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Guidance for nurses on helping domestic abuse victims to vote

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New guidance has been published for nurses and midwives who are supporting victims of domestic abuse, or related safeguarding issues, to help them register to vote anonymously in elections.

In March this year, nurses and midwives became qualifying officers who can attest a person’s request to be registered anonymously on the electoral register.

“Ensuring people can vote safely, should be a priority for everyone”

Carmel Bagness

The idea is that anonymous registration helps individuals whose safety, or the safety of people living with them, would be at risk if their name or address was listed on the electoral register.

The Royal College of Nursing’s guidance gives advice on how to provide an attestation, which is a statement that if the applicant’s name and address were on the register, the applicant or another member of the household’s safety would be at risk.

The guidance also recommends that nurses and midwives be confident that they are aware of the person’s circumstances in order to qualify for the exemption. They should have clinical evidence to support their decision to attest, it notes.

In addition, the RCN reminds nurses and midwives of their responsibilities for safeguarding and the protection of vulnerable groups.

For example, this involves acting on any concerns they have about an individual who may be at risk and contacting their safeguarding lead, as necessary.

Carmel Bagness, RCN professional lead for women’s health and midwifery, said: “The RCN supports the need for all individuals to be able to contribute to society. Ensuring people can vote safely, should be a priority for everyone.

“Nurses and midwives are now in a better position to support victims/survivors of domestic abuse in accessing this right, by attesting someone’s request to anonymity on the voting register,” she said.

She added: “Being a qualifying officer requires training. Nurses and midwives must be prepared and feel competent to carry out their role.”

“We hope this guidance will support nurses and midwives to empower victims and survivors of abuse”

Suzanne Jacob

Suzanne Jacob, chief executive of national domestic abuse charity SafeLives, welcomed the new guidance from the RCN.

“We know that four out of five victims of domestic abuse won’t call the police, and that health professionals, particularly nurses and midwives, are well placed to identify abuse and support victims to access help,” she said.

“For too long, the right to participate in our democracy has been one of the many rights that can be taken from a person by a perpetrator of domestic abuse,” said Ms Jacob.

“We hope this guidance will support nurses and midwives to empower victims and survivors of abuse to regain their right to be heard,” she added.

The Royal College of Midwives published similar guidance for midwifery staff earlir this year.

Over the 12 months between March 2016 and March 2017, records suggest an estimated 1.9 million adults aged 16 to 59 years experienced domestic abuse.

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