Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel Minutes

Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel Minutes

Date:
Monday 29 February 2016
Time:
10:30 a.m.
Place:
Spencer Room, Town Hall, Middlesbrough
 

Attendance Details

Present:
Councillor F McIntyre (Chair), Councillor L Lewis (Vice Chair), Councillor J Goodchild, Councillor A Hellaoui, Councillor B A Hubbard, , Councillor P Purvis, Councillor Z Uddin
Officers:
C Breheny, S Caddell and J Dixon.
Apologies for absence:
Councillor J Hobson, Councillor M Walters
Declarations of interest:

There were no Declarations of Interest made by Members at this point in the meeting.

Item Number Item/Resolution
PUBLIC
15/39 MINUTES OF THE PREVIOUS MEETING OF THE COMMUNITY SAFETY AND LEISURE SCRUTINY PANEL HELD ON 8 FEBRUARY 2016.

The Minutes of the Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel meeting held on 8 February 2016 were submitted and approved as a correct record.

15/40 PREVENTING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ABUSE

The Scrutiny Support Officer introduced the report updating the Panel in relation to reducing the long term prevalence of domestic violence abuse in Middlesbrough.

 

The Scrutiny Support Officer advised that the Panel had a duty to look at domestic violence in Middlesbrough and to revisit the topic on an annual basis. Accordingly, S Caddell, Team Manager had been invited to attend the meeting and had submitted a report on the subject.

 

The Team Manager presented the report and highlighted that her team had recently appointed a Domestic Violence Operational Co-oridnator.

 

It was reported that, in March 2013, the Home Office introduced a new official definition of domestic violence to include young people aged 16 to 17. Following the passing of the Serious Crime Act in 2015, a new offence of coercive or controlling behaviour also came into force in February 2016. The new offence closed a gap in the law around patterns of controlling or coercive behaviour in an ongoing relationship between intimate partners or family members.

 

The Panel was advised that abuse could encompass, but was not limited to:-

  • Psychological
  • Physical
  • Sexual
  • Financial
  • Emotional

Within Middlesbrough, domestic abuse was a priority for action for the Health and Wellbeing Board and the Community Safety Partnership. The Domestic Abuse Strategic Framework had been created to ensure delivery of four key principles to tackle domestic abuse across the town:-

  • Monitor and challenge
  • Prevent offending
  • Prevent reoffending
  • Support for victims

It was estimated that only 40% of offences were reported to the Police, however, reporting of domestic violence and abuse remained high across the town and service demand remained high. The majority of domestic abuse was committed by current or ex-partners and remained spread across the social demographic. There were communities and groups of people who were at greater risk and disproportionately affected.

 

The Panel was informed that the specialist support services available to victims, such as My Sister’s Place, Harbour, Outreach and Halo, were predominantly reactive although prevention work had been increased.

There were a number of factors that were likely to increase service demand and these were detailed at paragraph 8 in the submitted report and included:-

  • Women under 25 were more vulnerable to domestic abuse and 32% of the national population was currently aged 18-29 years. This group was set to increase in the coming years.
  • High levels of deprivation were another common risk factor and were prevalent within Middlesbrough.
  • Women with an average income of under £10,000 were more likely to live with domestic abuse. This was a growing concern with economic growth remaining a challenge.
  • Improved screening within various settings was likely to increase the identification of domestic violence/abuse and subsequently increase the need for support.
  • Changes in welfare reform may have had an impact on domestic abuse survivors and children in Middlesbrough but further research was required.

The local Preventing Domestic Abuse Strategy 2015 outlined structural improvements required to effectively tackle domestic abuse in Middlesbrough. The Strategy outlined the need to improve the prevention of offending and reoffending and to support victims to create a reduction on the demands on local services and statutory agencies. There was a good range of responsive services in place but continuous improvement was required to achieve closer multi-agency alignment. The focus of the strategy was to address structural weaknesses, effect change, improve partnership working and rebalance the approach to domestic violence with greater emphasis on early intervention.

 

A delivery plan was implemented in February 2016 which set out how short and long term outcomes would be delivered to address issues arising from domestic violence.

 

