Agenda item

Domestic abuse strategy 2019-2022

To make recommendations to the executive regarding the updated joint domestic abuse strategy for Herefordshire.


The chairperson welcomed the involvement of members, from the adults and wellbeing scrutiny committee and the children and young people scrutiny committee, in workshops to inform the development of this updated strategy.


It was reported that, as strategic delivery and leadership would be provided by the Community Safety Partnership, it would be for general scrutiny committee to monitor implementation going forward; statutory community safety and policing scrutiny powers were delegated to that committee.  In view of the recently formed adults and communities directorate, the chairperson considered that the scrutiny committee remits should be reviewed.  The chairpersons of the general scrutiny committee and of the children and young people scrutiny committee concurred that safeguarding matters should be delegated to the most appropriate scrutiny committee.


The senior commissioning officer gave a presentation, updated to reflect recent feedback, and drew attention to the following:


I.          The work had been led by adults and communities but had been developed in conjunction with other teams and partner organisations.


II.         This was a complex issue and, with no single place that a person might disclose domestic abuse, a shared approach to identifying and responding to domestic abuse was of vital importance.  It was a high priority across the public sector and emergency services but no additional resources were available for implementing the strategy.


III.        An overview was provided of the research and engagement activity undertaken; details of the discussions with stakeholders were included in an appendix to the strategy and would inform the development of the action plan.


IV.       It was reported that significant progress had been made to achieve the outcomes in the 2014-17 strategy and outstanding actions had been incorporated into the 2019-22 strategy.


V.        It was recognised that many incidents were not reported to the police.  In the year ending March 2017, West Mercia Police recorded 3,071 victims but it was estimated that, applying national self-reported prevalence rates, there were approximately 5,900 victims aged 16-59 in the county.  In England and Wales, 16 to 19-year-olds were most likely to say that they had experienced domestic abuse in the last year but it was anticipated that, due to Herefordshire’s demographics, there could be an older age profile of potential victims in the county.


VI.       Following feedback from the Community Safety Partnership, a revised shared vision was suggested as follows: ‘Our shared vision is that domestic abuse is unacceptable to people and communities in Herefordshire and the harm it causes will be prevented as people and communities: understand and have the skills to establish healthy relationships; recognise and reject all forms of domestic abuse; and seek, are offered and receive effective help and support early.’


VII.      An overview was provided of the priorities of prevention, provision of service, and partnership working.  It was noted that the published presentation referred to the fourth priority as ‘criminal justice’ but this should read ‘pursuing perpetrators’.


There was a brief discussion about the complexities of managing risks to individuals, especially where victims chose to remain in relationships, and the cultural differences that could exist between some urban and rural environments.


VIII.    The Community Safety Partnership would retain strategic oversight and would task the multi-agency Domestic Abuse Delivery Group to develop and implement annual action plans.


The principal points raised during the discussion included:


A.        In view of the increased level of risk and potential implications for children’s mental health, the level of support provided to pregnant women and new mothers was questioned.  It was confirmed that midwives and health visitors were expected to ask questions in relation to domestic abuse.


B.        The director of adults and communities commented on the strategic direction of mainstream services to equip professionals to identify issues and respond appropriately, not only to keep people safe but also to ensure that services were accessible to all and to narrow health inequalities.


C.        It was noted that there had been engagement with families attending groups at children’s centres in Hereford, Ross and Leominster but the extent of engagement with people in more rural communities was questioned.  The senior commissioning officer confirmed that service users of the local domestic abuse support service had provided insight into their experiences but acknowledged ongoing challenges around engagement.


D.        A committee member commented on the pressure on some young people, possibly exacerbated by social media, to remain in potentially abusive and controlling relationships.  The senior commissioning officer commented on national guidance on relationships and health education in schools but recognised that a better understanding was needed of the offer provided by schools.


E.        The vice-chairperson of the children and young people scrutiny committee commented that, with reductions in youth services, there were perhaps fewer opportunities to address inappropriate behaviours.  In response to a question, the senior commissioning officer explained that the action planning process to be undertaken by the Domestic Abuse Delivery Group would consider issues relating to hard to reach groups and people with additional vulnerabilities.


F.         In response to a question from the chairperson, the senior commissioning officer advised that the responses of registered social landlords in terms of providing appropriate housing solutions needed to be explored in more detail.  It was noted that emergency refuge accommodation could be accessed but there were challenges for such provision in more rural areas, especially around security and anonymity; arrangements for out-of-county placements were outlined.


G.        In terms of encouraging people to disclose, the senior commissioning officer reiterated the importance upskilling of a wide range of professionals to identify and respond to domestic abuse. 


H.        The chairperson invited the chair of Healthwatch Herefordshire to consider using the regular article in the Hereford Times to raise the issue of domestic abuse in the print media, as access to online resources might be denied to some victims.  Mr. Stead said that he would be happy to do this in principle.


I.          There was a brief discussion about the complexities of post-traumatic stress disorder, the periodical reposting of families, cultural barriers to disclosure, and how the strategy could be implemented within the local context.


J.         In response to a question, the senior commissioning officer outlined some of the pathways available to address domestic abuse and noted that solutions were very much individualised to take account of factors such as the resilience of victims and receptiveness of perpetrators to change their behaviours.


K.        It was anticipated that the strategy and the delivery group would help to align the partner agencies and representatives would be responsible for driving change within their own organisations.


L.         A committee member suggested that more could be done to promote the domestic abuse support service in rural areas, such as posters in public houses and community facilities.  The senior commissioning support officer commented that the delivery group would consider communication and awareness building as part of its action planning.




1)         the adults and communities directorate work with Herefordshire Healthwatch to facilitate an article in the local press about domestic abuse and the support available;


2)         the Domestic Abuse Delivery Group be encouraged to explore opportunities to promote the domestic support service in rural areas;


3)         the constitution review group be invited to reconsider scrutiny committee remits as they relate to safeguarding and community safety matters; and


4)         an update be provided to committee members on progress with the implementation of the strategy during 2019/20.

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