The Council has established a new vision for the service, based on service user feedback, which will allow for provision to women, families with dependent male children of any age and male victims. The service will seek to end shared kitchens and bathrooms by using self contained flats in a hub for female survivors-as well as separate, dispersed properties in the community for male and female survivors-thus allowing for a wide range of differences in family composition, background, faith and culture. The service will be focussed on establishing survivors in secure appropriate tenancies as soon as possible, with an emphasis on supporting survivors from within CW&C whilst developing links with neighbouring authorities.
It will now provide:-
– Emergency refuge accommodation with 24/7 support;
– access to more permanent accommodation, at the right time and in the right place;
– access to suitable accommodation;
– continued floating support for up to 12 weeks for victims and their families who are settling into new home;
– targeted focused support.
This is about modernising a service, with our public and voluntary sector partners, which has for too long failed the needs of our residents. We are providing 12 high quality accommodation units rather than the current 17 units which are shared facilities, in need of improvement and currently house, on average, between 75% and 81% people from outside the Borough rather than for local residents in need.
Unfortunately there are no national reciprocal arrangements with other local authorities at the moment for supporting victims from domestic abuse but our Council is taking the initiative to engage with our neighbouring authorities to develop such an approach but at the moment too few of our residents are receiving the necessary support locally. At any one time, the number of local Domestic Abuse victims receiving accommodation support can be as low as 4 – 5 victims – this recommissioning will considerably increase the provision for local residents.
In addition, Cheshire Probation Trust has been commissioned to provide their accredited Community Domestic Violence Programme to perpetrators who have not been convicted of a domestic violence offence. The service will operate from October 2013-Sept 2014 to allow for evaluation of demand and to gather evidence for recommissioning in 2014. Referral information will be distributed in Sept 2013. This represents a real attempt at establishing a cohesive programme for some non-convicted offenders in CW&C.
This is an incredible opportunity to significantly improve the services to victims of Domestic Abuse and address the vicious cycle of repeat victims and the devastating impact it can have on the children and family members involved. It would be a travesty if party politics and clinging to an out-dated, old-fashioned service denies Cheshire West this opportunity to lead the way with high quality support to some of our most vulnerable residents.
This is a very disappointing and short-sighted response from the Labour Group and risks undermining the ambitious plans agreed by all Councillors last October and endorsed by Central Government as part of our innovative “Altogether Better” Community Budget programme. Domestic Abuse is a major problem across the UK and the supporting services available are too fragmented, old-fashioned and not centred on the needs of the victim. It is a very emotive issue but if we continue to resist improvements in modernising the service things will never get better. Who could argue about improving a service (which has not been retendered since 2003) to ensure that it provides quality improvements such as privacy and independence for victims, provision for people with disabilities and provision for families with teenage boys.