Red Tape

Eighteen months ago I sat across the table from a police officer who advised me that following their risk assessment, myself and 2 daughters were at severe risk of being murdered by my husband within the next 48 hours.

The police officer stressed how important it was for us to leave the family home immediately. Within 24 hours and with very few possessions, my daughters and I had fled and were relocated and housed in temporary accommodation.

Due to safeguarding failures by supporting agencies our address was made known to the perpetrator on numerous occasions. As a result, we were relocated multiple times by police following further incidents of violence.

One of our relocations involved being moved into a new area of the country. On arrival in the new police force area, a request was made for us all to change our names for safeguarding reasons. This was done.

All agencies and government departments were notified of the changes made and the majority of organisations accepted the changes including HMRC & DWP. However, when I applied to the Passport Office for new passports to reflect our new names we encountered problems.

My passport application was accepted and granted and I received my new passport without any issues. However, the Passport Office refused to accept my daughters’ applications. I was informed that in order to change a child under the age of 16’s name, if both parents still hold Parental Responsibility then written consent is required from both parties. For obvious reasons, obtaining consent from their biological father was impossible and would completely negate the reason for changing the girls’ names in the first place.

The Chief Superintendent provided a letter of support evidencing our high risk of domestic violence and confirming the police’s request for us to change our names for safeguarding reasons. This letter was not accepted by the Passport Office however and they continued to insist that consent was needed from the girls’ father.

The Passport Office advised that the only way to proceed without their father’s consent was to wait until the girls reached 16 years of age, at which stage they could legally change their names without parental consent. They advised me to obtain a new Deed Poll at this stage and then re-apply for a new passport.

My eldest recently turned 16. As advised, she applied for a new Deed Poll to reflect her new name and submitted a new application form for a new passport providing the original Deed Poll as evidence of her change of name.

Yesterday we received a letter back from the Passport Office informing us they were unable to proceed with the application unless we provided an additional 3 documents providing proof of her new name from the following list:
Driving License
Tax Record
Employment Record
Mortgage Statement
Tenancy Agreement

She is 16 …….

I phoned the Passport Office helpline yesterday and spoke to a supervisor. I identified the problem that, as a 16 year old, my daughter is unable to provide any of those documents listed. I asked what alternative documents could be submitted as appropriate substitutes but he was unable to provide any advice on what would be permitted. His only advice was to submit what we have but he could not guarantee that anything other than what was listed on the ‘required list’ would be accepted.

This is a classic example of agencies not working together to safeguard victims of domestic violence. How can it be acceptable for the police to request certain safeguarding measures to be implemented only for another agency to reject those measures? Where does that leave the victims?

If, as a country, we are trying to safeguard and protect victims of domestic violence then agencies have to develop better ways of working together and supporting each other to provide adequate safeguarding measures for victims.