Domestic Violence and Abuse - Update
- Meeting of Communities and Equalities Scrutiny Committee, Thursday, 5th November, 2020 2.00 pm (Item 43.)
Report of the Strategic Director (Neighbourhoods)
This report provides a response to Members’ questions about specific aspects of domestic violence and abuse response as well as a general update on progress across the agenda, including COVID-19 response and recovery work.
The Committee received a report of the Strategic Director (Neighbourhoods) which provided a response to Members’ questions about specific aspects of domestic violence and abuse response as well as a general update on progress across the agenda, including COVID-19 response and recovery work.
Officers referred to the main points and themes within the report, which included:
· COVID-19 response and recovery;
· Domestic abuse and accommodation;
· Priority Move On Project;
· Domestic Abuse Sanctuary Scheme;
· Operation Encompass;
· LGBT IDVA service provision;
· Workplace domestic abuse policies;
· Review of Domestic Abuse Strategy and commissioning arrangements; and
· Conduct of Domestic Homicide Reviews.
Barbara Guest from Independent Choices informed the Committee about the history of her organisation and about the services it currently provided, including the Greater Manchester Domestic Abuse helpline, which included support in community languages, and a service which provided casework and support to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) victims of domestic abuse who were at moderate or high risk of harm. She outlined some of the challenges that the pandemic had created for domestic abuse support services and for victims of domestic abuse. She reported that Independent Choices had needed to find a way to deliver its service via home-working, which had involved buying additional equipment and diverting its helpline to a mobile phone system. She also reported that face-to-face support and meetings had been replaced with telephone, email and messaging contact and online meetings. She advised, that in some cases, such as Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conferences, holding meetings online had worked well and that this might be something that could continue to be used. She also outlined the impact on staffing capacity, as the service had been unable to use its trained volunteers and this had placed increase pressure on its paid staff, although she reported that the service had been able to obtain a limited amount of extra funding to increase capacity. She reported that, because the sector was stretched at the moment, this had affected its ability to do other work, such as strategic work and fundraising. She reported that, during lockdown, domestic abuse victims had been confined to their home with the perpetrator and been less able to access support. She reported that the sector had responded to this by using a range of methods to publicise the support available to victims and to enable them to make contact, including increased social media campaigns and changing the non-urgent email service to an urgent support email service, which victims could access at any time. She also informed Members of the impact of lockdown on the service’s LGBT clients, as other sources of support for them were unavailable, and reported that her service had provided additional support.
Some of the key points that arose from the Committee’s discussions were:
- Request for information on the availability of refuge beds;
- What lessons had been learnt from the Domestic Homicide Reviews;
- Installations of additional security measures in homes and the timescale for completing this;
- How many people were attending hospitals or GP surgeries in relation to domestic abuse;
- Operation Encompass and schools’ take-up of training on domestic abuse;
- Support for older victims of domestic abuse; and
- The number of people who were reporting domestic abuse to Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and how repeated incidents were dealt with.
The Community Safety Lead informed Members that her service was regularly collecting data to identify pressure points for domestic abuse services and where additional resources were needed. She reported that the domestic abuse support organisations had responded flexibly to changing circumstances during the pandemic. She also offered to share with Members the briefings which had come out of the Domestic Homicide Reviews.
The Domestic Abuse Reduction Manager reported that since 8 June 2020, following a period where staff had been furloughed due to COVID-19, the Safe Partnership’s installers had fitted additional security measures in 10 homes. She advised that the timescale for carrying this out was generally 24 to 48 hours. She reported that these figures did not represent the total number of security installations carried out as some of the bigger housing providers arranged this themselves. She informed Members that, while she did not have data for hospitals, all GP surgeries across the city had been trained in identifying domestic abuse through the Iris Project and that in quarter 1 of 2020 160 people, mainly women, had been directly referred to the Iris Project and in Quarter 2 189 people had been referred. She advised that this was a slight reduction on the previous year which was likely to be due to fewer people attending their GP surgery during the pandemic. She reported that regular briefings and information were being sent to Designated Safeguarding Leads in schools through the Council’s Quality Assurance Team and she advised that e-learning training on domestic abuse had recently been offered to schools and that the take-up so far had been positive.
Councillor Doswell reported that she and a group of female backbench Councillors had been doing some work in relation to this issue and she asked whether this group could input into the review of the Domestic Abuse Strategy and whether they could receive an update on the timeline for the review. The Community Safety Lead agreed to this and advised that she would ask the team undertaking the review to get in touch.
The Community Safety Lead acknowledged that access to domestic abuse support services for older people was an area of concern, for example, whether online services were less accessible to some older people, and that this was being looked at and would also be considered as part of the review of domestic abuse services. Barbara Guest reported that her service received calls from older people who were victims of domestic abuse and from friends or family who were concerned about them; however, she advised that nationally evidence suggested that a lot of domestic abuse involving older people was hidden and reported as elder abuse, which could then go through a different process involving Adult Social Care, rather than domestic abuse services.
The Domestic Abuse Reduction Manager explained how disclosures of domestic abuse to GMP were dealt with, with cases being risk assessed and the approach taken and agencies involved being dependent on whether the risk was deemed to be standard, medium or high.
Barbara Guest informed the Committee about the media campaign that Independent Choices would be running during the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence and asked whether Members could share the videos, to which the Chair agreed.
The Deputy Leader thanked officers and external partners working in this area for their hard work during this challenging time. The Chair echoed these thanks. He thanked Barbara Guest and the officers for attending the meeting and invited them to contact him if there was any other support the Committee could provide.
1. To ask for a note on the availability of refuge beds to be circulated to Committee Members.
2. To note that the Community Safety Lead will share with Members the briefings which have come out of the Domestic Homicide Reviews.
3. To note that Barbara Guest will provide Members with Independent Choices’ social media details so that Members can share the videos they put out during the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence.