This year, Women’s Aid flagship Public Policy Conference will be back in-person with high profile figures in government and Parliament, leading experts, survivors and local partners from across all sectors working to prevent and respond to domestic abuse.
Domestic abuse has been prominent on the public and political agenda over recent years, with Covid-related lockdowns and the current cost of living crisis having detrimental impacts on women and children, many of whom have been trapped with an abuser and unable to reach safety. With a range of keynotes and interactive workshops, this conference will focus on how we can come together to deliver a whole-system response to domestic abuse – from fixing the family courts and tackling online harms, to building a society that does not tolerate violence against women and girls.
Alongside expert speakers, attendees will have the opportunity to explore strategies and solutions for delivering a whole-system response and we will consider creative ways for how government can work across departments, and with agencies and specialist domestic abuse organisations, in order to end society’s tolerance of abuse and ensure the safety of survivors.
Confirmed speakers include:
Spice Girl and survivor Melanie Brown has been a Women’s Aid Patron since 2018 after opening up about her devastating experience of coercive and controlling behaviour in her memoir Brutally Honest. Melanie is a committed advocate and ally for survivors and was recognised with an MBE in the New Year Honours List for her unwavering commitment to supporting survivors and raising awareness of domestic abuse.
Rt Hon Sir Keir Starmer KC MP has been the Leader of the Labour Party since March 2020. He has been the Labour MP for Holborn and St Pancras since 2015. Under his leadership, the Labour Party has produced policy proposals for new commitments on tackling violence against women and girls (VAWG), including creating a new register of domestic abusers, implementing specialist rape courts to give victims the support they need and a specialist unit in every police force to support rape and sexual abuse victims.
Prior to becoming an MP, Keir was a human rights lawyer and became the Director of Public Prosecutions and Head of the Crown Prosecution Service in 2008. As Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir worked closely with Women’s Aid where he was instrumental in the prioritisation of domestic abuse and sexual violence in the criminal justice system and challenging victim blaming attitudes.
Victoria Derbyshire is a BAFTA-award-winning journalist and broadcaster, who presents current affairs on both TV and radio. She spent 16 years presenting the morning programme on Radio 5 Live, where she became a trusted confidante to listeners as they shared their own personal experiences with her on national radio, before hosting her eponymous two-hour news programme on BBC 2 for 5 years. She now presents BBC Newsnight and also co-hosts the successful BBC podcast Ukrainecast.
In her role as Minister for Safeguarding, Sarah’s responsibilities include tackling VAWG, domestic abuse, sexual violence, FGM and forced marriage, child sexual abuse and exploitation, stalking, Rape Review, victim elements of rape and serious sexual offences (RASSO) and victim support.
Her previous government roles include Lord Commissioner of HM Treasury and Minister in the Ministry of Justice, jointly with the Home Office, in which her responsibilities included criminal law and criminal court recovery, including legal aid.
Sarah previously worked as a barrister specialising in family law, wherein she represented many vulnerable members of society and is aware of various domestic, economic, and social problems facing families.
Rt Hon Sir Robert Buckland KC MP has been the Conservative MP for South Swindon since 2010. He recently served as Secretary of State for Wales in 2022, and was previously Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice from 2019 to 2021. As Secretary of State for Justice, Sir Robert oversaw the commissioning and publication of an expert panel to assess the risk of harm to children and parents in private law children cases.
Prior to this, he was the Minister for Justice with responsibility for violence against women and girls (VAWG) and Rape and Serious Sexual Offences (RASSO) alongside being the Solicitor General. He has worked as a criminal law barrister prior to and alongside his role as an MP.
She is passionate about women’s rights and inequality and at the annual debate on International Women’s Day in parliament, she reads out the list of names of women killed by their partner or ex-partner to highlight domestic abuse.
Prior to becoming an MP, Jess worked in the VAWG sector, managing domestic abuse refuges in the West Midlands.
