>

Devon domestic violence requests and referrals rise by 50 per cent in 2020

By Beth Sharp

5th Dec 2020 | Local News

Credit: LDRS
Credit: LDRS

It is a 'sorry state of affairs' that has seen a 50 per cent increase in domestic violence requests and referrals to specialist support teams in Devon in 2020 compared to last year.

Cllr Roger Croad, cabinet member for Community and Public Health, told Thursday's full Devon County Council meeting that there has been a steady increase in referrals and requests for specialist support for victims of domestic abuse in Devon in recent years, and a sharp increase since the Spring Covid-19 lockdown.

He said that specialist domestic abuse support service for Devon commissioned by Devon County Council and led by Splitz Support Service saw a 60 per cent increase in calls in April 2020 compared to April 2019.

The demand has since eased, Cllr Croad added, but is still around 50 per cent higher than the previous year, while an increase in the complexity of cases has intensified the pressure caused by the increase in volume of demand.

This includes mental health and drug and alcohol issues being worsened by lockdown pressures, child contact issues, perpetrators moving back into the family home and other factors, he said.

And he added that there has also been a substantial increase in the number of professionals seeking advice on how to support families experiencing domestic abuse, with calls to the Professionals' Helpline increasing from 1-2 per week to 60 per week during the Spring lockdown.

Cllr Croad added: "There has sadly been a sharp increase – around 60 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019, which is a sad and sorry state of affairs. When youngsters see it in the household, they take it as a norm, and then goes through the generation, so we have to address it and get rid of the insidious behaviour."

Cllr Rob Hannaford, leader of the Labour group, had asked for a report on the latest trends, figures, rates and convictions regarding domestic violence and sexual abuse in Devon.

Specifically, to include places of safety capacity, prevention work, and child centred practice.

Responding to the figures, he said: "There has clearly been a steady increase in referrals and requests for specialist support for victims of domestic abuse in Devon in recent years, and a sharp increase since the Spring Covid-19 lockdown.

"It's a massive concern that the Splitz Support Service saw a 60 per cent increase in calls in April 2020, compared to April 2019 and although the demand has since eased, it's still around 50 per cent higher than the previous year.

"The report also details the greater complexity of cases has intensified the pressure caused by the increase in the overall volume of demand.  This includes mental health, drug and alcohol issues being worsened by lockdown pressures, child contact issues, perpetrators moving back into the family home and other factors.

"I welcome the fact that the council has responded to these pressures by allocating an additional £250,000 of funding from the Covid-19 emergency funding received from government. This will enable the service to increase capacity in its helpdesk and recruit additional IDVAs.

"I would urge anyone who is experiencing these issues to please come forward and get help and support, especially with the festive season coming up, as we always see an additional spike in incidents because of family pressures."

Cllr Croad, in his report, had added: "It is certainly the case that there has been a steady increase in referrals and requests for specialist support for victims of domestic abuse in Devon in recent years, and a sharp increase since the Spring Covid-19 lockdown.

"The Council has responded to these pressures by allocating an additional £250k of funding from the Covid-19 emergency funding received from government. There has also been a substantial increase in the number of professionals seeking advice on how to support families experiencing domestic abuse.

"Temporary additional funding was allocated by the Safer Devon Partnership to enable the creation of a professional consultation team to provide training for teams and individual case consultations."

He added: "The Operation Encompass initiative – that alerts a child's school the morning after the child was present at a police-attended domestic abuse incident – has seen a 38 per cent annual increase in the number of calls to schools – over 500 calls per month on average.

"The initiative enables schools to provide appropriate support for children at the earliest possible opportunity, dependent upon the needs and wishes of the child, and the Council has allocated £150,000 of Covid-19 emergency funding to strengthen the ability of the multi-agency Early Help locality teams to provide direct support to families experiencing domestic abuse where appropriate.

"Additional funds have also been allocated to enable locality teams to commission support for children and families to recover from the impact of abuse. The associations between intimate partner violence and child abuse are now well known. Significant attention is given to breaking cycles of abuse and our services are careful to not overlook the needs of children when much of the focus is on the needs of the parents.

"Several initiatives are under way to prevent domestic abuse by identifying and intervening early, and reducing repeat victimisation and perpetration. Behaviour Change advisers working within the Integrated Offender Management programme have achieved very positive results, and the approach helps perpetrators to recognise the impact of their behaviour, take responsibility for it and change it. A pilot in the Exeter area showed a dramatic reduction in repeat incidents of abuse, and the programme has been extended to North and South Devon."

He added: "The availability of safe accommodation for victims of domestic abuse and their children is affected by the severe shortage of affordable accommodation of all kinds.

Devon's district councils, within their duties to prevent homelessness, can provide temporary accommodation in some situations. Fixed term government funding has enabled the creation of three dedicated Places of Safety (2-bedroom flats) and two further sites are being discussed with a local housing association. The refuge run by North Devon Against Domestic Abuse has eight rooms (25 bed places).

"It is also important to enable victims and their children to remain safely in their own homes where this is appropriate, excluding the perpetrator. This approach is not always possible but it can keep victims and their children close to their existing support networks, limiting trauma from separation and giving better opportunities for recovery.

"Even before the unprecedented conditions created by the pandemic and lockdown measures, it was recognised that while the role of specialist support services is important, there are many missed opportunities to recognise domestic abuse and intervene early.

"The testimony of victims that underpinned the creation of Devon's Vision highlighted that real change for them is often dependent on the person experiencing violence and abuse having the opportunity to develop a positive and long-term relationship with one trusted professional who can navigate the system on his/her behalf."

Share:

Related Articles

Alison Hernandez, Devon & Cornwall Police & Crime Commissioner (LDR, Philip Churm)
Local News

Devon and Cornwall PCC slammed over 999 emergency call wait times

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue fire engine (By Graham Richardson from Plymouth, England - Devon and Somerset Fire WJ52ZZGUploaded by oxyman, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10656640)
Local News

Firefighters put out Exmouth flat blaze

Nub News Logo

Sign-up to the Exmouth Nub News weekly newsletter

Subscribe now for weekly updates of local news and sport from your town. Plus what's on near where you live - and local homes for sale. All delivered straight to your in-box, every Friday.

We won't pass your details on to anyone else. By clicking the sign-up button you agree to our Privacy Policy.