DRAFT DOMESTIC ABUSE STRATEGY 2021-2024
To consider the attached draft Domestic Abuse Strategy 2021-24 and to determine any recommendations the Committee wishes to make.
The Acting Director Adults and Communities introduced the report, the purpose of which was to present the draft multi-agency Domestic Abuse Strategy 2021-2024 for the Committee’s consideration and comment before expected publication of the final strategy in early 2022.
Before the debate the Committee heard from representatives from West Mercia Women’s Aid who shared their perspectives, both personal and professional.
Key points from their presentation and the Councillors’ questions included:
· West Mercia Women’s Aid (WMWA) had worked as part of a multi-agency group in reviewing the Strategy.
· The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 had been designed so that all local authorities had the right services in place. Herefordshire Council had been ahead of the curve so the requirements of the Act were not as imperative as they were for some other councils.
· WMWA was incredibly proud of its refuge as it was a new building that offered some of the best facilities in the country.
· There were 9 satellite flats in addition to the refuge so WMWA believed that they had enough spaces to meet demand. Some spaces were kept open as emergency spaces.
· WMWA worked very closely with Children’s Services to ensure that all children got the support they needed and were recognised as victims of domestic abuse where it had occurred in the family.
· Communication between agencies and with the victim was vitally important.
· When victims left was the point at which they were often most vulnerable and needed intervention. It was imperative that support agencies, hospital and GPs picked up this and regularly checked in with individuals.
· Signposting to the help that was available was especially important to those suffering psychological abuse.
· It would be good to educate school pupils from a young age on what was, and what was not acceptable in a relationship.
· As well as the accommodation available in Herefordshire, WMWA had 2 refuges and satellite accommodation in Worcestershire and worked with a sister organisation in Shropshire. WMWA was also part of a national network of aid agencies which they could call on if a victim of abuse needed to leave the area.
· One of the potential shortcomings of the new Domestic Abuse Act was its focus on having sufficient accommodation rather than support in the community which many individuals suffering emotional abuse needed. Safe accommodation was of course important but equally so was having a support network during and after.
· The emphasis needed to be on prevention as well as being able to respond as although funding and resources had improved the statistics had not.
· There was already work being undertaken with schools on respectful and healthy relationships but WMWA was saddened to report than many young people seemed to hold more misogynistic views than ever, The availability of online content showing women as victims and being abused was incredibly unhelpful. So too was the opportunity that social platforms gave for there to be remote abuse; something which had escalated hugely during lockdown.
· There was a presence in hospital to help catch domestic abuse early on. The antenatal department was one such area as women during pregnancy were particularly vulnerable. Covid restrictions had meant pregnant women had had to attend appointments without their partners and this had given them the opportunity to speak freely.
· The Act had been helpful in giving guidance on the setting up of a partnership board which would enable better sharing of information, and maximum and most effective use of resources.
· It was the aspiration of both the Council and WMWA to undertake more preventative work.
· WMWA shared the Councillors’ indignation that in most cases it was the victim who had to move and start again. It was unfair that someone who lived with years of abuse then had to give up their home. If the home was jointly owned then a victim had the right to return to it and non-molestation orders, which worked to a degree, could be put in place. Where a property was rented, the victim could apply for a transfer of tenancy but landlords were resistant to this until they had an order from the courts.
The Chair thanked the representatives from West Mercia Women’s Aid for attending the meeting and for their valuable contribution. They then left the meeting.
During further discussion the following principal pints were noted:
· There were a number of typographical errors that would need correcting before final publication.
· The particular challenges that living in a rural location brought about needed to be emphasised more in the Strategy.
· Concerns were aired that introducing another partnership board with a membership that would overlap with many existing boards could dilute the conversation.
· The provisions of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 required the Council to enhance its existing strategy and appoint a multi-agency board, but it would be looking to recruit a comprehensive and diverse membership that would strengthen and improve the response and services offered.
· There needed to be a greater degree of parity between psychological and physical abuse.
· The Act mandated the Council to expand its view outside of traditional approaches and working with WMWA and the experience they bought to the table would assist with this.
· Councillors wanted the Strategy to reflect a presumption that victims should be allowed to stay in their own homes.
· The new multi-agency partnership would enable better sharing of data and make issues much more visible.
The Committee recommends that:
a) The report be checked for typographical errors, clarity and appropriate use of language including use of victim/survivor alongside a strengths based approach.
b) Greater emphasis be placed on specific issues relating to rurality.
c) Links to Talk Community be improved within the Strategy, for example drawing on existing networks and the benefits of holistic support packages and improved promotion of support within communities.
d) The use of social media and remote abuse be include within the definitions of abuse.
e) The Strategy should start with the assumption that the victim of abuse should be able to stay in their own home, where this is possible.
f) The collection, presentation and contextualisation of data in the report be reviewed and improved.
g) Work with educational settings be reviewed and strengthened.
h) Approaches to rehabilitation of perpetrators be considered.
- Update to Domestic Abuse Strategy Cover report v1, item 33. PDF 256 KB
- Appendix 1 Domestic Abuse Draft Strategy 2019 - 2024, item 33. PDF 632 KB
- Appendix 2 Domestic Abuse Needs Assessment for Herefordshire October 2021, item 33. PDF 1 MB
- Appendix 3 Equality Impact Assessment, item 33. PDF 292 KB