Domestic Abuse Bill returns to House of Lords

After years of development and turmoil, the Domestic Abuse Bill returned to the House of Lords on the 8th March 2021 to complete its report stage, one of the final stages before being enshrined in law.

The Bill is expected to completely transform the effectiveness of current responses to domestic abuse amongst a variety of services. Its main features include placing safe accommodation service funding on a statutory footing and outlawing threats of non-fatal strangulation, post-separation abuse and sharing intimate images.

It also intends to ban the direct cross-examination of survivors by their abusers in court and will importantly give the first ever legal definition of domestic abuse.

However, the Bill unjustly leaves women with insecure immigration status and No Recourse to Public Funds with little to no protection. This comes as a result of its ignorance of the issues that exist within our current welfare system, in which in accessing it, can exacerbate economic abuse.

Currently, those with No Recourse to Public Funds face barriers particularly in accessing refuge accommodation. This is because they are ineligible to claim benefits which many survivors rely on to financially support their stay in a refuge.

Campaigners are also hoping the government uses the Domestic Abuse Bill to change the way benefits are paid to women fleeing abuse. Universal credit is currently paid by default into one account when claimed jointly with a partner. Some argue it instead should be paid separately to each claimant by default, to prevent abusers from perpetrating economic abuse.

These issues are important, and the Domestic Abuse Bill is a chance to protect millions of women who are currently being overlooked. The voices of those that this is impacting must be amplified, and awareness must be spread of the risk that the passing of the Bill could pose if amendments are not made.

Sittings for the report stage are expected to continue in the week beginning 15th March 2021, before moving into the stage of its third reading. Calls for change must be made now, before it is too late. 

Temporary migrants will no longer be able apply for settlement

The government is implementing reforms to the immigration system which will reduce immigration to sustainable levels. Today’s announcement is the next step in this process.

Launching a public consultation on reforms to the work routes leading to settlement, Immigration Minister Damian Green set out plans to re-classify visas as either ‘temporary’ or ‘permanent’ and introduce stricter criteria for those who want to stay.

Immigration Minister Damian Green said:

“The proposals I am making today are aimed at breaking the link between temporary and permanent migration.

“Settlement has become almost automatic for those who choose to stay. This needs to change. The immigration system has got to be made to work properly.

“We want the brightest and best workers to come to the UK, make a strong contribution to our economy while they are here, and then return home.”

Under the current system, many workers are allowed to apply to stay here permanently. In 2010, 84,000 people who entered the UK for employment were granted settlement. This compares to less than 10,000 who qualified for employment related settlement in 1997.

The government has already implemented new settlement requirements for skilled workers entering under Tiers 1 and 2 of the Points Based System, which require applicants to demonstrate English-language proficiency, continue to meet the salary requirements and to pass a new criminality test.

Key proposals under consideration in the 12 week consultation are as follows:

* re-branding Tier 2 (the skilled worker route) as temporary, ending the assumption that settlement will be available for those who enter on this route;

* allowing certain categories of Tier 2 migrant, for example those earning over £150,000 or occupations of a specific economic or social value to the UK, to retain an automatic route to settlement;

* creating a new category into which, after three years in the UK, the most exceptional Tier 2 migrants may switch and go on to apply for settlement;

* allowing Tier 2 migrants who do not switch into a settlement route to stay for a maximum of five years with the expectation that they and any dependants will leave at the end of that time;

* introducing an English language requirement for adult dependants of Tier 2 migrants applying to switch into a route to settlement;

* restricting the maximum period of leave for Tier 5 Temporary Workers to 12 months; and

* closing or reforming routes for overseas domestic workers.

Damian Green added:

“A small number of exceptional migrants will be able to stay permanently but for the majority, coming here to work will not lead automatically to settlement in the UK.”

The Government has committed to reforming all routes of entry to the UK in order to bring immigration levels under control. The settlement, Tier 5 and overseas domestic worker reforms will work alongside the annual limit, the new student visa reforms and changes to the family route which will be consulted on later this year.