A plan to support survivors of domestic abuse created by Nottingham City Council will now be used as a template for other areas across the country.
The authority has published a Safe Accommodation Strategy 2021-2024 which sets out how it will provide housing support services to survivors and their children. This is a statutory requirement for all councils under the Domestic Abuse Act 2021.
Domestic abuse is the third most common cause of homelessness in Nottingham and, since 2012, almost 90 per cent of domestic murders have taken place in the home of the victim or perpetrator.
The City Council has worked with survivors, specialist domestic abuse charities, housing departments and other partner organisations to write a plan which fully understands the needs of survivors and their children, and how to meet them.
The strategy, which will now be used as a template
for other councils, includes:
- Ideas to improve safety for survivors and children who are able to stay at home with extra security
- Providing more children’s workers in refuge settings
- Additional counselling for survivors and children
- Funding a volunteer coordinator for the existing pet fostering service, meaning children get their pet back when they move out of a refuge and into a permanent home.
The strategy is informed by the findings of a detailed needs assessment carried out by the Nottingham Crime and Drugs Partnership and based on data from 2020 and 2021.
Priority actions include recognising the need for survivors to move into a new area for safety reasons, and therefore continuing to work closely with the county and district councils to gain a better understanding of referral routes.
While there is an established service for male survivors in Nottingham, there are currently no refuge options and this will be explored with other councils to see what safe accommodation is needed and where.
On average, 85 per cent of domestic violence calls to the police are from women and 15 per cent from men. In terms of cases at the Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference, which deals with the highest-risk survivors, in 2020/21 a total of 73 were male, which is nine per cent in Nottingham. This was out of 827 cases heard.
The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 also now recognises children as victims of domestic abuse in their own right. They make up close to half of residents in refuge accommodation and, of these, 87 per cent are under the age of 11.
Councillor Neghat Khan, Portfolio Holder for Neighbourhoods, Safety and Inclusion at Nottingham City Council, said: “We understand the harrowing experience of survivors of domestic violence and the impact on their children. In many cases, this means moving out of a family home for their own safety, which must be a terrible thing for them to go through.
“Our new strategy will enable us to plan with partners to meet the needs of these survivors and children, particularly as their numbers have increased during the pandemic. The number of callers to the women’s domestic and sexual violence and abuse helpline in Nottingham increased from an average of 10,000 calls a year to 17,000 calls during the pandemic.
“This has been an important piece of work which I hope will make a real difference to the lives of affected people across the city and county. I’m proud that the Government has acknowledged not only this, but now plans to use our document as a starting point for other local authorities around the country.”
Lord Vernon Coaker Chair of the newly-formed Domestic Abuse Local Partnership Board in Nottingham, said: “Domestic abuse and violence is sadly still hidden behind closed doors in many cases. It often needs victims to speak up themselves if they are to receive help and for prosecutions to take place.
“This strategy seeks to support victims but also to change a culture where this has been tolerated for too long. The time we’ve spent working together across Nottingham and the wider county, with a renewed determination, will help make the changes that are still so badly-needed.”
Caroline Henry, Police and Crime Commissioner for Nottinghamshire, said: “It is a sad fact that domestic abuse often starts at home behind closed doors, as well as represents a large proportion of violent crime across the country.
“I am delighted that the introduction of the Safe Accommodation Strategy will not only fulfil the new statutory duty to protect victims of domestic abuse, but will also help establish what victims need when they are at their most vulnerable.”