Nowhere to turn if this life-or-death service goes

Domestic violence.  Picture by BSIP Laurent/Science Photo Library

Domestic violence. Picture by BSIP Laurent/Science Photo Library

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A vital domestic abuse service, which can make the difference between life and death, is to close at the end of the month with jobs going in Alnwick.

Cease24 provides critical support and advice to help men and women who are high-risk victims of domestic abuse in Northumberland.

But at the end of August, the Alnwick-based project, which employs six people and provides the Independent Domestic Violence Adviser (IDVA) service for the county, is to close. It means that Northumberland will be the only county in England not to have an IDVA, but also that high-risk victims will not have access to specific support.

Children in north Northumberland, who have been affected by domestic violence, through their family or relationships, will also lose out on support.

Andrea Perret, co-CEO of Rape Crisis Tyneside and Northumberland, which works with Cease 24, said: “It is a really critical service and it is worrying that it is to stop.

“The team works with high-risk victims. These are people whose lives seem to be at threat through domestic violence.

“There are already three domestic homicide reviews taking place in Northumberland at the moment. That means three people have been killed as a result of domestic violence.

“If this service stops, more people could be murdered.

“Cease24 have a major role in supporting those victims who are at the highest risk. When the service ends there will be nothing for those people in Northumberland.”

The project is run by Victim Support but it has not been able to find funding for the service to continue.

A partnership of voluntary sector organisations in Northumberland who support survivors of sexual and domestic violence are working together to try to gain support to keep Cease 24 open.

Grace, Northumberland Rape Crisis, 608030, the Northumberland Refuge and Women’s Health Advice Centre in Ashington have collectively written to MPs seeking support to step in and save the service.

Deputy council leader Dave Ledger, chairman of the Safer Northumberland Partnership said the council had provided extra funding to directly support IDVA provision.

“It’s important to stress the council’s commitment to supporting domestic violence services has not changed,” he said. “We fully understand the importance of an IDVA service in Northumberland, which has historically been funded from a range of sources, of which the council is just one.”

He added that the council has maintained its commitment within the 2014/15 budget.

A Victim Support spokeswoman said: “Cease 24 is a service Victim Support has been running on behalf of the local authority to provide victims of domestic violence with specialist help and advice.

“The funding from the local authority for this work ran out in July. Since then we have been using charity money to keep this service going, while discussions about long-term funding continue. This vital service needs to be funded on a secure and ongoing basis which Victim Support cannot do using public donations.

“Victim Support knows how much courage it takes victims of domestic violence to seek help and it is critical that services like Cease 24 are there for them.

“We continue to work with all partners to identify new funding which will ensure people in Northumberland suffering domestic violence have specialist help to turn to and to help them rebuild their lives.”

MP Sir Alan Beith said: “I am extremely concerned that if Cease 24 closes there will be a significant gap in support and advice services for high-risk victims and children in Northumberland. This would lead to increased demands on many public services including health and social services, police and justice services, housing and children’s services.”

Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird said: “Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs) provide a valuable service to high-risk victims of domestic violence and it is essential that this service is maintained.”