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Ministers defend violence strategy


Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has defended efforts to tackle violence against women

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has defended efforts to tackle violence against women

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has defended efforts to tackle violence against women

Ministers tackling violence against women and girls have denied that more could be done to confront the abuse if responsibility was moved in to a major government department.

MPs leading an inquiry into violence against women and girls (VAWG) said they heard evidence from human rights and women's charities that a lack of coordination between departments, including education, health and the Home Office, could be holding back progress.

But Secretary for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities Nicky Morgan told the Joint Committee on Human Rights that the current structure of spreading authority across departments meant all were held to account.

Appearing alongside Home Office minister Lynne Featherstone and justice minister Mike Penning at the last evidence session of the inquiry today, she said: "The point about VAWG is it can only be tackled by a sustained effort by a number of different areas of our society and different communities and that involves different ministers and I think that it would actually be a retrograde step if VAWG was seen only as a Home Office matter, for example.

"This issue is at the top of the agenda, which it is because everyone from the Prime Minister downwards are absolutely engaged in tackling it.

"My worry would be if you had one minister with responsibility for it that actually they would not have that clout in different departments with civil servants to hold them to account and get things done in the way we do have because you have different ministers committed to this agenda."

Virendra Sharma, Labour MP for Ealing Southall, said there was a lack of consistency in education and prevention work at schools around the issues of consent, violence and healthy relationships, that resulted in "only pockets" of good practice.

Ms Morgan said guidance on Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) has been included in the new curriculum rolled out across schools this year but that it was up to schools to decide how to implement it.

"Schools are required to teach a broad and balanced curriculum and Ofsted will inspect all schools on the basis of the spiritual, moral, social and cultural education that they provide to their pupils and as we've seen recently Ofsted will not hesitate to challenge where they feel that test is not met and we very firmly believe PSHE, in fact a broad curriculum for life, is very important.

"It obviously has to be taught in an age appropriate way, I want relationship education to be talked about as well, but it is also something for the schools to decide what is most appropriate for the students they are teaching, for the age they are teaching and the communities they are living in as well."

The joint committee has previously heard evidence regarding issues including the impact of the Government's current and proposed immigration and asylum policies and the response of the police, prosecution and judiciary to VAWG.

The joint committee expects to publish its final report in early January.