Sophie Wing-King, Domestic Abuse Co-ordinator at Thames Valley Police will give a presentation to members about domestic abuse. The presentation will include the national context, local context, local strategy and action plan, support for perpetrators and victims (children, young people and adults), awareness raising and projects spanning Berkshire East/Thames Valley.
Members of the Adult Social Care, Health and Housing Overview and Scrutiny Panel have been invited to attend this item to ensure a holistic approach to domestic abuse by the Council.
The Chairman welcomed members from Adult Social Care Health and Housing Overview and Scrutiny Panel who attended as it was recognised this issue cut across adults and children.
Sophie Wing-King, Domestic Abuse Co-ordinator (Bracknell Forest and Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead) and Alison O’Meara, Head of Community Safety, Bracknell Forest Council gave a presentation to members which included a definition of domestic abuse, national and local context; local strategy and action plan; support available to perpetrators and victims; awareness raising schemes around the Borough and projects spanning Berkshire East/Thames Valley.
The following points were also made:
· Members were informed the definition of Domestic Abuse was changed in 2015 to include coercive behaviour.
· The Thames Valley Police (TVP) Domestic Abuse Unit would support 16-18 year olds, not just 18+, which was not a national policy.
· Nationally there were 400 homicides annually. The majority of domestic homicide victims were women. According to Safelives data produced in 2014 police forces received a call every 30 seconds about Domestic Abuse.
· 30% of Domestic Abuse incidents start during pregnancy. A family with a child less 18 months was considered a high risk factor and a family withi a children under three years old was 25% more likely to experience Domestic Abuse.
· At least one child in every reception school class living with DA in home during their life. TVP worked with local children’s centres to target these families.
· There had been a slight decrease in non-crime (verbal arguments) incidents recently.
· There had been an increase in Domestic Abuse crime (i.e. Actual Bodily Harm).
· TVP were inspected last year and it was flagged TVP were not recording some Domestic Abuse crimes correctly, which was thought to contribute the rise in the number of Domestic Abuse crime.
· It was noted how important it was to ensure people could report incidents of Domestic Abuse.
· 29% of Domestic Abuse crime in Bracknell Forest was repeat victims. This number was thought to be relatively low compared to other areas in Thames Valley but TVP were currently looking to understand repeat rates better.
· Berkshire Women’s Aid (BWA) was a victim focused charity working in the Borough which received 213 new referrals last year.
· The majority of these referrals were standard or medium risk but BWA would support anyone, including male victims.
· Most people supported by BWA were aged 25-44. This accounted for two thirds of their referrals.
· They received 12 male referrals last year.
· 70% of clients had children and a number of those children were on a Child in Need or Child Protection Plan or were in foster care.
· An Executive group and forum existed to allow information sharing with partners, such as children’s social care, and linked into the Local Safeguarding Children Board and the Community Safety Partnership.
· Bracknell’s Domestic Abuse Strategy would run until 2020 but was reviewed quarterly.
· There was training available for practitioners such as an introduction to Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) and Domestic Abuse Stalking and Honour Based Violence (DASH) training. Two training sessions on DASH were going to take place across East Berkshire over the next few months.
· TVP had a specialist Domestic Abuse Unit based in Windsor.
· The Domestic Abuse Perpetrator Service (DAPS) was run by Bracknell Forest Council. The aim of this service was to work with fathers of children on a Child Protection Plan where Domestic Abuse had been an issue.
· The Government ‘violence against women and girls national strategy’ would be implemented next year.
· In addition to the above a range of other support services existed in the Borough for perpetrators and victims including:
o ‘Plain Talking’ a self-referral service for perpetrators.
o ‘Choices’, ‘Freedom’ and ‘Recovery’ group work programmes for victims. These programmes are run from the Children’s Centres/Family Hubs.
o Domestic Abuse Recovering Together (DART) support group for children of primary age. Amanda Hales-Owen informed members they were working with a voluntary partner to trial the first DART for secondary school aged children in September.
o Recovering Toolkit – SAFE – was a support service for 8-25 year olds who were a victim of any crime, including Domestic Abuse.
o Family Support charity Parents and Children Together were going into Bracknell and Wokingham College to raise awareness.
o Stepping up sessions had been run for men to talk about their masculinity.
o Sessions were run for women through Youth Offending Service ad hoc.
o The Family Safeguarding Model in the local authority helped staff to recognise sings of abuse in children who may require a Child in Need Plan.
o There was thought to be good information sharing in Bracknell.
o Operation Encompass had been set up to allow TVP to share incidents of Domestic Abuse with schools swiftly so they could help children involved in a domestic abuse incident the night before. Not all schools had signed up to this yet.
o Work taking place across East Berkshire included BRAVE and specific support for black/minority ethnic victims using funding from a national transformation fund.
o A campaign to raise awareness of coercive control was run across the Thames Valley in February. More information could be found at https://www.bracknell-forest.gov.uk/crime-and-emergencies/crime-and-community-safety/domestic-abuse
o Bracknell Forest and its partners take part in the national wear a white ribbon campaign to raise awareness of domestic abuse.
o Coffee cards and bar codes printed with domestic abuse service contact details were made available to the public as a discreet way of helping victims to request help.
As a result of discussions members asked the following questions:
· How do you help raise awareness amongst children and young people about domestic abuse and coercive control and dangers of social media? Sophie Wing-King responded that ‘SAFE’ go in to schools and talk to children aged eight and over. Sarah Gee, Assistant Director: Early Help & Communities explained there was a universal offer available from the youth service who go into schools in the Borough and cover healthy relationships, sexual health, etc. They cover each year group every year in secondary schools.
· Members asked what would happen if there was adolescent to parent violence and were informed there was no specific programme but cases would be referred to the Domestic Abuse Unit if necessary or Children’s Social Care/Youth Offending Service if the child was under 16 years of age.
· How much is the involvement of drugs and alcohol an issue for domestic abuse? Sophie Wing-King said whilst drugs and alcohol was often an issue partner agencies recognised a number of people took drugs and alcohol and only acted violently to their partner, not anyone else, so it was still an abuse and control issue.
· What happened if the victim went to the police and subsequently withdrew their allegation? TVP would go to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to notify them of the withdrawal. The victim would have to give a statement about why they were withdrawing the allegation. A risk assessment was done for every victim and CPS could still prosecute if they considered it to be a high risk case.
· Members asked about support for children in schools to help break the cycle of children raised in a family where domestic abuse is present ending up in a domestic abuse relationship and were informed a range of support was available through Children’s Early Help around domestic abuse including for children impacted by it. Members were also informed about Operation Lighthouse which went into schools to help children learn about coercive control.
· Sophie Wing-King informed members she produced a quarterly domestic abuse newsletter and offered to send to Louise Connelly, Governance and Scrutiny Co-ordinator in the future to circulate to members.
The Chairman thanked the presenters and agreed the slides should be circulated with the minutes.
· Louise Connelly to publish domestic abuse slides along with the minutes.
· Sophie Wing-King to send Louise Connelly coffee cards and bar code slips to put in councillor pigeon holes so they can help raise awareness.
· Sophie Wing-King to send to Louise Connelly the domestic abuse newsletter. Louise Connelly to circulate to members.