11 July 2022

RCSLT welcomes the publication of the final domestic abuse statutory guidance, and is particularly pleased with the recognition given to the connection between speech, language and communication needs and domestic abuse.

Last week, the Home Office published the final statutory guidance for the Domestic Abuse Act, a draft of which was consulted on in Autumn 2021 (PDF). In the draft guidance, the RCSLT was pleased to see the recognition of speech, language and communication needs as a particular vulnerability, as well as reference to exploitation of communication difficulties as a tactic of domestic abuse.

However, gaps remained:

  • The draft guidance was vague about the particularities of communication needs as a risk factor and barrier to accessing services.
  • It could have been clearer about the role of communication difficulties in the lives of perpetrators.

The RCSLT is very pleased to see that many of these gaps have been addressed in the final statutory guidance.

Gaps addressed in final guidance

We particularly welcome:

  • The addition of “delayed development or deterioration in speech, language and communication” to the impacts of domestic abuse on children.
  • The recognition that children with special education needs and disabilities (SEND) may need communication tools and professional support to report abuse.
  • The strengthening of the section on speech, language and communication as a related consideration, including:
    • The recognition that people with speech, language and communication needs may be actively targeted and experience abuse for longer because of difficulties explaining what has happened to them and accessing support;
    • The recognition that speech and language difficulties may be unidentified or undiagnosed, and as a result, reports from people with such difficulties may not have been taken seriously; and
    • The affirmation that the communication environment and any potential barriers should be considered.
  • The addition of “communication difficulties” as a potential barrier to victims disclosing information or seeking support.

More broadly, the specific recognition of speech, language and communication needs as a different experience and related consideration is very welcome. We are grateful to the government for listening to our concerns and taking on board our suggestions on how the draft guidance could be strengthened.

We would hope to see the specific recognition of speech, language and communication needs as a different experience and related consideration included in other future relevant statutory and non-statutory guidance in order to recognise the needs of and better support society’s most vulnerable, many of whom have speech, language and communication difficulties.

Read the full statutory guidance (PDF).

Get involved

These wins would not have been possible without the contributions of peers and MPs who raised speech, language and communication as an issue during debates on the Domestic Abuse Act; RCSLT members who have contributed evidence and edits to consultation responses; and the Association of Youth Offending Team Managers who jointly submitted to the consultation with us. Thank you, we are very grateful for all your hard work.

If you would like to stay updated on and get involved in this influencing work, please contact padraigin.oflynn@rcslt.org.

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