Agenda item

Altogether Safer - Reducing Violence Against Women and Girls in North Kent


The Strategic Manager, (Community Safety Unit) presented Members with the Altogether Safer Annual Report 2017-18.


In December 2016, the Home Office announced that it had created a Violence Against

Women and Girls (VAWG) Transformation Fund and was inviting bids from Local Authorities and Health Authorities to support projects to address this issue. Gravesham’s Community Safety Unit (CSU) saw this as an opportunity to work with some of GBC’s partner agencies to put together a programme of work to help reduce VAWG and submitted a bid in late February 2017.


The announcement on the outcome of applications was delayed due to the General

Election but in July 2017 the CSU received notification that the bid was one of 61 projects nationwide that had been successful. Funding was agreed in full for the project (Altogether

Safer – Reducing Violence Against Women and Girls in North Kent) and GBC have been awarded a total grant of £229,000 over three financial years from 2017-18 to 2019-20 (c. £76,300 p.a.).


The Strategic Manager (Community Safety Unit) outlined the three approaches listed in the project which the bid money was spent on over the course of the year:


The Weekend/Out of Hours Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA) Service (Police Station-Based)


A Police Station-based Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA) service at weekend nights/Out of Hours provides readily accessible, expert advice for victims and front-line officers – crucial engagement at the right time. Victims do not have to wait until the following week for this support which can otherwise be too little, too late and result in a disproportionately high ratio of victims declining to support a prosecution in Dartford and Gravesham.


The Strategic Manager (Community Safety Unit) explained that they work closely with Inspector Holmes and directly alongside the VIT team; the Choices charity has been very long established with its advisors highly trained to deal with victim support. The IDVAs have been Police vetted and cleared all the necessary security checks, they also have the ability to access Police systems which is invaluable in responding to victims as early as possible..


Due to the unavoidable delay in the project being able to commence, the IDVA service began operating in the autumn 2017. Although the service was initially intended to provide cover 12 hours during weekend nights, the pool of IDVAs trained meant that the project had the capacity to provide additional hours during week nights (Thursday and Fridays) as well as further hours at the weekends. This was seen as a good solution to recoup the hours lost earlier in the year whilst also having the additional benefit of allowing the project to ‘test’ demand for the service during other times of the week.


Choose Respect Programme


Choose Respect is a targeted programme for boys and young men aged 11-18 years displaying challenging, aggressive, controlling or anxious behaviours. The programme addresses factors influencing their behaviour through small group work and 1:1 sessions proven to reduce and prevent violent and aggressive behaviour. The use of social media as a tool for abuse and exploitation is also addressed through the programme delivered in conjunction with schools and a wide range of services coming into contact with young people.


The target for year one was 60 boys and the target for year two doubles to 120; again due to the late announcement instead of the programme starting in April as planned it began in September 2017. Usually the programme is delivered purely in conjunction with schools but this has been extended to allow Choose Respect to receive referrals of boys and young men from KCC Early Help and Preventative Services and Troubled Families Teams, Youth Services, Kent Police and The Grand.  Boys and young men can also self-refer. As at end of February 55 boys have been dealt with and there is a waiting list which means that the original target of 60 will be hit by the end of March 2018.


Improving access to services – reducing violence within BME communities and working with hard to reach groups


Collaborative work between North Kent Equality Cohesion Council (KECC) and Rethink Sahayak is focusing on encouraging engagement with services by victims across BME communities (currently unrepresented). Awareness-raising, service promotion, peer-led support and initiatives to remove the stigma associated with seeking help within certain cultures, will continue to break down existing barriers. Activities (including some for women and girl-only audiences) are used to generate confidence and provide environments in which victims can be empowered to discuss their experiences and get the help they need. The aim was to reach the groups of people in society who were at the most risk and make it less of taboo for them to come forward as many people especially women in certain cultures feel pressured to stay silent on abuse issues.


There were a number of successful events held throughout the year which are listed on page 31 of the report but one very important initiative that was delivered by KECC and Rethink (which is also going to be delivered in Years 2 and 3 of the project) was the organising and holding of a Women and Girls only conference and social event. The Sadi Awaaz Suno (Listen to our Voices) event took place on Friday 24 November 2017 – specifically leading up to the International Day for the Elimination of VAWG on 25 November.


