Webchat with Victoria Atkins MP, Home Office Minister for Safeguarding and Extremism, on Thursday 11th February at 11am.

(69 Posts)

MNHQ have commented on this thread.

JuliaMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 09-Feb-21 12:00:18

Hello.

We’re pleased to announce a webchat with Victoria Atkins, Home Office Minister for Safeguarding and Extremism, on Thursday 11 February at 11am.

Victoria Atkins is the Conservative MP for Louth and Horncastle and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Home Office. She was previously Minister for Women from 2018 to 2020.

As Minister for Safeguarding, her responsibilities include domestic abuse, violence against women and girls (including FGM and forced marriage), child sexual abuse, stalking, prostitution, sexual violence including the rape review, and early youth intervention on serious violence.

The Home Office is launching a nationwide call for evidence to inform the government’s new Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) strategy. They are urging members of the public, especially women, to fill in the short online survey to share their experiences and views on the issue which will be reflected in the VAWG strategy, to be published in March.

As well as the public survey, the Home Office is setting up focused discussions with a range of representatives from the sector, and has involved charities in directly engaging with victims to gather their views. The new VAWG strategy will help the government to tackle these crimes and to increase the understanding, and ability to tackle, emerging forms of violence against women and girls such as upskirting and revenge porn.

Please join us here on Thursday at 11am. If you can’t join us on the day, please leave your question here in advance.

As always, please remember our webchat guidelines - one question per user, follow-ups only if there’s time and most questions have been answered, and please keep it civil. Also if one topic is dominating a thread, mods might request that people don't continue to post what's effectively the same question or point. (We may suspend the accounts of anyone who continues after we've posted to ask people to stop, so please take note.) Rest assured we will ALWAYS let the guest know that it's an area of concern to multiple users and will encourage them to engage with those questions.

Many thanks,
MNHQ

OP’s posts: |
RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 11-Feb-21 12:04:46

Thanks so much to Victoria for taking part and to MNers for your questions - hope you enjoyed the webchat.

We're going to close this thread in a moment but do please head over to take part in the survey for the VAWG strategy.

Thanks
MNHQ

OvaHere Thu 11-Feb-21 12:04:37

Thank you for taking part Victoria. Please do continue to pop in and read the threads on Mumsnet that highlight women's concerns about various matters that affect our lives.

PotPlantLady Thu 11-Feb-21 12:03:02

Please will you help Sistah Space - the Hackney based refuge specifically for women of African and Carribean heritage? It's at risk and it's very much needed!!

VictoriaAtkins Thu 11-Feb-21 12:01:26

Hi everyone,

Thank you very much for all your important questions! I have really enjoyed talking to you this morning and hope I have managed to leave you with some answers.

Please make sure you share your views and experiences of violence against women and girls here: www.gov.uk/homeoffice/VAWG-be-heard. We will take this into account when creating our strategy on violence against women and girls in Spring. The survey closes next Friday – please ensure you fill it in before then, and share with your family and friends!

All the best,

Victoria Atkins

VictoriaAtkins Thu 11-Feb-21 11:59:55

JustineMumsnet

Hi Victoria. As you’ll know, women, and particularly mothers, have been hit incredibly hard by the measures associated with the pandemic. They’re more heavily represented in employment sectors that have seen the most job losses and furlough (the IFS said women are 47% more likely to have lost job, and according to the ONS parents were twice as likely to be furloughed as those without children).
Mothers are doing the bulk of home schooling and other childcare: eight out of ten mothers surveyed on Mumsnet say responsibility for home-schooling falls largely to them. This is just schoolwork - according to the ONS women spent 66% more time doing childcare than men during the first lockdown. The IFS said under the last lockdown, mothers were able to do just one-third of the uninterrupted work hours that dads did in couples where both partners work.

Women with jobs and children are running on empty. One third of Mumsnet users surveyed said the demands on them during lockdown had negatively affected their future career path in a way that’s not true for their partner and three-quarters of Mumsnet mothers say COVID has had a negative impact on their mental health. 8 out of 10 mums say the government’s economic response to COVID fails to consider the childcare sector sufficiently. And 75% agreed “Women’s voices aren’t being heard at the top levels of government”.

