The report provides an updated position on the local approach to domestic abuse, with a specific focus on progress on the delivery of new duties brought into effect by the Domestic Abuse Act 2021.
In attendance:Chief Superintendent Ian Parnell (West Midlands Police); Superintendent Richard Harris (West Midlands Police); Diane Rhoden (NHS Birmingham and Solihull ICB); Neil Appleby (Probation Service); Mrs Alison McGrory (Solihull MBC); Gillian Crabbe (Solihull MBC); Caroline Murray (Solihull MBC); and Councillor D Howell – Cabinet Member (Communities & Leisure).
The Board considered a detailed report setting out the current position on the local approach to domestic abuse; focusing on progress with the delivery of new duties brought into effect by the Domestic Abuse Act 2021.
Having considered the written report, delivery plan and introductory presentation by Caroline Murray, the Board asked the following questions and made the following observations:
· Cllr W Qais welcomed the work undertaken and highlighted the importance of measuring the impact and effectiveness of the new service provision. Officers advised that the delivery plan was informed by key partnership data and would be aligned with a performance scorecard with annual performance reporting being undertaken. External consultants had led on the needs assessment and that work had also strengthened the identification of data and created a more detailed performance scorecard which would be adopted from April 2023. These systems and processes would also help with the identification of trends (and changes to those trends) and measure the impact of service delivery. Officers also highlighted the commissioning of training; its evaluation and impact would also be an important service performance measure going forwards. Cllr Qais also asked for further information on the local Sanctuary Scheme that was to be re-commissioned. Officers advised that a service provider had now been commissioned and regular monitoring would be undertaken to review the number of referrals going forwards, together with opportunities for national learning to better understand the types of local support and interventions needed.
· Cllr S Sheshabhatter highlighted the importance of early identification and prevention. Regarding awareness and healthy relationship work in schools, officers were asked how the effectiveness of those initiatives were monitored. The Board was advised that a mandatory healthy relationship teaching module for schools had been introduced by the Domestic Abuse Act and the effectiveness of that would be evaluated as part of a schools Ofsted inspection.
· Cllr A Feeney also highlighted the importance of work within schools and, particularly, the timely emphasis of appropriate contact between peers as they matured and what was (and not) acceptable behaviours towards each other. Officers were asked if service demand was higher at certain times of the year or during certain events and was advised that, typically, the police would anticipate trends although there were many known aggravating factors and potential outcome scenarios to consider.
· Cllr M Carthew asked what support and resources were available to e.g., religious groups and sectors of the community, such as the elderly, that relied on traditional methods of communication and may therefore miss digitally publicised events and initiatives to raise awareness and encourage reporting. Officers advised that several communication resources were now due to be refreshed following the pandemic. For older people, work had been commissioned with the Women’s Aid charity to support and train all agencies that were likely to work with the elderly to better understand, identify and trigger an early response where domestic abuse was suspected. Easy-to-read printed documentation to raise awareness and signpost support was also produced for the elderly. The future service model was also moving away from a female/male service to one with a single point of access that recognised all cultures of society, including those individuals with protected characteristics. Cllr Carthew also highlighted the “Ask Annie” campaign and asked for further detail as to its success and duration. Officers advised that several different campaigns had been commissioned and the delivery plan now sought to improve the local delivery of those. Full details of both “Ask Annie” and “Ask Angela” were recapped for the Boards information.
· Cllr B Donnelly sought reassurances that the correct support resources were in place to help individuals that might come forward, especially during the Christmas period and immediately afterwards, the avoid them having to return to the problems they had fled from. Officers advised that, typically, a victim’s journey to leave and end an abusive relationship was a difficult one and statistics showed that those individuals considered leaving on average 7 times before doing so. Work was ongoing to strengthen the service so whenever someone disclosed domestic abuse (or indicators highlighted that domestic abuse was likely) to any agency or service, that would trigger conversations with those individuals to highlight the support available to them.
· Cllr D Howell welcomed the progress made in realigning the service to the new statutory duties and thanked officers for the work undertaken to achieve that.
That, subject to the comments and views recorded in the preamble above, the Board UNANIMOUSLY made the following recommendations to the Safer Solihull Partnership and the Cabinet Member (Communities & Leisure):
(i) That, the Board notes and welcomes the progress made towards the delivery of the new duties brought into effect by the Domestic Abuse Act 2021; and
(ii) That, the Board considers a further progress update in 12 month’s time as part of its 2023/24 (Crime & Disorder) Work Programme.