Home Office cuts protection for victims of domestic violence

Police powers to remove violent partners for up to two weeks scrapped as the Home Office tries to cu

A scheme intended to help protect women from violent partners has been scrapped by the Home Office in its effort to cut spending, the Independent has learned.

The scheme would have given police the power to ban a violent partner from a family home for up to two weeks, buying women and other family members time to seek further advice to help remedy their situation. The Domestic Violence Protection Orders were due to be rolled out nationally next year.

A few weeks ago, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, told the Women's Aid conference that the coalition planned to "end violence against women and girls", and pledged more money for initiatives. But in a suggestion that perhaps foreshadowed the cost-cutting priority of today's announcement, she also proposed looking into using criminals' fines to pay for more rape crisis centres.

As for why the orders have been scrapped, May reportedly told charities that

. . . she had taken the decision to save money and because of worries about the legislation setting up the orders.

A spokeswoman for the Home Office revealed slightly more. Though reiterating the department's commitment to ending domestic violence, she said that "in tough economic times, we are now considering our options for delivering improved protection and value for money".

The Home Office needs to find £2.5bn of savings from its annual budget of £10bn.

The legislation creating the so-called "go orders" was originally promoted by Alan Johnson, but received cross-party support before being passed in April. Doubts were expressed in the Lords about how the banned party would be accommodated and cared for, but the bill was passed nonetheless.

With the autumn spending review just around the corner, this will most definitely not be the first time we see a minister reverse their position in order to make spending cuts.

More funding for services working to curb domestic violence was an issue on which politicians of all persuasions were able to agree. For it to be among the first to be cut is a dire sign of what is yet to come.

Caroline Crampton is web editor of the New Statesman.

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Northern Ireland election results: a shift beneath the status quo

The power of the largest parties has been maintained, while newer parties running on nicher subjects with no connection to Northern Ireland’s traditional religious divide are rapidly rising.

After a long day of counting and tinkering with the region’s complex PR vote transfer sytem, Northern Irish election results are slowly starting to trickle in. Overall, the status quo of the largest parties has been maintained with Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party returning as the largest nationalist and unionist party respectively. However, beyond the immediate scope of the biggest parties, interesting changes are taking place. The two smaller nationalist and unionist parties appear to be losing support, while newer parties running on nicher subjects with no connection to Northern Ireland’s traditional religious divide are rapidly rising.

The most significant win of the night so far has been Gerry Carroll from People Before Profit who topped polls in the Republican heartland of West Belfast. Traditionally a Sinn Fein safe constituency and a former seat of party leader Gerry Adams, Carroll has won hearts at a local level after years of community work and anti-austerity activism. A second People Before Profit candidate Eamon McCann also holds a strong chance of winning a seat in Foyle. The hard-left party’s passionate defence of public services and anti-austerity politics have held sway with working class families in the Republican constituencies which both feature high unemployment levels and which are increasingly finding Republicanism’s focus on the constitutional question limiting in strained economic times.

The Green party is another smaller party which is slowly edging further into the mainstream. As one of the only pro-choice parties at Stormont which advocates for abortion to be legalised on a level with Great Britain’s 1967 Abortion Act, the party has found itself thrust into the spotlight in recent months following the prosecution of a number of women on abortion related offences.

The mixed-religion, cross-community Alliance party has experienced mixed results. Although it looks set to increase its result overall, one of the best known faces of the party, party leader David Ford, faces the real possibility of losing his seat in South Antrim following a poor performance as Justice Minister. Naomi Long, who sensationally beat First Minister Peter Robinson to take his East Belfast seat at the 2011 Westminster election before losing it again to a pan-unionist candidate, has been elected as Stormont MLA for the same constituency. Following her competent performance as MP and efforts to reach out to both Protestant and Catholic voters, she has been seen by many as a rising star in the party and could now represent a more appealing leader to Ford.

As these smaller parties slowly gain a foothold in Northern Ireland’s long-established and stagnant political landscape, it appears to be the smaller two nationalist and unionist parties which are losing out to them. The moderate nationalist party the SDLP risks losing previously safe seats such as well-known former minister Alex Attwood’s West Belfast seat. The party’s traditional, conservative values such as upholding the abortion ban and failing to embrace the campaign for same-sex marriage has alienated younger voters who instead may be drawn to Alliance, the Greens or People Before Profit. Local commentators have speculate that the party may fail to get enough support to qualify for a minister at the executive table.

The UUP are in a similar position on the unionist side of the spectrum. While popular with older voters, they lack the charismatic force of the DUP and progressive policies of the newer parties. Over the course of the last parliament, the party has aired the possibility of forming an official opposition rather than propping up the mandatory power-sharing coalition set out by the peace process. A few months ago, legislation will finally past to allow such an opposition to form. The UUP would not commit to saying whether they are planning on being the first party to take up that position. However, lacklustre election results may increase the appeal. As the SDLP suffers similar circumstances, they might well also see themselves attracted to the role and form a Stormont’s first official opposition together as a way of regaining relevance and esteem in a system where smaller parties are increasingly jostling for space.