She has been the Shadow Minister for Primary Care and Patient Safety in the Shadow Health Team since November 2021.
Prior to joining Parliament, she was the Deputy Mayor of Hackney and Cabinet Member for Health, Social Care, Leisure and Parks. She also worked in the NHS in Pathology for six years.
Born to Bengali Muslim parents, Apsana is vocal on the particular experiences of women from ethnic minorities.
As a keen champion of survivors of domestic abuse, Apsana joined the APPG on Domestic Violence and Abuse in 2020 and currently chairs the group.
Prior to becoming an MP, Apsana has worked in equality and diversity, most recently at Queen Mary University of London, where she also gained a degree in Politics.
Jo is the founding CEO of Respect, where for over 20 years she has been at the forefront of developments in the domestic abuse perpetrator sector. She has been a key player influencing government and statutory sector agencies to improve responses to perpetrators, ensuring that they are held to account, offered the chance to change and stopped from causing harm.
Jo has worked in the domestic abuse sector for nearly 30 years, starting with a variety of frontline roles with survivors, as a Refuge worker, running women’s groups and supporting survivors whose partners were attending a Domestic Abuse Perpetrator Programme (DAPP). This grounding has been crucial to Jo’s ongoing work at Respect, putting the safety, wellbeing and freedom of survivors at the heart of all responses to perpetrators.
As well as working with survivors, Jo has also been a groupwork facilitator on a DAPP, has worked as a supervisor and also delivered training across the UK and abroad, including in Germany, the Republic of Ireland, Mexico and Jordan. Jo has an MA in the Sociology of Gender from Essex University (1992) and a diploma in counselling from City Lit (1999). She is co-author of a 3 volume practitioner manual, ‘Working Towards Safety’ (Iwi & Todd, DVIP, 2000) and has been an Associate Editor of the Journal of Gender Based Violence since its launch in May 2017.
Louisa Rolfe has over 30 years’ experience in policing working for a number of police forces across the country. In June 2020 she joined the Metropolitan Police Service as Assistant Commissioner where she now heads Frontline Policing with responsibility for Boroughs and Specialist Crime. She was appointed to lead on the MPS’s response to Violence against Women and Girls and is the MPS Talent lead.
Louisa Rolfe has been the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) lead for Domestic Abuse since 2013. She led the UK police response to HMIC’s report Everyone’s Business – focused on improving the response to domestic abuse – urging forces to prioritise domestic abuse and securing substantial improvements across the service. Her work in this area was recognised in the 2019 New Year’s Honours being awarded an OBE. Louisa Rolfe has now taken on the role of the NPCC Lead for National Crime Coordination Committee including Violence & Public Protection.
Nicola is an expert in economic abuse as it occurs within the context of coercive control. She has worked in the violence against women and girls (VAWG) sector since 2006 and held policy-influencing and research roles before moving into charity leadership.
In 2016, Nicola was made a Winston Churchill Fellow and travelled to the United States and Australia to explore innovative responses to economic abuse. It was her determination to ensure that women in the UK have access to the same responses that led her to establish Surviving Economic Abuse (SEA) in 2017. Nicola is also an Emeritus Research Fellow in the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit (CWASU) at London Metropolitan University,
In October 2020 Nicola was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to victims of domestic and economic abuse. She was the 2020 winner of the Third Sector Award for Rising Chief Executive and named ‘Rising Leader of the Year’ in 2021 by the Charity Times Awards.
Since her appointment to the role of Domestic Abuse Commissioner for England and Wales in September 2019, Nicole has begun energetically putting her 20 plus years of experience in domestic abuse policy and intervention to work, driving improvements to transform the response to domestic abuse in England and Wales. She is committed to championing victims and survivors of all ages, status, and backgrounds, and to shining a light on practises that fail them.