We believe the government needs a dedicated Women’s Strategy to help rebuild, and to ensure that the real everyday needs of women - from domestic violence support and mental health provision to jobs and childcare - are absolutely baked in to every strand of governmental policy.

We believe the government needs a dedicated women's strategy to address these going inequalities or we're going to find ourselves back in the 70s as far as maternal employment goes before we know it. What do you think? We'd love to help in anyway we can...

Hi @JustineMumsnet - We completely understand the pressures women are facing at the moment. We have rolled out unprecedented levels of economic support, to those who need it most - regardless of gender. This includes sectors that employ large numbers of women, such as retail and hospitality, but of course we review the effectiveness of this support continuously. The Government wanted to keep schools open for as long as possible for the sake of the children but also working parents. I take this incredibly seriously and I'm working my way through the Women and Equalities Select Committee report yesterday. The Prime Minister has been clear in our work to level up across the country that while the UK will be changed by this experience, we can ensure that we emerge stronger and more united. We're always keen to hear from Mumsnetters so please do keep raising issues with us.

MichelleofzeResistance Thu 11-Feb-21 11:52:48

What is the government doing to turn this situation around and ensure that these women and girls are ensured access to a properly trauma-informed society in which they can flourish?

This is a really good question. Also so important in trauma-informed care that women and girls who have been traumatised are not re traumatised by having to disclose their experiences to justify what they need: inclusive provision needs to have a range of provisions proactively available to prevent this rather than be based on request.

OvaHere Thu 11-Feb-21 11:51:46

That is why the law allows service providers to make their own judgement according to the situation

Most are not able to make a judgement independent of the funding they receive to keep operating. Funding which is conditional on them not applying good judgement on exemptions but instead having a blanket no exemptions/no exceptions policy. This is something that needs looking at with more scrutiny.

Ereshkigalangcleg Thu 11-Feb-21 11:48:29

We believe the government needs a dedicated Women’s Strategy to help rebuild, and to ensure that the real everyday needs of women - from domestic violence support and mental health provision to jobs and childcare - are absolutely baked in to every strand of governmental policy.

Yes I agree. Based on the protected characteristic of sex in the Equality Act 2010, which would provide the legal basis for this to be done by all service providers, employers etc as part of Public Sector Equality Duty.

VictoriaAtkins Thu 11-Feb-21 11:47:00

GCAcademic

Hello Victoria.

My question is about the single-sex exemptions in the Equality Act. Leaving organisations such as domestic violence refuges to take their own position on this means that they are susceptible to external pressure or policy capture from (often aggressive) lobby groups whose priority is not the safety of women. Like many other women on here, I would like to see the government take a clear position on the kinds of places where vulnerable and traumatised women can have the right to safety and recovery in single-sex spaces. We have already seen women on here who are not accessing facilities because the providers cannot guarantee that they will not (e.g.) be sharing sleeping space with male strangers. Does the government have any concrete plans to strengthen the provisions for single-sex services in the Equality Act?

Hi @GCAcademic and thanks so much for your question. A lot of users have taken an interest in this area, and I understand that it is one of great interest so hope my answer helps. I know from my own visits to refuges how traumatised women can be when they’ve fled abusive relationships, often with nothing but a plastic bag of belongings and their children. It is within the law for service providers to restrict use of spaces on the basis of sex, and restrict transgender people with or without a Gender Recognition Certificate, if this is justified. I understand the difficulties in this area for both women and service providers, and that is why there is flex in the law. In my view, we need to strike a balance rather than take a “one size fits all” approach, and of course we want vulnerable women to feel safe. That is why the law allows service providers to make their own judgement according to the situation. I think it’s important we recognise the pressures that trans victims face when they are fleeing abusive relationships. This is why the new duty to provide specialist services to victims who are in safe accommodation is so important. The phrase “safe accommodation” has been used to look after victims who cannot stay in refuge specifically but who are being housed in safe accommodation nonetheless.

