Cabinet Portfolio: - Waste, Roads and Community Safety
Strategic Directorate: - Regeneration and Environment
Consideration was given to a report that was submitted for pre-decision scrutiny ahead of the Cabinet meeting scheduled for 25 January 2021 that detailed proposals for the recommissioning of Domestic Abuse Support Services. The Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety, the Assistant Director - Community Safety and Street Scene and the Head of Community Safety and Regulatory Services attended the meeting to present the report.
Councillors Clark and Simpson, as members of the Improving Lives Select Commission joined the meeting at this point. The Chair had invited members of the Improving Lives Select Commission to attend the meeting for this item as Domestic Abuse Support Services had been an area of focus for the Commission.
The Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety advised that Domestic Abuse remained a key priority for the Council and its partners through the Safer Rotherham Partnership (SRP). The report stated that current commissioned Domestic Abuse Support Service contracts were scheduled to come to an end on 30 September 2021. It was noted that a range of consultation, engagement and review activity had already taken place in respect of domestic abuse services and that this information would be used to identify the key issues that needed to be addressed as part of the recommissioning process and the establishment of a new system of support for victims of domestic abuse. The Cabinet Member advised the recommissioning process would be managed alongside the work surrounding the development of the Council’s refreshed Domestic Abuse Strategy and that the new services would be supported by an increase in funding of £150,000 per year, with the total annual budget being £660,000.
The report provided details on a proposed engagement process that would be followed by a competitive procurement process with providers for the support services that would establish a new delivery model for victims of Domestic Abuse. The Cabinet Member advised that the new service provision would then offer a seamless service for victims, with an increased focus on prevention and early intervention alongside improved access to information and support. The Cabinet Member advised that the new services would have the flexibility in order to meet the needs of all communities, including victims of domestic abuse who were from minority ethnic groups or who were refugees and those in same sex relationships or who were transgender.
The report stated that it was proposed that the Council’s refuge provision should be recommissioned immediately in order to maintain current provision so as to ensure that the needs of victims and survivors of Domestic Abuse continued to be met and to ensure the seamless continuation of a female-only refuge space.
Members noted the impact of the pandemic on both incidents of domestic abuse and also on how services to support victims of domestic abuse were able to be delivered.
Members asked for further information on how Rotherham compared to other areas regarding numbers of domestic abuse incidents. The Cabinet Member advised that compared to the national average, incidents in Rotherham were slightly lower. The Head of Community Safety and Regulatory Services noted that regular benchmarking activity took place to look how Rotherham compared to other areas both locally and nationally with regard to domestic abuse incidents. The Head of Community Safety advised that despite the impact of the pandemic, the number of incidents of domestic abuse reported in the last year had not shown any significant change to the numbers reported in previous years.
Members asked for further information on how the recommissioned services would support victims of domestic abuse who were not women suffering abuse from a man in a heterosexual relationship. The Cabinet Member noted that specialist and alternative provision was currently offered to support all victims of domestic abuse but advised that this needed be developed further in order to ensure that all victims of domestic abuse had access to the support that they required via a universal and encompassing service offer. The Head of Community Safety provided further information on the services offered including houses throughout the Borough that could be accessed as refuge for victims who were not female, or who had older male children. The Cabinet Member assured members that the time scales for the recommissioning process had been designed ensure that an innovative and inclusive service offer could be fully developed.
Members asked how a seamless service could be offered, as in order to meet the evolving needs and circumstances of victims in a responsive way it was often essential to refer victims to another service at different points in their journey of receiving support. The Cabinet Member advised in order to provide a service that was both seamless and also responsive that it was essential that the recommissioned services were fully integrated in order to ensure that the most relevant support could always be provided to victims of domestic abuse as their support needs changed and evolved. The Head of Community Safety advised that as the levels of risk and support needed by victims of domestic abuse changed the risk assessment process was agile enough to respond to these changes and to ensure that the most appropriate support services would always be provided.
Members asked for further information on the figure in the report that estimated that 27,000 women and girls on Rotherham had at one time been a victim of domestic abuse at one time. The Head of Community Safety advised that this was an estimated figure but noted that there were approximately 6,000 domestic abuse incidents reported to the police each year. The Cabinet Member assured members that the number of incidents of domestic abuse were constantly monitored.
Members noted their support for the Council’s continued commitment to provide refuges for victims of domestic abuse in the Borough. Members asked for further information on the proposal that the contracts for the provision of refuge services would be shorter than for other aspects of the support service. The Cabinet Member advised that the timescales were different as the service provided by refuges would be carrying on as before and would be recommissioned immediately, whereas the other support services were being redesigned with the timescales allocated to allow the design process be responsive to the details of the upcoming Domestic Abuse Act from the Government.
Members asked for clarification on how the success of the services provided would be measured. The Cabinet Member advised that success would be measured by using a range of activities including peer reviews of the service, data analysis and detailed case reviews. The Cabinet Member also assured members that the proposed funding for the provision of services would be sufficient to meet the anticipated demand.
Members asked for assurances on the level of support that the Council currently offered victims of support with regard to rehousing. The Cabinet Member advised that victims of domestic abuse who were seeking to be rehoused were always placed in the highest priority band for the allocation of a property.
Members asked how confident the Cabinet Member and officers were that the commissioning process would attract interest from a wide range of service providers. The Cabinet Member advised that the pre-market engagement activity, combined with the longer than usual recommissioning process should generate interest from a broad range of different service providers.
Members asked whether there were sufficient numbers of dispersed properties available to provide refuge to victims of domestic abuse who were not female or who had older male children and who could not be placed in the larger refuge centres. The Cabinet Member assured members that the funding was there for these types of properties but advised that ideally there would be more of these properties available.
The Chair thanked the Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety, the Assistant Director - Community Safety and Street Scene and the Head of Community Safety and Regulatory Services for attending the meeting and answering members’ questions.
The Chair of the Improving Lives Select Commission thanked the Chair for inviting its members to the meeting for the consideration the item.
1. That Cabinet be advised that the recommendations be supported.
2. That the contracts made with providers for Domestic Abuse support services should enable the Council to review outcomes and the methods of delivery at key intervals throughout the lifetime of the contracts in order to ensure that the services provided remained fit for purpose.
3. That the results of the pre-market engagement exercise, due to be completed by end May 2021, be circulated to members of the Improving Lives Select Commission.
4. That the members of the Improving Lives Select Commission have the opportunity to feed into the development of the outcome-based service specification for Domestic Abuse support services.