Nicole began her career at the Alabama State Coalition Against Domestic Violence in the United States. In 1999, she came to London as an early worker at ADVANCE, one of the first advocacy (now DVA service) services in the UK. In 2000, she began working at Standing Together Against Domestic Violence, expanding the coordinated community response efforts into health settings. Before becoming CEO of Standing Together in 2013, she held a number of senior leadership positions at highly respected organizations, including Special Projects Director at SafeLives, and Senior Operations Manager at Refuge.
Farah Nazeer has been chief executive of Women’s Aid since March 2021. With more than 20 years of director-level experience in the charity sector, she has devoted her career to women’s rights and working to end violence against women and children. Farah has led Women’s Aid during a period of transition and significant growth, steering the charity through the unprecedented rise in demand for domestic abuse services presented by the Covid-19 pandemic. Under Farah’s leadership, Women’s Aid has delivered and supported member organisations to deliver higher levels of lifesaving direct services throughout England, such as Women’s Aid’s Live Chat service. Farah’s voice has enhanced the charity’s ongoing campaigns to increase the safety and rights of domestic abuse survivors, and their children.
Farah says: “It’s a huge privilege to work for such an inspiring organisation, and one that is uniquely placed to help bring about the elimination of violence against women and girls. We won’t stop until women and children are safe at home, in the streets, and at the hands of those who are supposed to protect us. We will work tirelessly to inform and bring together all parts of society to help us achieve our goals. There are many challenges ahead and barriers to break down, but I’m proud to work with such a passionate team of dedicated and resilient feminists.”
Follow Farah on Twitter @FarahNazeer
EVAW is a UK-wide coalition of more than 100 women’s organisations and expert members working to end all forms of violence against women and girls (VAWG). Established in 2005, EVAW campaigns for every level of government to adopt better, more joined up approaches to ending and preventing violence against women and girls, and challenges the wider cultural attitudes that tolerate and condone this abuse. Andrea was appointed EVAW’s Director in January 2021, before that she was EVAW’s Head of Public Affairs, leading the organisation’s work influencing legislation and policy to improve responses to women and girls at risk of and experiencing abuse. Andrea’s previous experience includes more than a decade working for Members of Parliament in Westminster and the EU, and leading campaigns and research on the issues of child trafficking and modern slavery.
Shabana is an expert in ending violence against women and girls (VAWG), having worked in the field for over 10 years on a local, national, and international level. She is currently the Domestic Abuse Programme Manager with the Mayor of London, where she has oversight in implementing the commissioning duties associated with the 2021 Domestic Abuse Act. Shabana has previously been the VAWG Strategic Lead at the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea and National Engagement Lead with Women’s Aid.
Shabana is passionate about ending VAWG and improving practice. She is an Independent Domestic Homicide Review Chair and Author and also a Consultant, where she specialises in training, policy work, and developing best practice. Shabana is a trustee for ‘The Sky project,’ a forced marriage and so called ‘honour’ based charity and is undertaking a PhD on VAWG, Human Rights, and Education with the University of London.
Claire Cohen is an award-winning journalist and the author of ‘BFF? The Truth About Female Friendship’. She was named Women’s Editor of the Year by the British Society of Magazine Editors for her agenda setting articles and campaigning, and featured on a list of Britain’s top 50 trailblazers for gender equality. Claire writes for publications including The Times, Guardian, Telegraph and Vogue, and is a proud founder member of the Ginsburg Women’s Health Board. She is also an experienced speaker – hosting her own podcasts, ‘Imposters’ and ‘BFF’, and appearing as a commentator on the BBC, Sky News, Times Radio and LBC. She lives in South London with her husband and tiny cat.
Gisela Valle is the Director of the Latin American Women’s Rights Service since 2019 working on the intersection of women’s, migrants, workers rights and human rights alongside issues of racial inequalities. Before joining LAWRS Gisela worked in the women’s sector in the UK as well as researched on European Human Rights. Before coming to the UK Gisela practiced law in Mexico including working as legal counsel for the local government and as legal counsel in Mexico’s Senate.
