Domestic abuse services in Dorset facing growing demand

Domestic abuse services in Dorset facing growing demand

Published by Maria Greenwood at 7:30am 12th September 2019. (Updated at 11:00am 12th September 2019)

Dorset Council looks set to commission a 'like for like' domestic abuse service - despite fears that more needs to be done.

Councillors heard that the process is being hampered by Brexit because new domestic violence legislation has been held up by the protracted delays in Westminster.

The county service is said to perform well with the range of help it offers, but faces a dilemma because any improvements tends to attract victims from neighbouring counties.

Domestic Abuse
There continues to be an increase in the number of people in Dorset reporting domestic abuse violence.

An outsourced contract for refuge accommodation and an outreach support service for those experiencing domestic violence will come to an end early next year with the service expected to be re-commissioned for two years.

Councillors on the Dorset Council People Scrutiny committee heard on Tuesday the process would result in a similar service to that currently being offered - although there continues to be an increase in the number of people reporting domestic abuse violent crimes.

A report said that the current system centres on crisis support although there is a growing argument for greater focus on prevention and early help.

'Delays'

It also acknowledges that there are delays because of demand and that while the service work for the majority there are some groups who are struggling, or choosing not to engage in local services - older people and those in rural areas among them.

It also acknowledges that children caught up in domestic violence are victims as well, yet the therapeutic support for them is limited and comes as an 'add on' rather than being at the core of the service.

people scrutiny
Councillors on the Dorset Council Scrutiny Committee.

Dorchester councillor Molly Rennie said there had been a massive increase in people suffering domestic violence which the council has responded to with new services - although most of these had been externally funded and would come to an end.

She said these included courses for children, a stalking clinic and some additional support for rural areas:

"The trouble is we are being asked to provide a like for like service when we really need more… we do know we don't reach some people and there are people still going to court without any support."

Weymouth Cllr Clare Sutton sought assurances that her area received proportionate services to the high levels of domestic violence reported - which she said was almost double everywhere else, per head of population.

She said she noted that there had been 183 refuge referrals, but only 81 refuge spaces available during the same period:

"Isn't this telling us that there is simply not enough spaces?"

"It's a new thought process which is needed, a whole system approach."

Assessment team officer Ian Grant said that work on the idea was underway, in collaboration with partners including public health, the police, probation and others, but he warned that it was a change which would not happen overnight.

He said a number of pilot projects had also been identified which would be tried including closer working with social landlords - a move which came about after statistics showed that most victims were registered with social landlords, yet very few referrals came from them.

A final decision on the re-commissioning is expected to be made by the Cabinet in October or November.

By Trevor Bevins, Local Democracy Reporter