For too long children have been the forgotten victims of domestic abuse in Northern Ireland and this Bill is a significant step towards putting that right. Today marks a welcome milestone in the Bill’s progress as it moves to Final Stage in the Northern Ireland Assembly.
The Bill creates a new domestic abuse offence for Northern Ireland which will capture patterns of controlling and coercive behaviour as well as physical abuse, against a partner, former partner or family member.
Barnardo’s NI and NSPCC have been intensively involved in working to influence the Bill, which was introduced to the Assembly in March 2020, so that all children and young people living with domestic abuse have access to the greatest protections from abuse as possible.
In particular, we welcome the Bill’s intention to recognise the serious impact of domestic abuse on children, including controlling behaviour and the amendments to the child aggravator clause in the Bill, which provides vital recognition of the impact of domestic abuse on children, beyond occasions where they have an awareness or understanding of the abuse.
This Bill is a once in a lifetime opportunity to afford the strongest protections to children who live in the shadow of domestic abuse. Final stage is a significant milestone in its journey towards becoming law and as two leading children’s charities in Northern Ireland, we are united in our strong view that the Bill has the potential to offer much needed protection and support for child victims of domestic abuse.
At Barnardo’s NI and NSPCC NI we work with children who have experienced abuse and we know the devastating impact it can have on their lives.
The NSPCC’s Service Centre in Belfast carries out the Domestic Abuse Recovering Together (DART) service which works with mothers and children who have been impacted by domestic abuse at home. DART was recently profiled in the UK-wide 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence initiative.