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Campaigners and PCCs call for domestic violence rethink

Domestic abuse campaigners and Police and Crime Commissioners have called on the government to rethink funding and their approach to victims.

Members of the Drive Partnership urged the government to publish and fund a domestic abuse perpetrator strategy.

The group called for a rethink to the current multi-agency approach that focuses on victims and instead challenge the people responsible.

It published research showing the benefits of preventative work with perpetrators that reduces offending and the impact on families. It found currently less than 1 per cent of perpetrators receive a specialist intervention to challenge or change their behaviour leaving potential future partners also at risk.

The study highlighted that the cost of failing to prevent the cycle of abuse costs the lives of two women a week and around £66bn a year in social and economic costs.

According to official figures, two million adults are victims of abuse from a spouse or partner, including 1.3m women.

The figures have increased by 23 per cent on the previous year partly due to campaigns encouraging victims to report offences.

The pilot project worked with 506 prolific domestic violence perpetrators, aged 17 to 81 in three force areas over three years. Work included anger management, developing empathy and creating relationships. One sample group saw a 30 per cent reduction in offending.

Drive is a partnership between Respect, SafeLives and Social Finance. The report was backed by Police and Crime Commissioners across the country.

Suzanne Jacob OBE, Chief Executive of SafeLives, one of the charities involved, said: “There is only ever one person responsible for domestic abuse: the perpetrator. And yet, only a tiny percentage – less than 1% receive any intervention to change or challenge their behaviour.

 “Perpetrator interventions do work, but the vast majority of areas do not have access to them. It’s time to ensure that every perpetrator is faced with a robust response. Without it, we will just keep dealing with the aftermath of domestic abuse – and never the cause.”

Drive Director, Kyla Kirkpatrick, welcomed the re-introduction of the Domestic Abuse Bill in the Queen’s Speech but said more radical action was needed.

“Given more than a third of violent crime is domestic abuse, investing in proven ways to disrupt and change the behaviour of perpetrators is common sense.  Previous governments have been focused on simply addressing the devastating impact of domestic abuse rather than stopping it. It’s crucial we ensure the care and support of those affected by domestic abuse remains a priority, but if we are to end domestic abuse for good, we must tackle it at the source,” she said.  

Nicole Jacobs, the government’s own Domestic Abuse Commissioner also back the call for change. 

She said: “Current prevention work is patchy and too often perpetrators go unchallenged and are not offered opportunities to change their abusive behaviour. Everyone, from public servants to the private sector to the man or woman on the street needs to know that they can call out abusive behaviour when they see it and that there are systems in place hold abuser accountable and to offer support to change.” 

A critical issue will be funding to enable more work with offenders as well as providing accommodation so that victims do not have to move out of the family home.

Currently a network of refuges provide accommodation and support for victims but funding is short-term and limited.

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government is the lead department and it has been challenged by Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner Paddy Tipping over the current funding allocations.

He warned the delays in local government funding decisions was having an impact on critical planning.

He said: "In Nottinghamshire we have strong local commitment to tackling domestic abuse. The City and County Councils and I invest over £3.5m annually into a wide range of specialist domestic support services and we already have specialist multiagency strategic partnerships in place which are very similar to the proposed Local Partnership Boards. 

He added: "In Nottingham and Nottinghamshire almost half our 77 refuge units are currently MHCLG funded.  If further MHCLG funding is not secured, we will be unable to sustain them locally. It would be very helpful if MHCLG could announce its funding decisions as early as possible to minimise the risk of services losing trained and experienced refuge staff and valued premises.”

Suzanne Jacob summed up: “It’s time we shift the narrative. Rather than asking why the victim doesn’t leave – leaving behind friends, family, work, possessions – let’s ask perpetrators to change their behaviour. Only by tackling the root cause of domestic abuse will we end it for good."

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