The event was very successful and approximately 300 local women and girls attended (exceeding our original target of 150-200 attendees). They ranged from grandmothers and mothers for whom English is their second language to young professionals and newly arrived brides from the Indian Sub-Continent. The event provided an open space for women and girls to gain a better understanding of issues affecting their communities and to be encouraged to voice their opinions. The conference was addressed by the various different speakers including doctors, Police Officers, key speakers regarding forced marriages and exploitation. Immediately following the conference was a social evet with food and drink in which the guests could talk to the speakers privately if they chose too.


As part of our work to reach as wide an audience as possible with our local BME communities, KECC has led on the production of a short film, Ladies Sangeet, that examines a domestic abuse victim’s silence. The entire cast was made up of local women and girls who volunteered their time and the script and the film was screened for the first time at the conference proving very impactful. It will shortly be made available on YouTube and will hopefully also be used in a variety of venues e.g. Civic Centre television screens in waiting areas, at events and in working with smaller community and peer support groups. The intention is for further films to be produced each year of the project to raise awareness of different types of VAWG and services that are available. At the end of Year 3, they will become part of the project end ‘toolkit’ of materials and resources that will be made freely available to other areas wanting to address those issues.


The final report was submitted to the Home Office and an email was received last Thursday giving thanks for the hard work carried out and the claim for the full amount of the bid had been signed off. The Home Office was so pleased with GBC’s work that they sought GBC’s approval for the project to be featured in a newsletter that the Department’s Safeguarding Team produce and issue to a number of stakeholders ranging from police, local authorities, social, health care, academia and charity sectors. The next edition is due to be issued in the Spring and this will help to raise the profile of the work that is being carried out locally.


Following Members questions and comments, the Strategic Manager (Community Safety Unit) advised that:


·         With regard to IDVA, Thursdays and Fridays were not as busy as the weekends but still proved to be a valuable service and the aim is to keep it going for year 2. The CSU is applying to the PCC to use part of its Community Safety Grant allocated for 2018-19 to provide the funding to continue with those two extra days. Around £10K would be need to carry the service on into 2018/19 and possibly two different weeknights would be trialled to gain a better understanding of when are high times of abuse 

·         With regard to the Choose Respect Programme, all the young boys and men completing  the programme said they felt that they could identify ways of managing their feelings better especially anger and 100% of them felt that their aggression had been lowered as well as an increased sense of empathy

·         Years 1 and 2 are about ensuring that the targets are met and during year 3 more routes of funding can be explored to carry on the project after its initial three years

·         It is unsure why there are double the amount of issues listed on page 17 in Gravesham compared to Dartford but it is something that will be looked into in April; the annual report was competed 2 weeks ago and there was a very tight deadline so the figures haven’t been able to be questioned yet but the issues will be addressed

·         In terms of tutoring young people, girls are also taught what is to acceptable behaviour from someone else. Other CSU activity in 2018-19 will focus on girls as well as boys who are linked to gang activity and who may be being exploited or who are vulnerable.

·         The Choose Respect workers now have hot desks at The Gr@nd and the benefit of that is that when the boys finish their 12 week programme they are able to choose from activities run by The Gr@nd work that they can move on to and that may be beneficial to them.  It also works vice-versa with The Gr@nd coming across boys and girls who are experiencing problems and having the opportunity to refer them to the Choose Respect Programme.

·         An annual report will be coming to the Committee on the work carried out in the project every year

·         All of the young boys and men that are referred to the Choose Respect programme are not just average boys having a hard time, going through changes; their behaviour is identified as being particularly concerning e.g. displaying aggression and abuse in relationships.  Individual assessments are carried out on every referral received the individual is accepted onto the Programme.


The Strategic Manager (Community Safety Unit) stated she was interested in the abuse figures for disabled women who may not be accessing services (raised by  Cllr Harding) and advised she would look into and raise it at the next Delivery Group meeting in April 2018. There was potential for the Project to consider specific work focussing on encouraging reporting from victims with disabilities and improving the accessibility of services to them.


The Chair and Committee thanked the Strategic Manager (Community Safety Unit) for all of her dedication and hard work pushing for the bid and the distribution of resources so effectively.


Members agreed to note the contents of the Altogether Safer Annual Report 2017-18.


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