Gisela holds a master’s degree in International Law from Vanderbilt University (United States) and an undergraduate degree in Law from ITESM (Mexico).
Alex was elected the MP for Nottingham North at the 2017 General Election, and has been the Shadow Minister for Levelling Up, Future of the Union and Elections since December 2021. He is a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Domestic Violence and Abuse and Chair of the APPG on Child Contact Centres.
In Parliament, he has played an instrumental role in championing the rights of survivors of domestic abuse, highlighting the need for better training of healthcare professionals in his previous role as Shadow Minister for Prevention, Public Health and Primary Care. He has also discussed the need for protection from and prosecution of domestic abuse at child contact centres under the Domestic Abuse Act 2021.
Previously Alex had served as a member of Nottingham City Council for Basford ward for six years and served as Portfolio Holder for Adults and Health. Before being elected to Parliament, Norris was working for UNISON as an Area Organiser.
Catherine is NHS England’s senior Lead for Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence. She leads an ambitious programme of work to improve the way the NHS responds to domestic abuse and sexual violence for both patients and staff. The programme considers these crimes through a public health lens, looking at prevention, early intervention and resulting health inequalities, as well as improving support for victims.
Catherine was formerly a Deputy Director in the Family and Criminal Justice Policy Directorate in the Ministry of Justice, heading the Victim and Witness Policy Unit. She was responsible for most of the government policy relating to victims of crime in England and Wales, and a £140 million per annum budget for victim and witness services. Catherine chaired the Covid 19 Victim and Witness Silver Command Group, leading the government response to Covid for victims and witnesses. Catherine was also appointed ‘Gender Champion’ for the Ministry of Justice in May 2016, providing visible leadership to around 80,000 staff on achieving gender equality in the workplace.
Catherine is a keen supporter of women and the arts and is a member of Clean Break Theatre Company’s Development Committee.
Catherine started her legal career at the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2001. She relocated to London to work at the Refugee Legal Centre, where she represented victims of trafficking, sexual violence and torture. Catherine then joined the Ministry of Justice, working as a lawyer before moving into the Senior Civil Service to work on policy and strategy.
Emma Pickering joined Refuge in 2017, originally working in Warwickshire as the MARAC coordinator before joining the Technology-Facilitated Abuse and Economic Empowerment Team in January 2018. Emma is now the Senior Operations Manager for the team and is responsible for developing and delivering the strategy for the service. Emma is passionate about raising awareness of technology-facilitated abuse and improving agency response for victims and survivors. Emma has over 15 years’ experience in the VAWG sector, with a background in setting up services for young people. Emma has a Masters in Understanding the Dynamics of Domestic and Sexual Violence and is currently studying for her PhD with a focus on Domestic Homicide Reviews and Technology-Facilitated Abuse.
Medina Johnson is Chief Executive and co-founder of IRISi, a social enterprise established to promote and improve the health care response to gender based violence. Medina has a background in education and training, managed the floating support team for a women’s mental health service and managed a charity supporting single people who are homeless. She has worked in the violence against women and girls’ sector for 18 years, first as coordinator for Bristol Domestic Abuse Forum and for the last 15 years developing and promoting IRIS programme. IRIS (Identification and Referral to Improve Safety), is a general practice-based domestic violence and abuse (DVA) training, support and referral programme and is running in over 40 areas of the UK. Its sister programme, ADViSE (Assessing for Domestic Violence and abuse in Sexual health Environments) was launched in October 2021. Medina holds an honorary contract as a Research Collaborator with the Centre for Academic Primary Care at the University of Bristol and participates in national and international research programmes on domestic violence and abuse. She has co-authored a range of published academic papers including in The Lancet, BMJ and BDJ. She has been a consultant on a number of European Commission funded programmes to improve the health care response to gender based violence across a range of countries including Romania, Spain and Austria. Medina is a member of the NIHR ARC West Advisory Board.
