The Domestic Abuse Act received Royal Assent in April of this year and it was conceived to provide further protections to the millions of people who experience Domestic Violence and Abuse (DVA) and strengthen measures to tackle perpetrators. And today, 1st October of 2021, one important provision, established by section 80 of the Act, comes into effect: from now on, healthcare professionals are prohibited from charging a victim of domestic abuse for a letter to support an application for legal aid.
“Many women supported through IRIS programmes have experienced challenges when seeking written support for legal aid applications from their GP or primary care practitioner. The system has required payment for this which places an unrealistic, unfair and added burden on women who are already in distress and facing challenges in accessing help and support. We welcome the legislation that comes into force today and hope it will ease the way for many more women to access legal aid swiftly and more easily”, explains Medina Johnson, CEO at IRISi.
See below what section 80 of the DA Act says in full.
Section 80: Prohibition on charging for the provision of medical evidence of domestic abuse
(1) No person may charge a fee or any other remuneration for the preparation or provision of relevant evidence relating to an assessment of an individual carried out by a relevant health professional in England or Wales under a qualifying medical services contract.
(2) No person may charge a fee or any other remuneration for the preparation or provision of relevant evidence relating to an individual by a relevant health professional in England or Wales if the services provided by the relevant health professional are wholly or mainly services provided under a qualifying medical services contract.
(3) In this section “relevant evidence”, in relation to an individual, means—
(a) evidence that the individual is, or is at risk of being, a victim of domestic abuse which is intended to support an application by the individual for civil legal services, or
(b) any other evidence that the individual is, or is at risk of being, a victim of domestic abuse which is of a description specified in regulations made by the Secretary of State.
(4) In this section “relevant health professional” means—
(a) a medical practitioner licensed to practise by the General Medical Council;
(b) a health professional registered to practise in the United Kingdom by the Nursing and Midwifery Council;
(c) a paramedic registered to practise in the United Kingdom by the Health and Care Professions Council.
(5) In this section “qualifying medical services contract” means—
(a) in relation to England—
(i) a general medical services contract made under section 84(2) of the National Health Service Act 2006;
(ii) any contractual arrangements made under section 83(2) of that Act;
(iii) an agreement made under section 92 of that Act;
(b) in relation to Wales—
(i) a general medical services contract made under section 42(2) of the National Health Service (Wales) Act 2006;
(ii) any contractual arrangements made under section 41(2)(b) of that Act;
(iii) an agreement made under section 50 of that Act.
(6) The appropriate national authority may by regulations amend the definition of— 68 Domestic Abuse Act 2021 (c. 17) PART 7 – Miscellaneous and general Document Generated: 2021-06-29 Status: This is the original version (as it was originally enacted).
(a) “relevant health professional”;
(b) “qualifying medical services contract”.
(7) In this section— “appropriate national authority” means—
(a) in relation to England, the Secretary of State;
(b) in relation to Wales, the Welsh Ministers; “assessment” includes a consultation, whether in person or otherwise; “civil legal services” has the meaning given by section 8 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.
(8) Subsections (1) and (2) do not apply in relation to anything done by a relevant health professional before the coming into force of this section.