Domestic Violence - Abused women need more support

Equality body demands councils provide better comms to reach out to abuse victims.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) says too many councils are failing to provide 'essential lifelines' to abused women.

A report published by the EHRC and the End Violence Against Women campaign has revealed more than one in four local authorities in Britain have no specialised support services at all.

Glasgow has the best provision in Britain, whereas the East and South East of England are poorly served.

The report, Map of Gaps, advises that information, advice and advocacy are among the 'essential lifelines' that should be available to women.

Westminster City Council director of comms Alex Aiken said the best campaigns to combat domestic violence focused on the perpetrators and the victims. Aiken has used poster campaigns in pubs in Westminster that focus on domestic violence, warning men of the consequences of hitting their partners.

Aiken said: 'This is an area where public services must work together, including the council, police and voluntary sector organisations. To a certain extent it's a hidden crime so you've got to work closely at community level.'

Westminster has developed information packs that include leaflets and business cards, distributed by community workers and representatives.

Aiken said: 'These need to be locally led campaigns and supported by media relations.'

Kinross + Render CEO Sara Render said councils should work closely with the NHS.

'I would work with primary care and A&E frontliners to encourage direct distribution of leaflets about what constitutes abuse and where to go for help,' she said.

Render noted another approach could be through daytime programmes, problem page sections in local free-sheets and materials in public libraries and leisure centres.

She added: 'I would engage local places of worship, to look at opportunities for embedding key messages in services.'

Each year, three million women in Britain experience rape, domestic violence, stalking or other violence.

Of the 408 local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales, just one in 10 have a specialised service for ethnic minority women.

The EHRC will send a letter to around 100 authorities giving them a month to explain why they have no provision in place. If their response is unsatisfactory, it intends to take legal action under the Equality Act 2006.

HOW I SEE IT - DAVID HOLDSTOCK, Head of corporate communications, Hillingdon Council

Community safety is an area that tops most residents' lists of priorities, including helping to protect residents who have experienced domestic violence.

In Hillingdon, one of our councillors, who herself experienced domestic violence, is our domestic violence victims' advocate. A specialist court also provides tailored support.

But this all provides a challenge in terms of communications. It requires councils to be innovative and thoughtful, as often traditional methods don't reach those they need to or even worse, they alert abusers that someone is seeking support.

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