Agenda item

The Committee will receive an update of recent and planned activity regarding Domestic Violence and Abuse. This report will help inform the Work Programme of this Select Committee by identifying possible areas of focus for the meeting in March 2021.



Gareth Williams - Cabinet Member for Communities and Public Health

Rebecca Carley – Communities Engagement and Safety Manager

Faye Blunstone – Communities Project Manager (Domestic Violence and Abuse)



The Cabinet Member for Communities and Public Health gave an update of recent and planned activity regarding Domestic Violence and Abuse (DVA) as follows:-


  • The Service were monitoring demand for DVA services during lockdown as this was a difficult time for victims.
  • DVA was a strategic priority in the Safer Buckinghamshire Plan for 2020-2023 and had a detailed delivery plan – key actions had been included in the report.
  • A communications strategy had been produced around White Ribbon Day 2020 and there would be a whole week of promotion for this campaign week beginning 23 November 2020. Each day would focus on different victims.
  • Buckinghamshire had a network of 460 DVA champions who were able to signpost victims to local domestic abuse resources and support services.
  • The Thames Valley BAMER Project - supported by the nine Local Authorities in Thames Valley and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) set out to identify the barriers experienced by women from ethnic minority communities and gypsies and travellers, who were subjected to abuse or violence when needing to access support, and to identify lessons for improving service responses.
  • Safe Accommodation Project – the MHCLG have given £70k in funding for Buckinghamshire to help provide wrap around support for those with complex needs for the first six weeks up until placement in temporary accommodation and potentially for a few weeks after if required.
  • 14 Domestic Homicide Reviews have been conducted in Buckinghamshire since their introduction in 2011. One of the Safer Buckinghamshire Plan actions was to hold regular DHR learning events.
  • There was a lot of cross partnership working and particular reference was made to the Wycombe Women’s Aid Impact Report 2019/20 which included DVA statistics.


During discussion the following comments were made:-


  • The Christmas present appeal had raised over £4,000 in over a week and families who were in refuges would benefit from this appeal.
  • A Member referred to a recent announcement from the Government regarding a funding boost for victims of rape and domestic abuse because of the greater demand for services during lockdown. The Government was investing £80 million in a range of measures to reduce delays and deliver speedier justice for victims. There was £11 million to support victims and £7 million would be used for a range of innovative programmes mainly aimed at perpetrators designed to prevent domestic abuse. The Member commented on the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner research which had commented on the effectiveness of perpetrator programmes. The Member who was also a magistrate stated that a letter to the perpetrator from the police was not enough and that the behaviour of perpetrators, which could be linked to childhood experiences, should be addressed through an effective Programme. This was an important area to look at for their themed meeting in March. The Communities Project Manager reported that it was a great announcement yesterday but it was still unclear how much funding Buckinghamshire would receive. The funding would be distributed by the OPCC.
  • A Member commented that this was such a serious issue that impacted on all families alike, regardless of their economic status and also he referred to diverse communities where there was even a greater concern because of accessibility of services due to their culture.  The Chairman welcomed this comment and stated that in many communities there was an issue of stigma that needed to be addressed.
  • In connection with this a Member referred to the BAMER network which she was part of and asked whether she could link in with the Communities Project Manager to start a dialogue about the best way to help support diverse communities. The Communities Project Manager reported that this link would be really helpful and could also help contribute to a Task and Finish Group being set up as a result of one of the recommendations of the Thames Valley BAMER report.
  • Reference was made to Domestic Homicides and the importance during lockdown to raise awareness and to make sure victims were utilising the services available. A Member commented that she was pleased that reference had been to the gypsy and traveller communities as there was a high domestic violence rate in this community with the added pressures of lockdown. She asked how services were being advertised currently particularly support with anger management, which sometimes had to be funded by the perpetrators rather than being funded by the court. It was important to address concerns quickly before a homicide occurred. The Communities Project Manager reported that the gypsy and traveller communities was the subject of the next learning event which was taking place in June 2021 and they were in the process of booking a speaker from this community. She also commented that anger was not a cause of domestic abuse; it was a power and control issue and anger could often be used as an excuse. The Council were working with the OPCC on perpetrator programmes. The Cabinet Member commented that they were liaising with the gypsy and traveller community on DVA and also referred to work being undertaken by Christians against poverty on debt counselling. They had picked up cases and been able to offer early help including accommodation support where required. He recommended to Members to read the Thames Valley BAMER report which included a number of recommendations including on perpetrators thames valley bamer report The Council needed to work on this area as it was an important issue to address.
  • Luisa Sullivan asked about the network of 460 DVA champions and whether it was appropriate for councillors to join. The Communities Project Manager said that it was important for councillors to be champions as well. The Cabinet Member referred to the White Ribbon campaign and asked Members if they could help raise awareness particularly with their specific communities. Further mention was made of the need to have male champions as well. Male victims according to the national data accounted for one third of people reporting however, most victim services were exclusively for women.  A review was being undertaken this Autumn of the support required for male victims in Buckinghamshire. At a previous session of the DVA Champion’s Network they had a male victim as a guest speaker and this was important to start breaking down barriers.
  • Concern was expressed about voids with housing associations. Voids in housing terms was when a property was unoccupied for a period of time and the aim was to keep voids to a minimum. A Member emphasised the importance of getting victims of violence and abuse into safe accommodation as soon as possible. The Communities Project Manager said this was a priority for the service area, particularly with the new Domestic Abuse Bill which strengthened housing support for victims.
  • Another part of the Bill was acknowledging children as victims in their own right. A Member commented that often children who were abused could become perpetrators. The Communities Project Manager reported that it was important that the child’s voice was heard at the newly established Domestic Abuse Board.
  • The Chairman asked what telephone number could be used by victims in the evening if they didn’t want to phone the police and was referred to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247.


The Cabinet Member and Communities Project Manager were thanked for their excellent contribution to the meeting.


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