We must centre the most marginalised voices, and ensure those with lived experience have power and agency in decision making spaces.
The Domestic Abuse Bill has been heralded as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform the national response to domestic abuse. However, such a transformation is only possible if those with the power to shape this landmark legislation listen to those with lived experience, and act on their expertise. In light of this, Women’s Aid, with funding from Legal Education Foundation, set up the Law in the Making project – aiming to achieve a genuinely collaborative approach to survivor engagement in the legislative process and our campaigning efforts to ensure the Domestic Abuse Bill meets the needs of all survivors.
The project worked with sixteen survivors in a series of educational workshops on legislation and campaigning, and engagement opportunities with parliamentarians and policy makers around the Domestic Abuse Bill. Over the course of the year, the experts by experience (survivor) group gave evidence to the Pre-Legislative Scrutiny Committee and Public Bill Committee for the Domestic Abuse Bill; hosted an ‘open space’ event with MPs and Peers; attended a roundtable at No.10 Downing Street with the then Prime Minister; and launched their own ‘experts by experience briefing’ in Parliament which was attended by a number of MPs including the Minister and Shadow Minister for the Bill.
It was a real highlight of the project, and testament to the women involved, to hear the impact of their work at the Second Reading debate in the House of Commons, with MPs quoting their briefing. The group’s campaigning efforts have gone on to help secure a number of amendments to the Bill including the inclusion of children in the definition of domestic abuse, priority need for all survivors in regard to housing, and key changes to the family court system.
We hope to build on the successes of the Law in the Making project by building our network of experts by experience – supporting survivors to use their lived experience to transform the national response to domestic abuse. Within this work we must centre the most marginalised voices, and ensure those with lived experience have power and agency in decision making spaces.
Who else was involved?
First and foremost, a massive thank you to all the survivors involved in Law in the Making – for all the expertise and passion they brought to the project which defined and drove the campaign and made it such a success. Thank you to our frontline member services and partner organisations who have supported the project – in particular those who supported some of the survivors involved – Humraaz, Eden House, and Claudia Jones. And those that took part in our workshops – Apna Haq, Latin American Rights Service and the Step Up Migrant Women Campaign. Thank you to the Legal Education Foundation for funding the project – https://www.thelegaleducationfoundation.org/
Thank you to all the MPs and Peers who have supported the project. In particular thank you to Alex Norris MP – who hosted the groups’ events in parliament, and used his platform to share their priorities at the Second Reading of the Domestic Abuse Bill. Thanks you to Jess Philips MP for her support amplifying the voice of survivors, alongside Louise Haigh MP, Paul Scully MP, and Maria Miller MP for their engagement with the group. Thank you to Nicole Jacobs, the Designate Domestic Abuse Commissioner, who has championed the work of the group. Thank you to Nesta for recognising the work of the group in their Pioneering Democracy awards.