Concern for victims if advisory service closes

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Supporters of a vital domestic abuse organisation in Northumberland have warned that its pending closure could put lives at risk.

Cease24, which employs six people and provides the Independent Domestic Violence Adviser (IDVA) service for the county, is set to shut down on August 31 due to a lack of funding.

This service received 695 referrals in the last financial year, of which 577 were appropriate and subsequently the project worked with 358 clients.

The children’s outreach service received 42 referrals for children and young people, who received direct one-to-one support, while an additional 177 children and young people accessed group work and educational programmes.

The Women’s Health Advice Centre in Ashington, Grace, Northumberland Rape Crisis, 608030 and Northumberland Refuge have collectively written to local organisations, MPs and other politicians in a bid to save Cease24, which is run by independent charity Victim Support.

Their letter says: “We believe Northumberland will become the only county in England that does not have an IDVA service.

“With the loss of Cease24, we suspect that two things will happen. Firstly, our services will face an increase in referrals, particularly for high-risk clients, which we are not resourced to provide.

“Secondly, we will see our referrals drop because victim/survivors will choose to stay in relationships rather than report violence when there is no chance of support.

“Without the IDVA service in place, it is more likely that individuals will be killed by their partners.

“This will lead to an increase in ‘domestic homicides’ in Northumberland, increasing the need for domestic homicide reviews which will put a significant cost burden on Northumberland County Council and create a significant resource issue for all statutory and voluntary providers in the county.”

They believe the service should be funded by a combination of funders, including the county council, the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Northumbria and the Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

Deputy county council leader Dave Ledger, who is also chair of the Safer Northumberland Partnership, said the authority has demonstrated its commitment to reducing the incidents of domestic violence and supporting victims through many initiatives, including the Domestic Violence Champions Network.

He added: “Despite having to save £32million this year, we have made provision in our budget to maintain our funding commitment, but in the absence of future funding from other partners to meet the cost of service delivery for 2014/15, it is with great regret that Cease24 faces closure on August 31.

“In the meantime, we are continuing to work with partners on a number of short-term arrangements to respond to the cases which unfortunately continue to be presented.”

Northumbria PCC Vera Baird said the county council should continue to fund the service for the balance of this year until April 2015 as that is what all of the other five local authorities in the Northumbria force area have done.

“Some victims’ service commissioning passes to PCCs in April 2015 and consideration can be given when there is a budget available,” she added.

“We have no budget to fund any IDVAs anywhere this year.

“Northumbria Police has had 26 per cent of its funding cut in four years with a £13.6million extra cut imposed last December with immediate effect. The public is well aware of the steps the Chief Constable and I have taken to try to keep police officers on the beat, such as closing buildings and re-organising Area Commands.”

Dr Alistair Blair, chief officer of NHS Northumberland CCG, said: “We are committed to improving service quality and making the best use of the resources available.

“We do not hold responsibility for commissioning the services provided by Cease24. However, we do commission some support for domestic violence from the Women’s Health Advice Centre.”