Katie Binns is an award-winning journalist, and former Sunday Times writer where she spent 10 years covering news, culture, travel, personal finance and celebrity interviews. Her investigative work on financial abuse has examined the response of banks, the Financial Ombudsman and the child maintenance service to victims, and resulted in a number of debt and mortgage prisoners being set free.
Tom McNeil, previously a charity lawyer, is now the Assistant Police & Crime Commissioner for the West Midlands. He is particularly passionate about early years, family support and pastoral care within education. He is also the strategic lead for one of the UK’s first problem solving courts for women.
Tom has held roles on a number of national and regional not-for-profit and public sector boards, with expertise on social policy, inequalities and economics. He is also a Policy Fellow at the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Science & Policy.
Rachel Maclean has been the Conservative MP for Redditch since 2017. She was Safeguarding Minister from September 2021 to July 2022 and worked on key issues critical to supporting survivors of domestic abuse, such as around police requests for third party materials. She is a member of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, and a vocal advocate for domestic abuse survivors in Parliament. Prior to becoming an MP, Rachel worked in a range of roles, including setting up a publishing business and a non-profit education skills provider, developing a graphics business and an HR system, and creating a post-natal teaching course for local women.
Alex Davies-Jones is the Labour MP for Pontypridd, elected in 2019 and Shadow Minister for Tech, Gambling and Digital Economy since December 2021. She is Chair of the APPG on Perpetrators of Domestic Abuse. Alex has spoken in Parliament on several key issues related to violence against women and girls, including supporting the advocacy of Women’s Aid and others on the Domestic Abuse Bill when going through Parliament, and more recently raising the issue of misogyny in schools. Prior to becoming an MP, Alex worked as a Community Engagement Manager for Dwr Cymru Welsh Water, in the National Assembly for Wales and in the office of Owen Smith MP, her predecessor.
Maggie has extensive operational experience of working in and managing criminal justice services over 30 years, working primarily across London, Oxfordshire and Hampshire. She has specialist knowledge of public protection working as a practitioner and manager in probation and prisons, youth justice and child protection. During 2000- 2016 she held national roles with the Youth Justice Board and the Parole Board for England and Wales. In 2016 Maggie joined policing as an operational Superintendent and district commander with responsibility for Portsmouth City. In March 2019 she was promoted to Assistant Chief Constable and in October 2021 she took up the Deputy Chief Constable role of national VAWG Co-ordinator for the National Police Chiefs Council. Maggie has published a range of articles and volumes on children at risk/youth justice and completed post graduate studies in policing and criminal justice.
Baljit was director of London Black Women’s Project (LBWP) from 2007 to 2019. She became the Executive Director at Imkaan in May 2019. In 2019, she also joined the board at WAVE (Women against Violence Europe). She has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from York University and a Masters in Planning and Policy from Edinburgh. Baljit’s professional life has been dedicated to policy research and practice focusing on women’s equal representation, access to resources and rights. She is dedicated to working as an intersectional black feminist. Her work has involved strategic development and sustainability of black and minoritised women’s organisations. Areas of interest focus on intersectionality and black feminism in reimagining public administration and policy-making away from neo-liberal framing and towards a transformative social justice approach. She is currently completing her Doctorate at the University of Bath at the Institute of Policy Research.
Kate Osiadacz is a responsible business expert with more than 25 years’ experience of working in retail banking. In 2020 she developed TSB Bank’s first responsible business strategy ‘The Do What Matters Plan’. She now leads the delivery of the work within the plan that collectively adds up to supporting financial and social inclusion, advocating for fair business practice, and transitioning fairly to a greener planet. In December 2022, under Kate’s stewardship, TSB extended its support for victim-survivors of domestic abuse with the introduction of its emergency flee fund.
