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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting: 20 October, 2014

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Housing, Building Maintenance and Community Safety

 

Adoption of the Domestic Abuse Policy by the Council Housing Landlord Service

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To seek approval from Cabinet for the new Domestic Abuse Policy for the Council's Housing landlord service and inform it of the outcome of the consultation process.

2.         To request that Cabinet authorise officers to work towards implementing the new policy with effect from January 2015.

Recommendations

1.         That Cabinet notes the development of the Domestic Abuse Policy and the feedback arising from the consultation undertaken.

2.         That Cabinet approves the Domestic Abuse Policy and authorises officers to implement the new policy with effect from January 2015.  

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.         To ensure Cabinet is satisfied with the consultation process.

2.         To ensure that that the Domestic Abuse Policy is implemented for the benefit of Council tenants.  

Background

3.         There are a number of legislative changes and proposed changes which are driving forward the agenda to improve the responses and services provided to people experiencing domestic abuse:

·           The Welsh Governments 10,000 Safer Lives Project

·           The Renting Homes (Wales) Bill

·           The Gender-based Violence, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Bill

 

4.         The Welsh Government's '10,000 Safer Lives' Project has sought to improve the way Public Services in Wales respond to people experiencing domestic abuse. One of the key areas identified for improvement was the role of public services as the first point of contact; ensuring frontline staff are aware of the expected response and are confident in taking action.

5.         The Council's housing landlord service is responsible for managing council tenancies and operates a significant front line service which can be the first point of contact for people experiencing domestic abuse. Developing a consistent approach to people who are experiencing domestic abuse, through the adoption of the Domestic Abuse Policy, will contribute to achieving the aims of the Safer Lives Project.

6.         The Renting Homes (Wales) Bill proposes a clearer, simpler and more straightforward legal framework for renting homes. The existing tenancies for renting homes can be a confusing and complex area of law. The proposed changes will make tenancy law easier to understand and enable cases of  domestic abuse and anti-social behaviour to be dealt with more effectively.

7.         The Domestic Abuse Policy will strengthen the customer focused approach to tenancy management in cases where domestic abuse is involved. The approach will be further strengthened with legislative changes requiring a prohibited conduct’ term in every tenancy agreement.

8.         The Renting Homes (Wales) Bill is scheduled to be introduced into the National Assembly in 2015. A further report to Cabinet will be provided to detail the changes proposed in the Renting Homes (Wales) Bill.

9.         The Gender-based Violence, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Bill was introduced on 30 June 2014. The Bill aims to support the Welsh Government's intention for relevant public bodies to address violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence in a coordinated manner.

10.      The Bill is currently at stage 1 of Passage in the National Assembly for Wales, with stage 2 anticipated to take place by February 2015. If the proposed stages for implementing the Bill are progressed according to the current timescales the legislation will be introduced in 2016-17.

11.      The adoption of a Domestic Abuse Policy will prepare the housing landlord service for the proposed introduction of 'ask and act' element of the Gender-based Violence, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Bill.

12.      Cabinet previously considered a report proposing a new approach to dealing with anti-social behaviour for Council tenants (Minute C2055). Cabinet approved the first draft subject to consultation and a further report is due to be received by Cabinet on 20th October 2014.

Relevant Issues and Options

13.      The Domestic Abuse Policy will work alongside the new Anti-Social Behaviour Policy, ensuring that incidents arising from domestic abuse are dealt with differently to anti-social behaviour and that the victims are supported appropriately. The changes in these two policies are aimed at producing a more outcome and customer focussed approach to dealing with anti-social behaviour issues and cases of domestic abuse.

14.      The Domestic Abuse Policy sets out the way in which the Vale of Glamorgan Council as a social landlord will respond to domestic abuse and support tenants affected by domestic abuse.

15.      The objectives of this policy are to:

·           Provide a consistent and swift approach to reports of domestic abuse.

·           Be a reference document for housing staff and tenants to deal confidently and effectively with reported incidents of domestic abuse.

·           Contribute to the strategic objective of reducing the impact of domestic abuse on victims, their families and also perpetrators.

16.      The Domestic Abuse Policy relates to all tenants living in properties owned and managed by the Vale of Glamorgan Council, this includes; tenants living in general needs properties, sheltered and older persons housing, temporary accommodation and the Ty Iolo hostel.

