Council pledges to tackle domestic violence

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New strategy and funding boost to target all forms of domestic abuse – from violence in the home to female genital mutilation. 

Westminster City Council has earmarked domestic abuse as one of its key priorities for 2012, unveiling a new strategy to tackle the issue and significantly boosting funding in this area.

The new strategy, Breaking the Silence, will target all forms of domestic abuse in the community, encompassing everything from psychological abuse and violence in the home, to so-called ‘honour-based’ violence and female genital mutilation. It covers both female and male victims, as well as the children whose development is profoundly affected if they are exposed to witnessing domestic abuse.

The council and its partners have allocated an estimated total budget of £600,000 to tackle domestic abuse in 2012/13, up from £450,000 in 2011-12, and significantly higher than in previous years.

Key developments

Key projects and developments coming out of the new Breaking the Silence programme include:

  • A new domestic violence court for Westminster, due to be launched in July, which will involve a weekly specialist court dedicated to domestic violence hearings and extra training for key workers delivered by the Westminster Domestic Violence Forum. The court will have alternative entrances for victims, to protect their safety and identity. It will also help ensure swift justice is delivered, meaning people are supported in continuing with their case and less people drop out.
  • New domestic abuse surgeries in Westminster, also due to be rolled out in July, which will offer a one-stop service to both female and male victims of domestic abuse. The surgeries will bring together a range of support including police, housing and children’s and family support services.
  •  The development of a befriending service, linking survivors of domestic abuse with current victims to offer support and advice, due to be rolled out during the second half of the year.
  •  A greater emphasis on referral routes via GPs and dental surgeries, which are often a first port of call for domestic abuse victims
  • Expanding outreach work through the Independent Domestic Violence Advocates service, which specialises in high-risk referrals, for example women with young children or those who are pregnant.

why focus on domestic violence?

Nickie Aiken, Westminster City Council's cabinet member for children, young people and community protection, said:

“My decision to shuttle domestic abuse to the front of the queue and increase its funding is due to increasing recognition that physical and psychological abuse is a common thread that runs through so many other entrenched problems in our society – and it's therefore money well spent to try to address this root cause.

“A recent report by 4Children highlighted that an estimated 80% of the UK's 120,000 troubled families have been in contact with the police or NHS in relation to domestic violence. There is also evidence that an abusive home environment is a regular factor in young people's involvement in gangs and serious youth violence.

“Domestic abuse is often, by its very nature, a hidden problem within the home, and one of the most difficult issues to talk about. It takes tremendous courage for victims to come forward, seek support, and talk about their experiences. Our important role as a local authority is to be ready to listen, and to make that important journey as safe and easy as possible.”

Cllr Nickie Aiken is Westminster city council's cabinet member for children, young people and community protection.

 

Further reading

Download The Enemy Within

Family conflict and violence affecting 4 million families, according to the national charity, 4Children.

 

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