals in line with the requirements of Article 14 of the CoE Istanbul Convention and the EU Victims’ Directive.
3.12 that the Department of Health and Department of Justice give due consideration and priority to the opinions and views of victims and their representative organisations throughout implementation and evaluation of the strategy. Mechanisms to effectively collate and ensure meaningful engagement with views expressed by victims and their representative organisations should be identified and committed to within the strategy.
3.14 that engagement with individuals with lived experience is conducted with support and in a sensitive and appropriate manner so as not to re-traumatise victims.
3.16 that the final strategy clearly identifies areas of cross working with the Gillen Review implementation teams to ensure a comprehensive and coordinated approach in delivery.
4.6 that the strategy includes awareness-raising campaigns that are gender-sensitive, promote equality between women and men and challenge stereotypes.
4.7 that the final strategy includes measures to ensure the dissemination of accessible information on available support services. This should include campaigns that are targeted at groups that are identified as facing additional barriers to accessing support. Information should be fully accessible, including that it is tailored to a range of communication requirements. For example, through the provision of language translations, large print, easy read and audio versions.
4.13 that the Department of Health and Department of Justice engage with the Department for Education to ensure that the domestic and sexual abuse strategy is embedded into relationship and sexuality education in all schools in NI.
4.17 in partnership with other relevant Departments, the strategy includes measures to address the exacerbating effect of the persistent and sharp rise in cost of living on domestic and sexual abuse. This should include ensuring that specialised services are accessible and adequately funded.
4.21 that the strategy includes measures to prevent online-based and technology-related domestic and sexual abuse, as well as support for those affected. Measures should be adaptable to take account of new developments.
5.6 that the strategy makes explicit provision for persons who are at an increased risk or who face additional barriers to accessing support for domestic and sexual violence and abuse, including but not limited to, deaf and disabled persons, ethnic minority communities, LGBTQIA+ persons, older persons, and those living in rural communities. This should include ensuring that specialised services are consistently available and fully accessible.
5.9 that the Department of Health and Department of Justice ensure that support is available, regardless of immigration status, and that sufficient refuge places are available in NI according to need.
6.6 that Pillar 4 of the strategy outlines provisions for gender-sensitive training of criminal justice professionals and other employees that would have contact with victims on domestic and sexual abuse, including on the experience of marginalised groups such as disabled persons, LGBTQIA+ persons, and persons of national or ethnic minority background. Gender-sensitive training should also include a specific focus on the links between domestic abuse and offending.
6.9 that the final strategy should include specific measures to ensure accessible services, including health and justice for individuals in any form of detention who have been victims of domestic or sexual abuse.
6.13 that Pillar 4 of the final strategy includes measures to ensure the best interests of the child are a primary consideration regarding a child’s involvement in any related court proceedings and evidence gathering, for example by making specific reference to the Barnahus approach.