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 11-Feb-21 11:44:51

Hi Victoria. As you’ll know, women, and particularly mothers, have been hit incredibly hard by the measures associated with the pandemic. They’re more heavily represented in employment sectors that have seen the most job losses and furlough (the IFS said women are 47% more likely to have lost job, and according to the ONS parents were twice as likely to be furloughed as those without children).
Mothers are doing the bulk of home schooling and other childcare: eight out of ten mothers surveyed on Mumsnet say responsibility for home-schooling falls largely to them. This is just schoolwork - according to the ONS women spent 66% more time doing childcare than men during the first lockdown. The IFS said under the last lockdown, mothers were able to do just one-third of the uninterrupted work hours that dads did in couples where both partners work.

Women with jobs and children are running on empty. One third of Mumsnet users surveyed said the demands on them during lockdown had negatively affected their future career path in a way that’s not true for their partner and three-quarters of Mumsnet mothers say COVID has had a negative impact on their mental health. 8 out of 10 mums say the government’s economic response to COVID fails to consider the childcare sector sufficiently. And 75% agreed “Women’s voices aren’t being heard at the top levels of government”.

We believe the government needs a dedicated Women’s Strategy to help rebuild, and to ensure that the real everyday needs of women - from domestic violence support and mental health provision to jobs and childcare - are absolutely baked in to every strand of governmental policy.

We believe the government needs a dedicated women's strategy to address these going inequalities or we're going to find ourselves back in the 70s as far as maternal employment goes before we know it. What do you think? We'd love to help in anyway we can...

OvaHere Thu 11-Feb-21 11:40:51

Ereshkigalangcleg

^What can you do to promote public understanding of safeguarding? Would it be possible to put up a plain English explanation of what it is and isn't on the dot.gov website?^

This is an excellent idea, please look at this.

I second this. There seems to be an almost universally poor understanding of safeguarding principles even within organisations whose job it is to understand them.

Thelnebriati Thu 11-Feb-21 11:35:35

Ereshkigalangcleg

^What can you do to promote public understanding of safeguarding? Would it be possible to put up a plain English explanation of what it is and isn't on the dot.gov website?^

This is an excellent idea, please look at this.

Thank you - I was thinking along the lines of The Equality Act, where an exception is allowed so that a group with a protected characteristic can participate on an equal footing, and that isn't considered discrimination against people who do not share the protected characteristic.

I think we need a similar way of ringfencing safeguarding and risk assessments.

VictoriaAtkins Thu 11-Feb-21 11:34:22

Bindles

Hello Victoria
Thanks for joining us.
Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Support Centres are doing a brilliant job around the country, and more needed now than ever. What is the government's plan to provide these essential services with the resources they need?

Hi @Bindles and thank you for your message. Rape support centres play a vital role in supporting victims and survivors of rape and sexual abuse. The Government is providing essential funding, awarding £12m to 91 rape support centres across England and Wales to provide independent, specialist support to female and male victims of sexual violence in 2020/21, an increase of £4m from 2019/20. An additional £4m per annum until 2022 is also being invested in recruiting more Independent Sexual Violence Advisers (ISVAs) to help victims feel informed and supported at every stage of their recovery journey.
A new government advertising campaign, #ItStillMatters, also launched recently and seeks to raise awareness of sexual violence services and ensure victims of rape and sexual abuse know where to get help – encouraging them to take the often difficult step of seeking support for the first time.You can view the campaign here-https://sexualabusesupport.campaign.gov.uk/

VictoriaAtkins Thu 11-Feb-21 11:32:15

chestnutSquash

Thank you Victoria. I am glad to hear more is being done to address the issues around children. Unfortunately there seem to be few consequences for the( male) paedophiles once arrested.
Do you have any thoughts on the rape and death threats towards women, that are allowed to stand, on twitter?

Hi @chestnutSquash I hope you've seen in the news the brilliant work of the NCA in catching the paedophile David Wilson. That sentence shows how seriously these offences are taken by the criminal justice system. In relation to rape and death threats, it is shocking and these shouldn't be happening. That is why we're putting a duty of care onto tech companies towards their users through the Online Harms legislation.

