Domestic abuse review moves improvement plans forward
Organisations that deal with domestic abuse in Hertfordshire have welcomed a comprehensive report into how they can further improve support for victims.
The County Community Safety Unit, with funding from Hertfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, commissioned the independent charity CAADA (Co-ordinated Action Against Domestic Abuse) to thoroughly review how services in Hertfordshire could be improved.
The review follows the success of strategies put in place to make it easier and safer to report domestic abuse in Hertfordshire, resulting in a 47% increase in the number of victims coming forward over the last two years. The review is set against a background of a changing landscape in the way that services for victims are currently commissioned, with responsibility moving over to Police and Crime Commissioners from April 2015. 
Commissioner David Lloyd said: “I have made it clear that tackling domestic abuse is one of my top priorities and I warmly welcome the recommendations made in the review.
“Our campaigns to get more victims of domestic abuse to come forward are working and it is vital that we provide them with the best services possible when they do.  We can only tackle this issue by working together and I am pleased that all the key agencies in Hertfordshire are committed to ensuring that happens.”
Councillor Richard Thake, Executive Member for Community Safety at Hertfordshire County Council who oversees the work of the CCSU, said: “We commissioned an independent organisation to take a thorough look at the support we provide to victims of domestic abuse and report back to us on how they felt we could further improve that support. I considered it vital that there were no constraints placed on CAADA, as advocates in excellence, in conducting the review.
“The report highlights some really good work going on across the county. Parts of the report also make some fairly clear areas for improvement, and it’s important that we understand where we need to improve as well as what we’re doing well.”
CAADA’s report highlights the need for some focused improvements in:
•          the governance and leadership arrangements for domestic abuse in Hertfordshire
•          the consistency through which victims are referred to services, and
•          gaps around the provision of services and support for victims and perpetrators
CAADA’s Chief Executive, Diana Barran, said: “Our review highlights opportunities to improve the way that services are commissioned and delivered in Hertfordshire so that they meet the needs of many more families living with domestic abuse.
“If implemented our recommendations would create the platform to help identify all victims, children, and perpetrators of domestic abuse, as early as possible and give enough capacity to respond by risk and need as well as foster innovation, learning and development across all agencies.  We are indebted to the local practitioners, survivors and managers who were so generous with their time and information which allowed us to develop our recommendations. With strong leadership, the Hertfordshire Partnership has the opportunity now to make a material difference to the lives of so many residents of the County.”
At a joint meeting of Hertfordshire’s Domestic Abuse Strategic Programme Board and the County Community Safety Governance Board on 1 December, it was agreed to establish a cross-organisational working group to take forward the development of a clear Domestic Abuse Strategy and associated action plan. The working group will include representatives from the Hertfordshire Constabulary, Hertfordshire County Council, NHS agencies, and probation. Additional strategic resource has already been put in place to oversee this work and arrangements for the provision of specialist resources are also being explored with CAADA. 
Some of the options currently being considered include:
•                    expanding on the current arrangements to create a multi-agency safeguarding hub
•                    ensuring that there is a clear focus on directing the resources devoted to supporting victims, including the provision of additional independent domestic violence advisors
•                    reviewing the current Domestic Abuse strategic arrangements to support senior agency leaders to align the governance, priority setting and strategic capability of all participating agencies.
•                    subject to a bid for funding via the Department for Education Innovation Programme - the establishment of multi-disciplinary Family Safeguarding Teams across the County. If successful, 26 teams will be established to build on the skills mix of Children’s Social Work teams, adding Domestic Abuse specialists and Community Psychiatric nurses to focus on parental mental health and substance misuse.
CAADA’s executive summary can be downloaded here.
The full report is viewable by clicking here.