Northumbria is pilot area for domestic abuse scheme

Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria, Vera Baird.
Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria, Vera Baird.

A new scheme to tackle domestic abuse is being piloted in Northumbria.

The project, Change that Lasts, was launched on Friday by national domestic abuse charity Women’s Aid, in wider partnership with domestic abuse charity SafeLives.

The scheme, funded by the Big Lottery Fund’s Women and Girls Initiative, aims to help women experiencing domestic abuse receive support earlier, and help them to achieve long-term recovery and independence.

As well as Northumbria, the scheme has launched in Nottinghamshire and Surrey.

Women’s Aid has reviewed current approaches to tackling domestic abuse and the systems in place which are currently not working effectively. Survivors frequently report that opportunities to help them were missed. The new model will provide a framework that facilitates the shortest, and/or most effective route to safety, freedom and independence for each survivor.

This programme will put the survivor at the heart of it, for example, by ensuring support from her friends, workplace, or a family network.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird, said: “I am delighted Northumbria has been selected to pilot the new ‘Change That Lasts’ scheme, which supports the work of my Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy and our network of Domestic Violence Workplace Champions who are reaching out to victims.”

She added: “This work will also build upon and enhance the knowledge and skills needed by local professionals to deliver the best possible support to domestic abuse victims and their families. It will also build upon the funding of specialist services that I have helped fund through my Commissioner’s Community Fund.”

‘Change that Lasts’ is formed of three main schemes within Surrey which will work together to get victims of domestic abuse to safety, freedom and independence quickly: ‘Ask Me’, ‘Trusted Professional’ and ‘Specialist Support Services’.

‘Ask Me’, a community-based campaign, aims to create communities in which survivors can disclose abuse early, and access support quickly. The scheme will create safe spaces in local business and community settings where women experiencing coercive control and other forms of domestic abuse can talk to someone and get help they need quickly. ‘Ask Me’ appeals for residents who work in jobs that interact frequently with local communities to become an ‘Ask Me Ambassador’ and help spot victims of domestic abuse and signpost women for additional help to their local services.

‘Trusted Professional’, a campaign centred around support and professional services, will provide specific training to those working in a service that are likely to have contact with victims of domestic abuse - for example a health visitor, children’s centre, drug/alcohol support, housing and family intervention. The training will help these professionals to identify the signs of domestic abuse and violence, provide support and advice including safety-planning and signpost victims accordingly.

‘Specialist Support Services’, a specialist domestic violence services focussed scheme working with local services to adopt a strengths-based, needs-led, trauma-informed approach, reflective of the Change That Lasts model.

All three schemes under ‘Change that Lasts’ will be rolled out in Surrey later this year after an appeal for community members, local service professionals and specialist domestic violence services have put themselves forward for the initiative.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said: “Our decades of experience working with women, and our research, have confirmed that we need a better way than the current approach to domestic abuse. Too often our response to women who are in appalling situations is still based on an inadequate understanding of what they really need to be safe and to recover. We end up focusing on short-term measures which do not enable families to thrive in the future. By listening to women we can provide help earlier, and make sure that the help is effective and long-lasting, leading to true independence. We are thrilled that we can finally put into practice our innovative response to domestic abuse that has survivors at its heart – and will lead to long-term change.”