Ereshkigalangcleg Thu 11-Feb-21 11:29:40

What can you do to promote public understanding of safeguarding? Would it be possible to put up a plain English explanation of what it is and isn't on the dot.gov website?

This is an excellent idea, please look at this.

VictoriaAtkins Thu 11-Feb-21 11:27:06

FionaMackenzie

Hi Victoria. Fiona from the We Can't Consent To This campaign here.

We were very pleased by the Government's announcement of new law on rough sex defences and an offence of non fatal strangulation - following a huge push by mumsnetters - so thank you.

There's been a horror rise in new forms of violence and abuse of women in recent years: normalisation of 'choking'/strangulation assaults in sex, deepfakes and other image based abuse (including threats to share intimate images), stealthing, upskirting...

The VAWG strategy will have a big job to tackle these and longstanding harms like underprosecution of rape. Do you think wider Government realises yet how big (and vital) a job this is going to be?

Hi @FionaMAckenzie and thanks for your question and for your campaigning, and of course to all Mumsnetters who have campaigned on rough sex offences and the Non-Fatal Strangulation offence. One of the reasons we’re running this VAWG call for evidence is because we want to hear views from people on these new forms of violence and abuse, and how they are affecting people in their day to day lives. I share your concerns about tech-enabled crimes and the VAWG strategy will look to deal with these. I can assure you that the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary and I are absolutely committed to tackling VAWG. As the conversation turn to some of the things women have had to put up with for years, Government is listening and with this strategy, with your help, we’re determined to get this right.

TheLaughingGenome Thu 11-Feb-21 11:23:27

There are so many good questions here. Thank you for the webchat.

Thelnebriati Thu 11-Feb-21 11:22:49

What can you do to promote public understanding of safeguarding? Would it be possible to put up a plain English explanation of what it is and isn't on the dot.gov website?

There seems to be a deliberate and concerted effort to conflate risk assessment with discrimination - for example cases such as airlines being told they cannot ask men to move seats if they are sat next to a child travelling alone.

VictoriaAtkins Thu 11-Feb-21 11:22:45

BuntingEllacott

Hi Victoria,

As a minister with Safeguarding as explicitly part of your remit, I'm interested to hear how you plan to strengthen and reinforce the existing safeguarding frameworks that have developed as we've learned more about how persistent and devious predators can be. While I welcome your engagement with survivors like myself, I really would like to see firm commitments and action to prevent abuse before it occurs. It seems to me the lack of education about what safeguarding is, and even subtle or overt attempts to undermine it, form the basis for many of the threats to the welfare of women and children today.

Thanks in advance for your answer.

Hi @BuntingEllacott and thank you for your comments. Prevention is critical. The new VAWG Strategy will focus on prevention, driving forward improvements in the effort to target perpetrators, ensuring that we respond to the changing nature of these crimes, and, most importantly, continuing to put victims and survivors at the heart of our approach. As a survivor yourself, let me thank you for taking the time to join our discussion today, and encourage you to take part in the survey, as your views are key to getting this right. If you need any help from specialist services there are links at the end of the survey, and please be assured that this survey is completely anonymous.

chestnutSquash Thu 11-Feb-21 11:22:01

Thank you Victoria. I am glad to hear more is being done to address the issues around children. Unfortunately there seem to be few consequences for the( male) paedophiles once arrested.
Do you have any thoughts on the rape and death threats towards women, that are allowed to stand, on twitter?

VictoriaAtkins Thu 11-Feb-21 11:17:31

chestnutSquash

I am increasingly uneasy about the amount of really awful things being posted on social media, including rape and death threats on twitter, conversations between paedophiles in chat rooms, grooming by extremists on facebook. There are always positive aspects to social media but what will/ can the government do to make these companies do something about this?

