Council agrees new strategy to tackle rising rates of domestic abuse

Incidents of domestic violence increased in Enfield by 9.2% in the year to September 2023, reports Grace Howarth, Local Democracy Reporter

Domestic abuse
credit Dev Benjamin via Unsplash

Enfield Council has agreed a new domestic abuse policy designed to protect residents from harm – following an increase in offences last year.

Presenting the policy to a cabinet meeting last night (Wednesday 17th) George Savva, cabinet member for social housing, declared the council was “determined” to put an end to domestic abuse and would “work hard” with other agencies to “achieve” the goal.

There were 4,075 domestic abuse incidents in Enfield in the twelve-month period to September 2023, an increase of 1.3% on the previous year, according to a council report. Domestic violence incidents – those with “injury offences” – increased in Enfield by 9.2% year-on-year, from 956 up to 1,044.

The legal definition of domestic abuse includes physical or sexual abuse, violent or threatening behaviour, economic abuse, psychological and emotional abuse, and controlling or coercive behaviour. 

In the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, legal duty is placed on local authorities to provide accommodation-based support to victims and their children. 

Detailing current levels of domestic abuse in the borough, Cllr Savva said: “Tragically over the last twelve months there were 4,075 incidents of domestic abuse in Enfield, that included 1,470 domestic abuse incidents involving Enfield Council tenants.”

Providing more data, he said “nearly 60%” of victims had children and at least one fifth of children in domestic abuse households were injured because of the abuse.

The council report stated domestic abuse was also an “increasing reason for homelessness” with up to 63% of victims having rent arrears and “40% of all homeless women” stating it was a “contributing factor”.

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Cllr Savva set out the council’s approach to support victims and deal with the perpetrators. He said once made aware of an incident, it would be discussed with the victim “within 24 hrs”, with a risk assessment carried out and a safety plan prepared.

The safety plan includes providing welfare, debt and legal advice, making safeguarding referrals where appropriate, and supporting victims in moving to alternative accommodation where appropriate. 

He said where victims want to stay in their homes, as a landlord, the council would have to “improve security” and “carry out repairs” within 24 hrs of the assessment. 

Measures will can be taken against perpetrators include evictions, injunctions, domestic abuse protection notices, a notice given by police to prohibit abuse, and prohibiting contact with victims. 

Cllr Savva said every housing team at the council would have a domestic abuse champion or ambassador, and housing officers would receive specialist training. 

He stated the council would work with the police at “every stage”, treating cases with “urgency”.

Cllr Savva also said the impact of the new policy would be monitored, including via tenant satisfaction surveys, to “ensure victims” knew the council was “on their side” and “help was always available”.

He added the policy was informed by Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance’s framework, by residents via a ten-week consultation, impact assessments, and benchmarking against other local authorities policies.

Abdul Abdullahi, cabinet member for children’s services, asked how children would be supported in these circumstances.

Joanne Drew, the council’s strategic director of housing and regeneration, said: “In all cases we work in a multi-agency way, with children’s services, with the victim to create the best solution.

“We will ensure we take as quick action as we can to reduce the period of time children are exposed to harm, despite the legal processes and that may mean that we may need to agree with the victim, re-housing in the short term is the best solution.”

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