A discussion ensued and the following issues were raised:-

  • In response to a query, examples of psychological abuse were discussed and it was highlighted that some of the cases seen locally featured long term inferiority being instilled in the victim so that they felt that they needed the perpetrator in order to function. This could sometimes be linked to managing finances and generally controlling behaviour making the victim feel unable to cope.
  • Reference was made as to how victims of domestic violence were identified if they were too afraid to come forward. The Panel was advised that the issue was under-reported for a variety of reasons. The majority of victims were women, although men could also be victims. On average, it took around 35 incidents to occur before a disclosure was made to a relevant agency (such as the Police, GP/hospital or support service). In some cases, Police would identify that a victim was afraid or suspected that they were being controlled and would make an appropriate referral. Also, medical professionals might make links between issues of injuries or depression and would put them in touch with the appropriate agencies.
  • It was highlighted that, more recently, the Service had commissioned support/intervention services for perpetrators as well as victims. This had not been done in the past as the moral response was to help victims, however, in reality victims felt guilty in cases where the perpetrator was cast out of the family and the family home. The perpetrator may have become homeless or lost employment and often had mental health issues and benefitted from the support interventions now on offer.
  • A Panel Member highlighted that, in many cases, women were reluctant to report abuse as they were afraid that their children may be taken into care. The Officer agreed that this was an example of a powerful reason for someone not seeking help. The Panel was advised that Social Care would try to put relevant interventions in place to protect children and that they would not necessarily be taken into local authority care unless the child was at risk. Social Worker support would be provided to the family and early interventions were available. The Panel felt that public awareness needed to be raised in relation to the issues and to be aware that support was available for families.
  • The Panel was informed that domestic abuse had a long-lasting impact on children and there was also a variety of support services available to children. Social Care would work with families to provide appropriate support and intervention before considering accommodating children in care unless the child was at high risk of abuse/neglect. It was noted that there could also be a stigma with being involved with Social Care, however, it was about protecting the children and doing what was best for them and this was to work with the families in their own home in the first instance.
  • Reference was made to the BME community and it was suggested that there might be a high proportion of unreported incidents due to the community network. It was acknowledged that there was wide-scale oppression and denial of problems within the BME community.
  • It was queried whether refugee and asylum seeker groups were reluctant to report domestic abuse for legal reasons. The Panel was advised that the Service worked with the North East Refugee Service and Open Door North East and they were aware of the services that were available. It was acknowledged that refugees needed to feel secure and this could be a reason for preventing them reporting incidents.
  • It was recognised that Middlesbrough had high levels of deprivation and that there was an economic factor in unreported cases, as often the victim would not have sufficient finances to leave the family home and remained in the relationship. It was also highlighted that domestic abuse was not isolated to deprived areas and occurred across the town, including deprived and affluent areas. Domestic abuse was a feature of an imbalanced relationship irrespective of economic factors.
  • In relation to cases of domestic abuse where the victim was male, the Panel was advised that it was mainly due to cultural reasons that cases went unreported as there was an out of date perception that men were more able to cope and not be emotional.
  • In relation to the LGBT community, the Panel was informed that further specialised services were required to help victims. In general terms, problems appeared to occur more often when a partner was exiting the relationship and many people accessed Refuge and My Sister’s Place for support.

Finally, the Panel was informed of the milestones that had been achieved, demonstrating the progress made to date during 2015/16, including:-

  • The appointment of a dedicated Domestic Violence Operational Co-ordinator in January 2016 to co-ordinate the implementation of the Preventing Domestic Abuse Strategy.
  • A domestic abuse link worker had been seconded from a local service provider into the First Contact Team within the local authority’s Children’s Service Department. This approach ensured families not meeting the threshold for a safeguarding intervention were assessed and provided with earlier access to interventions. This aimed to halt escalation in the pattern of domestic abuse.
  • A Domestic Violence Perpetrator Programme had recently been commissioned to address the gap in provision of positive intervention and behavioural therapy services for perpetrators.
  • Funding had been secured to strengthen accommodation based specialist domestic abuse service provision in partnership with local housing and advice services.
  • Effective and established support partnerships had enhanced services and improved outcomes for domestic violence victims.
  • Operation Encompass was launched, co-ordinating the implementation of a key partnership between Cleveland Police, Local Authorities and schools. The aim was to share information of police call-outs to domestic abuse incidents with local schools to allow the opportunity to engage with affected children and to provide support.

In order to develop this area of work further, the following recommendations for 2016/17 were outlined in the report:-

  • Agree and implement the outcomes framework for commissioned services and ensure robust performance management and monitoring system was in place to demonstrate impact.
  • Increase reach and accessibility of services and support for victims, perpetrators and children affected by domestic abuse by ensuring local information and resources were well publicised and available.
  • Implement clear communication strategy to raise awareness and promote key messages in relation to domestic violence.

The Chair thanked the Officer for her attendance and the information provided.

 

AGREED that the information provided be noted and that the recommendations outlined in the report (and above) be revisited by the Panel in six months’ time to measure progress.
 

15/41 OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY BOARD - UPDATE

The Chair requested that the Panel note the contents of the submitted report which provided an update on business conducted at the Overview and Scrutiny Board meeting held on 2 February 2016, namely:-

  • Attendance of Elected Mayor.
  • Final Report of the Economic Regeneration and Transport Scrutiny Panel - Albert Road Regeneration.
  • Final Report of the Health Scrutiny Panel - Health Inequalities: Improving Levels of Breastfeeding in Middlesbrough.
  • Interim Report of the Health Scrutiny Panel - Temporary Changes to the Breast Radiology Department at James Cook University Hospital.
  • Feedback from the Executive.
  • Executive Forward Work Programme.
  • Scrutiny Panel Progress Reports.

AGREED that the information contained within the submitted report be noted.
 

15/42 DATE AND TIME OF NEXT MEETING - MONDAY, 14 MARCH 2016 AT 10.30AM.

The next meeting of the Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel was scheduled for Monday, 14 March 2016 at 10.30am.

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