17.      Domestic abuse, domestic violence and sexual violence can all have a devastating impact on individuals and their families.  The housing needs of people made vulnerable, homeless or at risk of losing their home by domestic abuse can be complex. This is particularly relevant in cases where there is a joint tenancy in place between the victim and perpetrator. Therefore housing providers, including the Council, have a key role in assisting the victim to remain safe and maintain their home and tenancy.

18.      The Domestic Abuse Policy outlines how the Council will provide a sensitive and confidential response to tenants approaching the landlord service for assistance in cases of domestic abuse.

19.      The approach is customer focused; outlining how the Council will do everything in its power to help support victims; providing a well-co-ordinated and comprehensive housing management service that focuses on early intervention and the rights of the victim.

20.      The Domestic Abuse Policy details how the Council will work with partners to support victims and deal with the perpetrators, as domestic abuse cases require a multi-agency approach.

21.      All cases of domestic abuse will be treated with the strictest confidence; maintaining confidentiality is of upmost importance and staff will be aware of the protocols for information sharing, consent and confidentiality.

22.      The Domestic Abuse Policy is split into three main sections, detailing the Council's response to domestic abuse: communication, support and response.

23.      Contact details of relevant national and local organisations are included in the policy for officers to utilise and provide to tenants as part of their response and sign-posting role.

24.      The Domestic Abuse Policy will be supported by a programme of training that officers will undertake prior to the Policy being implemented from January 2015.

25.      Consultation on the draft Policy involved the following groups / organisations:

·           The Council's Housing Management Service

·           The Council's Housing Strategy and Supporting People Team

·           The Council's Community Safety Team

·           Atal Y Fro, the local Women's Aid group for the Vale of Glamorgan

26.      The feedback received has been incorporated into the Policy.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

27.      The development of the Policy has been done in-house from existing budgets.

28.      There is a cost associated with providing staff training required to implement the Domestic Abuse Policy . The cost of training will be met within existing training budgets.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

29.      The new policy will provide the Council with an effective tool to promote community cohesion and safety, reduce the fear of crime and ensure the sustainability of the areas where tenants live.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

30.      As a social landlord the Council is required by law to have policies and procedures for dealing with anti-social behaviour. It is important that anti-social behaviour arising from domestic abuse is treated differently and tenancy management issues addressed appropriately in these cases. 

Crime and Disorder Implications

31.      The new policy should enable the Council to concentrate resources on dealing with cases of domestic abuse, providing support for the victim and enabling them to remain in their home and maintain their tenancy.

32.      Where domestic abuse is dealt with effectively, there will be a reduction in crime and disorder.

33.      The new policy should enhance collaboration with other agencies such as Atal Y Fro, Safer Vale and the Police Service.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

34.      The new policy should enable the Council to better protect vulnerable members of society and promote more effective action in cases of domestic abuse. 

35.      It will dovetail with the new Anti-Social Behaviour Policy, which has been drafted in full consultation with the Co-ordinator of Atal-y-fro, the Vale of Glamorgan branch of Women's Aid and the Councils Domestic Abuse Coordinator with the Safer Vale Partnership. 

36.      The Policy take account of priorities set by the Welsh Government and forthcoming legislative changes

Corporate/Service Objectives

37.      Objective 4: To enhance tenants’ quality of life by making relevant improvements to their homes and communities.

38.      Objective 5: To deliver a timely, high quality, responsive housing management and maintenance service.

Policy Framework and Budget

39.      This report is within the policy framework and budget.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

40.      As this is a Vale wide issue no specific ward member consultation has been undertaken.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

41.      Housing and Public Protection.

Background Papers

Appendix 1 - Domestic Abuse Policy

Contact Officer

Jenny Lewington, Housing Strategy Officer - Tel:  01446 709326

Officers Consulted

Hayley Selway - Head of Housing

Mike Ingram - Operational Manager for Public Housing

Alan Sinclair, Housing Manager

Jennie Roberts, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Coordinator, Safer Vale

 

Committee Reports - Legal

Accountant - Housing

 

Responsible Officer:

Miles Punter - Director of Visible Services and Housing.

 

 

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