Jenny Beck KC is the co-founder and Director of Beck Fitzgerald Solicitors and a member of the Family Justice Council. She is an award-winning family lawyer committed to accessible justice and the rights of the individual. Beck Fitzgerald was set up with a view to providing excellent advice and representation alongside helping to shape the future of family justice by influencing policy to make our system fairer. Jenny has particular expertise concerning the impact of domestic abuse on children and families and cases with allegations of parental alienation.
Morgane is currently Bumble’s Public Policy Lead in Europe. She is passionate about digital regulation and advancing gender equality. She has spent more than 10 years in tech policy space in Brussels, working in public affairs consultancies and trade associations representing small business software and internet of things industries. She gained expertise across the full range of contemporary digital policy issues, including platform competition, intellectual property, and standards. Morgane holds a Master’s degree in European Studies and a Bachelor in Political Sciences from the Free University of Brussels.
Actor, Toby-Alexander Smith, joined Women’s Aid in September 2020 as an ambassador. Since his role as Gray Atkins, in EastEnders, where viewers saw his character abuse his wife Chantelle, Toby has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to raise awareness of domestic abuse and healthy relationships. Since becoming an ambassador, Toby has made an important contribution to Women’s Aid campaigns and events, speaking about the vital role of men both in challenging misogyny, and dispelling the myths, which underpin society’s response to survivors of domestic abuse.
Lucy Hadley is Head of Policy at Women’s Aid Federation of England and leads the charity’s policy development, including on long-term funding for specialist refuge services, safety in the family courts, and work to implement the landmark Domestic Abuse Act. Lucy has led the charity’s engagement within government and parliament and regularly represents Women’s Aid in broadcast media and previously held policy advisor and development roles for a Member of Parliament, within local government and in an international NGO.
Molly Horsburgh has worked in communications offices across the third and public sectors for more than ten years. Prior to that, she was a journalist covering health and social care. As Communications Manager at Women’s Aid, Molly manages the team that covers external communications, promoting the charity’s vital work in the press and on social media.
Lizzy Dobres is the Policy and Practice Manager at Women’s Aid. She leads the charity’s Policy and Practice work, notably the Domestic Abuse Act implementation and is developing Women’s Aid’s regional and local engagement function with commissioners and local authorities to improve provision for women and children. Lizzy has previously held roles at the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and NHS England, where she a led Secretary of State commissioned national review of restraint in mental health hospitals in England, and has worked within the UK Parliament. She also holds a Master’s of Science in Health Policy from Imperial College London.
Isabelle Younane is Head of External Affairs at Women’s Aid. She joined Women’s Aid in August 2021, and currently leads the charity’s work across public affairs, digital media, events and campaigning to ensure domestic abuse is at the top of the public and political agenda. Prior to joining Women’s Aid, Isabelle has held policy, advocacy and communications roles at ActionAid UK, the British Council and the United Nations Association – UK. She is also an Executive Committee member of the New Diplomacy Project, which advises the Labour Party on foreign policy. An English graduate from the University of Exeter, she holds a Master’s degree in Human Rights from University College London.
With other high-profile speakers to be announced.
The livestream event will have BSL interpreters and the main sessions will be captioned by a palantypist. The venue is a listed building and although it is wheelchair accessible, the door to the main lift, which is required to access the disabled toilets, is 75cm wide so we regret that it may not be accessible for some powerchair users. You can see more details on access to the venue here.
We are currently reviewing our accessibility standards for our events as we are committed to ensuring that they are fully accessible going forward, and are also exploring options to livestream this event. If you would like to discuss your access requirements further or have any concerns about this, please contact us at [email protected]
Please note there is a blue badge parking bay in Great Peter Street, outside of the Sonder Aparthotel (old Arts Council Building). This is over the road from the conference venue.
Government guidelines state that we are able to hold live events without restriction. Although we cannot commit to keeping all attendees Covid safe as we cannot be responsible for the individual behaviour or health of others, we do ask that all delegates refrain from attending this event if they are feeling unwell.
This conference will be free to attend and refreshments will be provided. Please note this event is now fully booked.