Councils will have a new legal duty to ensure there is consistent support for survivors of domestic abuse in safe accommodation across the country, under plans announced by the government today.
The consultation outlines a statutory duty on top-tier councils to convene a local partnership board and have overall responsibility for assessing the required support for victims, publishing a domestic abuse strategy, commissioning services and reporting to central government on progress.
These functions could be performed by arrangements that are already in place in some areas, including through community safety partnerships and health and wellbeing boards, the government said.
A statutory duty would also be placed on districts and London boroughs working under the Greater London Authority to co-operate with top tier councils, provide data to inform assessments of local need, contribute to strategy development and commission services.
The government said the partnership boards are likely to include police and crime commissioners and representatives of clinical commissioning groups, public health, adults and children’s services and specialist domestic abuse support providers.
“Our approach would allow partnerships flexibility to decide at what level services are commissioned locally,” the consultation said.
The government added it would encourage councils to pool budgets “wherever possible”, with new funding provided to top tier councils to place support services on a sustainable footing. The level of funding is to be determined through the consultation, which will last for 12 weeks.
The consultation includes a standardised needs assessment to improve the reliability of data on demand. This would include information on survivors who need to be moved to other areas for their own safety to ensure there is reciprocal support between councils.
A national ministerial steering group would also be established to assess progress and the effectiveness of strategies.
Prime minister Theresa May said placing the proposed legal duty on councils would end the “postcode lottery” of support.
“Whoever you are, wherever you live and whatever the abuse you face, you will have access to the services you need to be safe,” she said.
Housing and communities secretary James Brokenshire said: “These important measures will help us shape the future of the invaluable support survivors of domestic abuse and their children receive.”
Responding to the consultation, chair of the Local Government Association’s safer and stronger communities board Simon Blackburn (Lab) said the proposals would assist councils with their existing support for victims of domestic abuse.
He added: “It will be important that the final package ensures local authorities are supported in their work going forward and provide flexibility to ensure services can be tailored to the needs of different areas.
“However, our ambition must be to reduce the number of victims, with greater investment in early intervention and prevention schemes that helps stop domestic abuse occurring in the first place.”
Responding to the consultation on Twitter, deputy director of think tank the New Local Government Network Jessica Studdert said: “This is a great ambition in principle, but let’s be clear that in practice it is vacuous without clarity over whether the promised ‘extra funding’ is tokenistic or based on a realistic assessment of demand.”
This is a great ambition in principle, but let’s be clear that in practice it is vacuous without clarity over whether the promised “extra funding” is tokenistic or based on a realistic assessment of demand. https://t.co/N4rzJGSAET— Jessica Studdert (@jesstud) May 13, 2019