A Labour government would establish a new Department for Women and Equalities, the party has announced
Addressing the Labour Women’s Conference in Liverpool on Saturday, shadow women and equalities minister Dawn Butler said that by setting up the department, “Labour will ensure equalities is the common thread running through its government.”
"So far [since thte 2010 general election] we have seen seven different ministers for equality tagged onto four different departments and a budget that's nearly been halved,” she told attendees at the event, which took place ahead of the Labour Party Conference.
“We can’t carry on just tinkering around the edges, with equality an afterthought or little more than a question of political presentation, not a priority, for the Tories."
The department would oversee new legislation Labour plans to bring in to protect survivors of domestic abuse. It would require all employers to put a domestic abuse employment policy in place and provide up to 10 days’ paid leave for victims of domestic violence. “Employers have a duty of care to employees experiencing domestic abuse and should put in place a range of workplace policies to help victims," Butler said.
Cuts to local council budgets have reduced access to services for survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence, which the shadow equalities secretary told conference delegates Labour wants to address using a "localised approach" including sustainable funding for refuges.
If it wins the next general election, Labour will also introduce a national oversight mechanism to set quality standards for women’s refuges and support for people affected by domestic violence.
Around 1.2 million women in England in Wales were estimated to have experienced domestic abuse in the year to March 2017, according to the Office for National Statistics. However, 60% of referalls to refuges were declined in 2016-17, often due to limited capacity, according to the charity Women's Aid.
“We want to live in a society where no one is held back but we know stubborn inequalities are damaging the lives of so many of our fellow citizens and stopping us all from reaching our full potential as a society," Butler added.