Hi @chestnutSquash and thanks for your question, and to others who have posted on this. Firstly, I completely agree and understand your concerns about the impact on children. Everyone in government is committed to protecting children from harmful online content. Only yesterday I was meeting tech leaders to discuss what they’re doing to ensure that child sexual abuse images are prevented from going onto the internet and taken down as quickly as possible. We’ve published a response to the Online Harms White Paper consultation, interim codes of practice on online child sexual exploitation and abuse, and provided funding for the Internet Watch Foundation’s campaign to tackle youth-produced sexual imagery. We are also investing in the National Crime Agency’s (NCA) dark-web capabilities to tackle the threat of child sexual abuse, which has led to 120 arrests and 261 children safeguarded or protected. All of that being said, there is always more to do and I am deeply committed to this. Just last month we launched our “Tackling Child Sexual Abuse Strategy”, and this is just the start of plenty more work in this area. In the meantime, I strongly recommend parents and children alike look at the “thinkuknow” campaign by the NCA, with some great materials for both you and your kids on how to stay safe online.

VictoriaAtkins Thu 11-Feb-21 11:08:38

ArabellaScott

Hello, Victoria.

There has recently been a spate of government consultations on issues of great importance to women.

At the same time, women are more squeezed than ever due to the pressures of home schooling, and home working. While I've tried to contribute and really am keen to engage, I am time poor and exhausted.

Can there be more done to make it easier for women to take part in these processes?

Hi @ArabellaScott – I hear you! I am juggling home schooling too - after lunch, I will be grappling with long multiplication… Recently, the PM thanked all parents who are teaching as well as working and trying to keep the show on the road at the moment. This is a huge national effort and we know how tough it has been for many families. In terms of the public survey, we have designed it to be as light touch as possible – if you only have 5 mins and can only jot down a couple of points, please do so. We want to reach as many people as possible so that we are picking up on issues that are emerging or that you are worried about. And keep going!

VictoriaAtkins Thu 11-Feb-21 11:06:12

AnnieKenney

Why are you committed to having a separate domestic abuse strategy rather than one VAWG strategy covering everything when NO-ONE in local government, the police, specialist services etc supports this?

Hi @AnnieKenney – as we have seen already in this thread, VAWG covers a huge number of crimes, behaviours and attitudes. I want effective national strategies that reflect the range of harms and the measures we are taking to deal with them. I have been clear throughout our development of these strategies that the Strategies will complement each other. DA is a form of VAWG but it is also the highest harm, highest volume crime type with which we have to deal.

We should, therefore, have a specific national strategy tackling the many forms of DA, which will continue the momentum of the Bill once that has passed into law. But I want the same national attention that has recently been devoted to DA to be extended to other forms of VAWG. Some people have said to me that when DA is discussed, it crowds out discussions about other forms of VAWG. We can change this through a distinct but linked national Strategy. I have reassured our charities that this does not mean that we are de-gendering DA. Our aim in having two strategies is to have twice the focus on crimes that disproportionately affect women and girls. And I can’t agree with the assertion that no one supports this approach – a lot of people see this as the government devoting not one but two national strategies to crimes that disproportionately affect women and girls. Let’s seize this opportunity – please do fill in the public survey!

VictoriaAtkins Thu 11-Feb-21 11:03:51

Hi everyone,

Thank you for all your questions so far and please do keep them coming. I’m looking forward to spending the next hour with you and answering as many as I can.

The reason I’m chatting to you today is to let you know that you can share your views and experiences of violence against women and girls in our survey here: www.gov.uk/homeoffice/VAWG-be-heard. It closes in just over a week and it’s crucial that a lot of people take part, so that our strategy to combat these crimes is inclusive.

Thank you,

Victoria Atkins

Datun Thu 11-Feb-21 11:03:49

Hi Victoria,

I echo previous poster's concern about access to extreme pornography for our children.

When teen Vogue is explaining to 13-year-olds how to have anal sex, and if it feels uncomfortable, just use more lubrication, you know we're in trouble. Thirteen years is three years away from legal sex, never mind anal sex.

One girl a day is raped in school. In school.

We are raising a generation of children whose idea of sex is skewed and which heavily centres males with an ever increasing focus on the degradation of women.

We have seen the results of what happens to children in a very short space of time, based on what they learn in school. This must be tackled now.

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