Lancashire County Council’s cabinet has agreed to invest £1.3m from its public health budget in order to fund a new approach to tackling the issue.
It is part of a wider recent overhaul of services in the county in the wake of new domestic abuse legislation which was introduced last year and places a duty on local authorities to provide specialist support to victim-survivors of domestic abuse living in “safe accommodation”, along with their children.
The government has given a £2.5m grant to County Hall to enable it to discharge its new responsibilities, which, when coupled with the preventative projects that the authority intends to fund itself, will see £3.8m a year invested in combating domestic abuse in the county council area.
The cash will be spent on a raft of schemes, with more than half of it being used to provide support to those living in refuge accommodation in Lancashire. However, over £420,000 will also be directed towards helping victim-survivors who remain in their own homes.
Cabinet members were told at a recent meeting that as well as helping those in desperate need, the new approach could reduce the cost of domestic abuse to the public purse - which was estimated to be £190m in Lancashire last year.
That bill is based upon the impact of the crime on a range of services such as those for children and vulnerable adults and substance misuse support - as well as the cost of refuge provision, police callouts, court cases, accident and emergency admissions and, in the most extreme cases, the need to place children in care after a parent has been killed.
Based on recorded domestic abuse in Lancashire during 2021, the figure is nevertheless believed to be an underestimate, because national research has previously suggested only around 28 percent of abuse is officially reported.
Evidence drawn from domestic homicide reviews across Lancashire has also identified the need for accessible services earlier in the cycle of abuse, in order to provide victim-survivors with support before they meet the threshold for formal “statutory interventions” - a move which “can often trigger increased levels of violence”, according to papers presented to cabinet members.
Lancashire’s domestic abuse budget will also see £150,000 invested in a programme to encourage behavioural change for adult men who are abusive to their female partners and £63,000 spent on a scheme for 14-19-year-olds of both sexes who are displaying abusive behaviour in their relationships.
Money will also be invested in schools, with almost £275,000 going on a “healthy relationships” programme to work with young people who are identified as displaying “aggressive and harmful behaviours in their personal relationships”. All secondary schools in Lancashire will also receive advice on healthy relationships, sexual harassment, stalking and digital abuse.
Cabinet member for health and wellbeing Shaun Turner said that he welcomed any strategy that could stop domestic abuse in its early stages before it “evolve[s] into something much greater and sadder”, while children and families cabinet member Cosima Towneley noted that the problem was a “complex” one and “not a single issue”.
Lancashire County Council will also contribute £300,000 towards the Lancashire Victim Service to help domestic abuse survivors receive the support they need, along with almost £149,000 to fund a programme designed to ensure victims and their children can recover from their collective trauma, move on from refuge accommodation and rebuild their lives.
LANCASHIRE DOMESTIC ABUSE HELPLINE SERVICES
Lancashire County Council areas (Burnley, Chorley, Fylde, Hyndburn, Lancaster, Pendle. Preston, Ribble Valley, Rossendale, South Ribble, West Lancashire and Wyre) – Lancashire Victims Services: 0300 323 0085
Blackburn – The Wish Centre: 01254 260465
Blackpool – SafeNet: 07891/ 01253 347119 or Fylde Coast Women’s Aid – 01253 596699
Lancashire Refuges: 0300 303 3581 (phone lines staffed 24 hours a day; updates of bed space is available here
For details of other services, pleas click here