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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting 13th December 2011

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Housing and Community Safety

 

Target Hardening to the Homes of Victims of Domestic Abuse

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To obtain authority to undertake a one year target hardening pilot initiative to allow those in danger of suffering from domestic abuse to remain in their own home of all tenures if it is deemed safe and appropriate for them to do so. 

Recommendations

1.             That Housing Services allocates up to a maximum £15,000 to the Council's Domestic Abuse Co-ordinator to enter into an agreement with Safe Partnership Limited to provide target hardening services for one year to the homes of people in danger of experiencing domestic abuse.

 

2.             That the outcome of this pilot be reported back to Cabinet at the end of the period.

 

3.             That the report is referred to Housing and Public Protection Scrutiny Committee.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.             To provide additional protection to victims of domestic abuse and their families who wish to remain in their own home.

 

2.             To determine the effectiveness of the service in the prevention of homelessness and the savings realised to Housing Services.

 

3.             For information.

 

Background

2.             In the United Kingdom, domestic abuse accounts for 16% of all violent crime (British Crime Survey 2006/07) and is the largest cause of death worldwide in women aged 19-44. It will affect one in four women during their lifetime and on average two women a week are killed by a male partner or former partner (Department of Health 2005). In addition, in 2001 in England and Wales the estimated cost of domestic abuse to the public purse was £23 billion.

3.             In the Vale of Glamorgan in 2010/11 twenty-four women and twenty-four children were accommodated in the five unit Barry Refuge managed by Atal y fro (previously Vale Women's Aid). In addition, many women and their families had to move to refuges outside of the Vale of Glamorgan, away from their extended families and support networks because the local refuge was full, whilst others were placed in temporary accommodation through the homeless service.

4.             Homelessness presentations because of domestic abuse for both genders are also increasing in the Authority. There were thirteen full homeless applications taken in 2009/10, twenty-five in 2010/11 and fifteen in only the first six months of 2011/12.

5.             Most of the homelessness presentations and refuge admissions also included the children of a victim. This resulted in distress and disruption to their lives, by placing them in temporary accommodation away from their friends, families and schools. Several research projects undertaken over the last decade have also shown that children that live with domestic abuse are at increased risk of behavioural problems, emotional trauma and mental health difficulties.

Relevant Issues and Options

6.             In the Vale of Glamorgan, many victims of domestic abuse have indicated that if they were able to feel safer, they would prefer to remain in their own home and avoid the disruption to their lives caused by moving. Some victims that moved from their homes have also experienced limited protection, as they were found again after a period of time by the perpetrator and the cycle of fear and abuse has begun again.

7.             In an effort to give victims of domestic abuse the option to remain in their own home, the Housing Service is proposing to part fund a one year pilot scheme. This will be set up by the Domestic Abuse Co-ordinator in the Council with Safe Partnership Limited (SPL) to provide and fit target hardening equipment to victim's homes of any tenure.

8.             SPL is a registered charity which already works in partnership on similar schemes in over thirty local authorities across the United Kingdom. They will provide suitably trained and Criminal Bureau checked security fitters to install the required equipment to properties. The list of additional security devices is extensive and include locks, bolts, door chains and mirrors, mailsafe letterboxes, fire safety equipment, personal and property alarms, security lighting and CCTV equipment.

9.             SPL has offered the Council up to £5,000 match funding to commence this work and it is proposed that the Housing Service commits up to a maximum of £15,000 additional funding for the one year pilot. This is expected to partially reduce the void and re-let costs incurred for council properties and reduce accommodation costs incurred when placing a victim (and in the majority of cases their children) in temporary accommodation through the homelessness service.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment and Climate Change, if appropriate)

10.        Up to a maximum of £15,000 for one year match funding to be found from within the existing Housing and General Fund budget.

11.        Although this service will be available to all housing tenures, there is also an opportunity to make a saving to Housing Services through a reduced number of properties becoming void and to the homelessness budget. Currently an average of only ten social rented properties per week become available for re-let. It therefore means that clients to whom the Council has accepted a homeless duty spend a substantial period of time in temporary accommodation before becoming permanently housed. This also resulted in 2010/11 to the average stay in the Refuge being 27 weeks.

12.        The cost of temporary accommodation places a considerable financial burden on the Council. Due to the lack of social housing and the scarce availability of other forms of temporary accommodation in the area, some of these people had to be placed in bed and breakfast accommodation. The average cost of each room was £280 per week, which led to the Council spending nearly £250,000 for the year. Any decrease in presentations to the Council through homelessness would therefore assist the Council to reduce the use of bed and breakfast.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

13.        The Service Level Agreement between the Council and Safe Partnership Limited will be referred to Legal Services for comment by the Domestic Abuse Co-ordinator prior to the pilot being implemented.

Crime and Disorder Implications

14.        The development of additional safeguards to ensure the safety and security of victims of domestic abuse will have a positive affect on crime and disorder in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

15.        The target hardening equipment will be made available through this project to both male and female victims of domestic abuse, in accommodation of all tenures and throughout the Vale of Glamorgan, thus ensuring equality of access to all.

Corporate/Service Objectives

16.        This report is consistent with the following Corporate and Service Objectives of the Council:

Health inequalities are reduced and residents are able to access the necessary services, information, wellbeing and quality of life.

Policy Framework and Budget

17.        This report is consistent with the Policy Framework and budget.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

18.        The service will be available to vulnerable people who are in danger of experiencing domestic abuse throughout the Vale of Glamorgan; therefore no individual ward member consultation has been undertaken.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

19.        Housing and Public Protection.

Background Papers

None.

 

Contact Officer

Pam Toms, Strategy and Supporting People Manager

 

Officers Consulted

Charlotte Porter, Domestic Abuse Co-ordinator

Adam Edwards, Building Manager, Building Services

Operational Manager, Legal Services

 

Responsible Officer:

Pam Toms, Strategy and Supporting People Manager

 

 

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