Help for survivors of domestic violence to register to vote safely
By RCM on 28 March 2018 Domestic Abuse
New Royal College of Midwives (RCM) guidance for midwives on supporting survivors of domestic abuse to vote safely is published today. The guidance will help midwives to support survivors of domestic abuse to remain anonymous on the electoral role to keep them safe from harm.
Domestic abuse remains a leading cause of maternal death and is associated with poor neonatal outcomes such as pre-term birth. Domestic abuse often begins in pregnancy and also increases in severity during pregnancy. Midwives screen all women to assess their safety and offer crucial support.
The RCM guidance is a response to new Government regulations on elector anonymity making it easier for people to apply to be anonymous on the electoral roll. Electoral anonymity is available to anyone whose safety could be under threat by having their name and address published in the electoral roll.
The list of professionals able to support a person’s application has been extended. It now includes midwives and nurses registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council and doctors registered with the General Medical Council.
Previously this ‘attestation’ could only be done by people in relatively senior positions such as superintendents of police or directors of social services.
The new rules came into force in in England, Wales and Northern Ireland on 7th March 2018 and will apply in Scotland from 1st April 2018.
The RCM guidance – ‘Anonymous voter registration in the UK: Supporting survivors of domestic abuse to register to vote’ - is published today by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM). It is has been developed with the support of the Cabinet Office and the Electoral Commission.
This new guidance from the RCM will help midwives support women fleeing abuse, modern slavery or so-called ‘honour’ crimes to remain anonymous while safely exercising their right to vote.
Louise Silverton, Director for Midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives, said: “In this year celebrating 100 years of suffrage, I am really pleased that the regulations have been extended to include midwives. They are often the first professionals a woman may have to talk about issues such as domestic abuse. Midwives are ideally placed to offer support. This is very important guidance that I urge midwives to read.”
Rheo Smith, a Safeguarding Midwife at University Hospitals of Leicester, said :” ‘I’m pleased that midwives are able to provide additional support and advocate for women who are survivors of domestic abuse. Working collaboratively with other agencies is crucial when supporting survivors. We are aware that domestic abuse often starts or intensifies during pregnancy and postpartum. This guidance will not only raise awareness for those suffering abuse, but enable midwives to support and safeguard women at a very crucial time in their life.”
Minister for the Constitution, Chloe Smith MP, said: "I am grateful to the Royal College of Midwives for providing new guidance which could help thousands more survivors of domestic abuse register to vote without the fear of revealing their address to abusers. It’s fitting that we are making it easier for survivors to exercise their democratic rights, in the year in which we mark women who passionately fought for these rights 100 years ago."
Read the RCM Guidance in our Publications section. Details of the new regulations can be read at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/survivors-of-domestic-abuse-now-able-to-vote-anonymously.
A blog from Ailsa Irvine, Director of Electoral Administration and Guidance at the Electoral Commission on the new regulations and the RCM guidance has also been published on the RCM website.
To contact the RCM Media Office call 020 7312 3456, or email [email protected].
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The RCM is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team. We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences and online resources. For more information visit the RCM website at https://www.rcm.org.uk/.