Fears domestic abuse services in Dorset will not be able to meet demand

Fears domestic abuse services in Dorset will not be able to meet demand

Published by Maria Greenwood at 11:37am 8th October 2019. (Updated at 11:43am 8th October 2019)

Dorset Council has approved a ‘like for like’ domestic abuse service for the coming year  – despite evidence of growing demand.

Dorchester councillor Molly Rennie says that the contracted out service will not be adequate to meet need and being limited to one-year could result in valuable staff leaving.

Cllr Rennie, the council’s domestic abuse champion, made a plea at cabinet to think again about the £340,000 annual contract.

Molly Rennie
Cllr Molly Rennie

She said that neither the previous council, nor the existing one, provided enough finance for the service.

She claimed that because of a lack of a dedicated children’s worker high risk children could not be taken into a refuge.

She was also critical of a lack of early intervention work which she said not only saves lives, but in the long-term, saves money.

Cllr Rennie, a former chair of the domestic abuse forum, said the plan would fail to match up to the council’s aspirations of keeping people safe and well, one of the authority’s declared objectives.

mental health

Cabinet spokesman Cllr Graham Carr-Jones said the service carried out a vital role – but was one which no one ever wanted to be in a position where they had to use it.

He said it offered safe accommodation and an outreach advice service as well as practical, financial and emotional support.

He said that the short-term contract, of a year, was partially because it was still unknown what the Government’s, delayed, domestic abuse bill, might bring about.

Cllr Rennie said she was ‘uncomfortable’ that the council was only providing a similar level of service, although a report to the meeting disclosed that two refuge spaces will be lost, reducing the number available to just 16. She said:

"The contract has been in existence for five years – but a lot has changed in five years."

Cllr Rennie said the report contained nothing about early intervention work and had not responded to relatively high levels of domestic abuse in rural areas, an area which Dorset Police had identified as needing more attention. She said:

"The children’s worker we have has been financed by someone else, not Dorset Council.

"At the moment we can’t take high risk children into a refuge because there is no children’s worker…there is not enough money here for even a basic service."

child domestic abuse

A report to councillors said that the current system centres on crisis and acknowledges that there are delays because of demand.

It said that while the service works for the majority there are some victims which it fails to reach.

A previous meeting heard that that there had been 183 refuge referrals, but only 81 spaces available during the period.

Council leader Cllr Spencer Flower urged accepting the proposals which will mean going out to tender from November with the new contract to start in April next year. He said:

"It doesn’t stop us, beyond today, looking at what else we can improve."

By Trevor Bevins, Local Democracy Reporter