On Monday there was a debate in the House of Commons on the subject of COVID-19: Domestic Abuse and one of the MPs that took part is Alex Norris who is the Shadow Minister for Health and Social Care and also the MP for Nottingham North. He is relatively new to Parliament, having only been elected since 2017 and so rather than ignore the very obvious challenges, he set out to try to deal with one. His question was very sensible and although it is focused on COVID and Domestic Abuse, in reality it is a matter that has been a problem for decades on a range of other issues. The Governments set out to use the money that they have set out for a range of themes but because they had promised to spend it from a particular period and because they are very slow at transferring it to the relevant public sector agency, when that agency is then in a position to offer it to local or even National Charities or indeed other agencies, the offer is funds but the demand is that the money must be spent very fast and in a very measurable way. This far too often leaves Charities and other organisation that could make a real difference for their communities either needing to refuse the funds or spending the money in ways that are not the most effective. So we need an answer from Victoria Atkins who is the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department that will apply to this set of examples but actually what we need is a change to the way that Governments seeks to fund charities and other agencies when they have priorities that they want to address. Ultimately if they can spend money less quickly, they may actually be able to do a much better job for all the relevant people.
AN: The Minister was wise to make extra funding available in the light of the impact of covid on domestic abuse and sexual violence. However, that money has to be spent, through police and crime commissioners’ offices, by support services by March. The support services that I have talked to have said that that is simply not enough time to spend it efficiently and effectively. Will the Minister commit herself today to giving them another year to spend that same money?
Now clearly as we read Victoria’s answer we can see she is not giving the Charities and other agencies what is needed on that time – the question has to be when will the answer be found and indeed along with the Domestic Abuse issues, will the general approach get changed?
VA: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising a constructive point. I hope that he knows that we were very keen through the pandemic to help at a local, regional and national level. Indeed, I was very careful to ensure that police and crime commissioners, who are responsible for distributing the local level of funding, do so not just to the services that are commissioned, but also to non-commissioned services, because there is a wealth of expertise across the country. On the point about funding, I will of course take that away. It is something that I have been discussing with charities and I know their concerns; we are dealing with that issue during the spending review allocation process.
So Victoria, you took it away on Monday, today is Wednesday, do you have an answer? and if so where can we find this so that charities and agencies can begin to take a different approach to offers being made at the present moment? In addition can we get this resolved for the long term future please?