PROPOSALS for a re-design of domestic abuse support services commissioned by Reading Borough Council go out to consultation today (Wednesday 11th January).
The provision of refuge beds to help meet local and national needs will remain a priority but the council also needs to ensure services are available to prevent domestic abuse, provide outreach support and break the cycle of abuse.
These services need to be provided in the face of ongoing cuts in funding from central government and increasing demands on Council services.
Reading’s Domestic Abuse Strategy 2015-18 aims to continue to improve the services available for those experiencing domestic abuse and their families, and deliver the best possible co-ordinated response to the challenge of domestic abuse in the borough.
The four key area of focus are:
· Encouraging people to seek support earlier.
· Providing the right response first time.
· Having the right services available.
· Understanding the challenges in Reading.
New contracts for domestic abuse services are due to be agreed and implemented in Reading this year but reductions in government grants means the budget for this area is due to be reduced by 22 per cent. However, the proposal is to reduce the funding for refuge provision, whilst still funding above regional average levels, and potentially increase funding available for non-accommodation based support.
Reading currently has 25 refuge places in the town which is significantly higher than the average number per 100,000 of population in comparable local authority areas. Around 80 per cent of these places are accessed by households from outside the Reading area, as it is often preferable for those experiencing abuse to be accommodated a distance away from the perpetrator.
Reading would be required to provide 12 refuge places to be in line with the average number per head of population in the Thames Valley but the Council is proposing funding 15 places – four of which would remain as specialist provision for women from the Asian community.
The number of refuge places paid for by the Council may not necessarily correlate with the overall number supplied in the town as the provider may be able to gain further funding from alternative sources.
Demand for non-accommodation based outreach services has increased significantly in the last 12 months and this proposal seeks to increase funding in this area, even with a reduction in overall spending.
The consultation is seeking the views of current service users, providers, residents and other stakeholders.
Council Leader Cllr Jo Lovelock said:
“Reading currently provides significantly more refuge places than other local authorities in the Thames Valley.
“Huge cuts in grants from central government mean we need to bring our domestic abuse services more in line with other local authorities and re-design them to ensure victims still receive the best possible support within the budget constraints.
“These proposals would mean that Reading would still be funding above the regional average number of refuge places and increasing the money available for outreach services where demand is growing.
“I would encourage service users, providers and others with an interest to take part in the consultation so we can take their views into account when deciding on future provision.”
Cuts in government funding and increased demands on services mean the Council has already made £65 million of savings since 2011 and £42 million of savings are still needed by 2020.
The consultation document can be found online at https://consult.reading.gov.uk/dachs/domestic-abuse-services/ and there will be a public meeting with service users and others potentially affected by the proposals in the Council Chamber at the Civic Offices, in Bridge Street, at 10am on Friday 20th January. All responses need to be in by 10th February.
A report on the responses to the consultation will be presented at the Council’s Policy Committee on 13th March.