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 assistant editor of the New Statesman.

Getty
Show Hide image

I was wrong about Help to Buy - but I'm still glad it's gone

As a mortgage journalist in 2013, I was deeply sceptical of the guarantee scheme. 

If you just read the headlines about Help to Buy, you could be under the impression that Theresa May has just axed an important scheme for first-time buyers. If you're on the left, you might conclude that she is on a mission to make life worse for ordinary working people. If you just enjoy blue-on-blue action, it's a swipe at the Chancellor she sacked, George Osborne.

Except it's none of those things. Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme is a policy that actually worked pretty well - despite the concerns of financial journalists including me - and has served its purpose.

When Osborne first announced Help to Buy in 2013, it was controversial. Mortgage journalists, such as I was at the time, were still mopping up news from the financial crisis. We were still writing up reports about the toxic loan books that had brought the banks crashing down. The idea of the Government promising to bail out mortgage borrowers seemed the height of recklessness.

But the Government always intended Help to Buy mortgage guarantee to act as a stimulus, not a long-term solution. From the beginning, it had an end date - 31 December 2016. The idea was to encourage big banks to start lending again.

So far, the record of Help to Buy has been pretty good. A first-time buyer in 2013 with a 5 per cent deposit had 56 mortgage products to choose from - not much when you consider some of those products would have been ridiculously expensive or would come with many strings attached. By 2016, according to Moneyfacts, first-time buyers had 271 products to choose from, nearly a five-fold increase

Over the same period, financial regulators have introduced much tougher mortgage affordability rules. First-time buyers can be expected to be interrogated about their income, their little luxuries and how they would cope if interest rates rose (contrary to our expectations in 2013, the Bank of England base rate has actually fallen). 

A criticism that still rings true, however, is that the mortgage guarantee scheme only helps boost demand for properties, while doing nothing about the lack of housing supply. Unlike its sister scheme, the Help to Buy equity loan scheme, there is no incentive for property companies to build more homes. According to FullFact, there were just 112,000 homes being built in England and Wales in 2010. By 2015, that had increased, but only to a mere 149,000.

This lack of supply helps to prop up house prices - one of the factors making it so difficult to get on the housing ladder in the first place. In July, the average house price in England was £233,000. This means a first-time buyer with a 5 per cent deposit of £11,650 would still need to be earning nearly £50,000 to meet most mortgage affordability criteria. In other words, the Help to Buy mortgage guarantee is targeted squarely at the middle class.

The Government plans to maintain the Help to Buy equity loan scheme, which is restricted to new builds, and the Help to Buy ISA, which rewards savers at a time of low interest rates. As for Help to Buy mortgage guarantee, the scheme may be dead, but so long as high street banks are offering 95 per cent mortgages, its effects are still with us.