Agenda item

Leicestershire Domestic Abuse Reduction Strategy 2022 - 2025

Mrs D. Taylor CC, Lead Member for Children and Family Services and Community Safety, has been invited to attend for this item.



The Commission considered a report of the Director of Children and Family Services, which advised of new duties placed on the County Council by the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 which recently came into force and to seek its views on the draft new Leicestershire Domestic Abuse Reduction Strategy 2022-2025, as required by this new piece of legislation.  A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 10’, is filed with these minutes.


Arising from discussion, the following matters arose:


(i)              Members welcomed the new funding which had been allocated to the County and district council’s and supported the proposed approach as set out in the draft Strategy.  Members commented that the additional funding would enable greater support to be provided to victims of domestic abuse at what was a very critical time, given the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and the national and local lockdowns.  Members noted that once the Strategy had been agreed, an action plan would be developed with partners and overseen by the required new Domestic Abuse Partnership Board.  A Member highlighted that current partnership arrangements in this area were already well established and worked very well and building on those existing arrangements would be the right approach.

(ii)             Members noted that the new funding would be used to provide services such as advocacy support, and specialist support for victims with protected characteristics or complex needs once they were in safe accommodation.  Consideration would be given to how best to add capacity and build on existing services mainly through greater support for the voluntary sector which provided almost all services to victims of domestic abuse.  There would also be some services that would be entirely new, and these would be developed to reflect the needs of underrepresented groups such as males, and LGBT and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller victims.

(iii)           A member emphasised that uncertainty around the level of demand for services, given the impact of the pandemic, and ensuring this could be adequately met would be a key issue.  The Director advised that the new funding would certainly help over the next year, perhaps couple of years, to respond to the expected increased demand, but said that sustainability would be a risk.  This would be managed through commissioning plans for new and revised services so far as possible, but Members acknowledged that there would inevitably be some reliance on further Government funding coming forward.

(iv)           Members noted that the new responsibilities placed on the County Council did not require it to provide accommodation and that the funding allocated could not be used to purchase or rent properties for victims of domestic abuse.  The Director reported that district councils would receive funding of approximately £33,000 and each proposed to use this to appoint new domestic abuse housing officers that would act as a conduit between private housing providers, district councils, the County Council and victims.  A Member highlighted that this would be especially important for those district councils that did not have their own council housing supply.

(v)            Members were pleased to hear that victims were now given priority status when they presented as being homeless to a district council.  However, it was acknowledged that, despite this and the planned appointment of new domestic abuse housing officers, the provision of suitable accommodation for victims would continue to be a very difficult issue to resolve.  The Needs Assessment had confirmed there was a general lack of accommodation for victims of domestic abuse in the area and this was a problem being seen nationally.

(vi)           Enabling victims to stay in their own homes would be a priority where this was considered appropriate and safe to do so, particularly when children were involved.  However, circumstances were often complex and there were instances when it would be necessary to move the victim from the property and even the locality for their own safety.   It was acknowledged that each case needed to be addressed on its own circumstances.  A Member shared her personal experience in this regard which was commended by the Commission.

(vii)         In response to a question raised, the Director confirmed that therapeutic support for children and young people would include young carers when abuse was perpetrated in the home.  It was recognised that they might be under specific pressures and this was something being investigated further by the Department and partners given the impacts of the pandemic throughout 2020.  The Lead Member emphasised that the County Council provided significant support to young carers that were known to it.  However, it was recognised that there were likely more living in the area that were not known to any services, including schools.  The Council and partners were seeking to identify and support such people generally and in particular where domestic abuse was an issue. 

(viii)        What was regarded as domestic abuse was not always clearly understood by perpetrators or victims and a key piece of work would be ensuring the public understood what was and what was not appropriate behaviour.  The complexity of domestic abuse cases made it difficult to always assess and identify the correct support required.  For example, family conflicts did not always result in domestic abuse, but the impact of that conflict could be damaging and far reaching, especially for children.  A Member emphasised that the threat to predominantly male victims of not being able to see their children was also a key factor that domestic abuse charities were aware of.  Members were reassured that the Children and Family Services Department was working to support families and to help identify when domestic abuse was an issue.  Members were also pleased to hear that communications work and training could be improved with the use of the additional funding now allocated which would ensure the right support was being provided to both individuals and their families.    

(ix)           The Lead Member highlighted that the Police and Crime Commissioner had allocated funding for a Perpetrators Programme which aimed to help people who have been abusive to change their behaviour and to develop respectful, non-abusive relationships.  This was a key piece of work that helped to break the cycle of abuse and worked well alongside the programme of work aimed at supporting the victims of that abuse.

(x)            Assurance was provided that Police representatives had been involved in discussions regarding the development of the draft Strategy.  Domestic abuse was a strategic priority for the Police and one they took very seriously.  Members noted that new recruits undertook comprehensive training around domestic abuse and completed a domestic abuse dash risk assessment in every case they attended.  The Police also led the Leicestershire Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference to which high risk cases were referred for consideration with partners.

(xi)           Members noted that Clare’s Law was now in force on a statutory footing and this gave any member of the public the right to make a Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme application asking the police if their partner may pose a risk to them.  This could include an enquiry into the partner of a close friend or a family member.

(xii)         A Member highlighted that a key problem in domestic abuse cases was the need to obtain evidence to support police and subsequently court action and that cases could become protracted which was extremely distressing for victims.  The Director emphasised that whilst this was an issue, training and improved data had vastly improved to address this, though it was recognised that more needed to be done.  The Lead Member further emphasised that whilst a lack of evidence might affect the pursuit of a case by the Crown Prosecution Service, this did not affect the County Council and its partners proving support to victims which was based on need, not evidence. 



That the comments now made be report to the Cabinet at its meeting on 14th December 2021.


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