Tackling domestic abuse in Stevenage

Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd saw first-hand an innovative new project in Stevenage, which aims to help parents-to-be break the cycle of domestic abuse.

The Commissioner visited the ‘Healthy Relationships, Healthy Baby’ (HRHB) project on Monday (16th November) as part of his latest ‘district day’ – a regular event where he focuses on the crime and community safety-related issues affecting each of the county’s 10 districts and boroughs.

HRHB is a new and free programme for expectant parents who want to bring an end to violence, abuse, fear or bullying in their relationship. The programme begins in pregnancy because of evidence that babies’ brains start developing before they are born and that parents value receiving help as early as possible. 

It is run by The Stefanou Foundation from a base in the Old Town and, since April, has been on offer to parents living in Stevenage, North Herts and Welwyn Hatfield. The Foundation is a philanthropic charity set up with the aim of protecting and promoting the well-being of the very young and the very old, who are suffering or at risk of suffering, and who do not have a voice. Their services are developed through research and innovation.

Last year David Lloyd commissioned an independent charity to conduct the most comprehensive review ever carried out into services tackling domestic abuse in Hertfordshire. The report recommended use of innovation to tackle the issue. Stevenage has one of the highest rates of domestic abuse incidents in the county.

The Commissioner said: “Domestic abuse is something that can pass on from one generation to the next as children that grow up in abusive family environments, can often find these patterns repeating later in life. Understanding this complex issue and breaking the cycle now can only benefit these families in future generations.

“Like so many issues we face, I believe identifying problems and intervening earlier on, before they escalate in seriousness, will achieve better long term results for everyone involved. Not only can we reduce the number of people suffering from abuse and make society better and safer, but we can reduce the impact that these problems eventually have on public services.”

Stefanou Foundation Director, Amanda McIntyre, said: “Pregnancy is a time of hope but it can also be frightening for mums and dads if it brings back painful memories of growing up with violence or fear. One expectant dad contacted HRHB because he did not want his children to remember him in the way he remembers his own dad.  

“Expectant mothers joining HRHB often say they feel lonely or bad because their partner sometimes scares them or makes all the decisions in their relationship.  They worry that how they are feeling is also affecting their baby. If you are an expectant mum or dad and would like an informal chat about HRHB, please email us at welcome@hrhb.org.uk or ring 07702 538080. We would love to hear from you.”

For his next district day appointment, the Commissioner travelled to Stevenage Police Station, for a meeting with Stevenage Chief Inspector Richard Harbon, and then went to the custody suite at the station to see how recent changes had been affecting its operation. The Commissioner discussed the issues and challenges facing custody currently directly with frontline staff.

The Commissioner then travelled to Stevenage Borough Council offices in Danestrete to meet with the Council’s Executive Member for Children, Young People & Leisure, Cllr Richard Henry, its Chief Executive Scott Crudgington and Community Safety Manager Debbie Barker. The group discussed neighbourhood policing, tackling anti-social behaviour and issues affecting young people, as well as partnership working.

The group also discussed the award-winning Operation Acorn, which was a Stevenage police-led initiative tackling domestic abuse. The scheme saw those at high risk of offending being approached and asked if they wanted to change their behaviour. Some 20 offenders engaged with police and partner agencies. The scheme was recognised with a prize at the National College of Policing Awards last month.

Scott Crudgington said: “This was a great opportunity for us to discuss the important work we carry out with the Police and Crime Commissioner. We work productively with our partners as we share the same priorities and desire to reduce crime and keep the people of Stevenage safe.”

The Commissioner then joined officers from Hertfordshire Trading Standards and Herts Fire & Rescue Service in Stevenage town centre as they conducted pre-Christmas checks in local shops. As retailers stock up for the festive shopping period, fire officers checked fire safety standards within the shops continued to be upheld, while Trading Standards checked that products on sale were made and labelled as the law requires.

For his last appointment, the Commissioner met officers from the British Transport Police working from Stevenage Police Station. Sgt Chris Brady, from the Force which polices the countries rail lines, told the Commissioner about partnership working with Hertfordshire Constabulary and the benefits of being based close to Stevenage’s railway station.