Ongoing efforts to tackle domestic abuse in Northumberland

Northumberland County Council. Picture by Jane Coltman
Northumberland County Council. Picture by Jane Coltman

There were an average of almost 500 incidents of domestic abuse each month in Northumberland last year, according to police data.

Figures from Northumbria Police show that in 2018-19, there were 5,838 reported domestic abuse incidents in the county, or 486 a month.

The perpetrator was a partner or ex-partner in 80 per cent of these incidents and there were children involved in 45 per cent of them.

There has been an eight per cent force-wide increase in all domestic abuse incidents. Earlier in the year, the rise in Northumberland was at 13 per cent, but reduced later in the year for an overall increase of six per cent.

But as was reported to Northumberland County Council’s communities and place committee last October, getting a clearer picture of under-reported domestic abuse, particularly in rural areas, is one of the key goals of a group tackling the issue.

An update to Wednesday’s (June 5) meeting of the committee reported that work is continuing to identify partner data that is available and can be shared to try to deal with the problem of under-reporting, while also providing information on other developments that have taken place in the past six months.

On a national level, the Government has recently announced plans for a Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill.

At the beginning of May, it revealed its proposal for a new legal duty on local authorities in England to deliver support to victims of domestic abuse and their children in accommodation-based services, with consultation on this running until August 2.

Locally, the Northumberland Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence strategy for 2018 to 2021 has been approved by the relevant boards, which has an agreed vision that ‘domestic violence abuse and sexual violence are everyone’s business’.

The Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Dame Vera Baird QC, has secured funding until March 2020 to pilot Operation Encompass: The Next Steps before a planned national roll-out.

This will be an enhanced version of Encompass, which has been successfully embedded across all schools in Northumberland since its launch in April 2017, enabling them to offer immediate support to youngsters witnessing and experiencing domestic abuse.

The PCC has also has championed and funded the development and delivery of the RESPECT programme across the region, in relation to Adolescent to Parent Violence and Abuse (APVA), which has been the focus of a Domestic Homicide Review in Northumberland.

A small group of workers in Northumberland have been trained and accredited to deliver this intensive programme and a referral pathway is in place to identify and prioritise families for this process.

Finally, a pilot outreach project offering counselling and therapeutic support to four to 18-year-olds living in Northumberland, who have witnessed domestic abuse, has been funded for 12 months from October 2018.

Up to March this year, 11 young people were being supported with another 17 on a waiting list. An evaluation of this pilot will inform future planning.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service