St Helens Council urged to seek more funding to tackle domestic abuse

CounJeanie Bell
CounJeanie Bell

Council chiefs will be asked to write to the Home Office to demand more funding to tackle domestic abuse in St Helens.

Coun Jeanie Bell, St Helens Council cabinet member for community safety, has submitted a motion calling for numerous actions around domestic abuse.

This comes after Coun Bell said addressing domestic abuse would be one of her portfolio’s priorities for the coming year.

One of her first actions since taking over the portfolio in May was to postpone a planned domestic abuse summit following concerns over its effectiveness.

The People’s Board, a multi-agency committee made up of numerous organisations, has highlighted domestic abuse as a priority issue for St Helens.

In June, Coun Bell told the People’s Board that she had “significant concerns” around the additional funding that will be required if the government presses ahead with proposed changes to domestic abuse services.

The proposals are for a new approach to support victims of domestic abuse and their children in accommodation-based services in England.

While Coun Bell welcomes the proposals, the change would place a statutory responsibility on local authorities that are already cut to the bone.

“It is hugely important,” Coun Bell said. “It’s a good move in terms of making sure people who are suffering domestic abuse don’t end up homeless.

“My big concern is that there’s no confirmed funding for that.

“We’ve got quite comprehensive services around refuge and places that are available.

“But there are issues around Universal Credit, there are issues around people who are leaving abuse family relationships with the children who may not be entitled to benefits because of the household incomes that they’ve got.

“Universal Credit then holds that up, so there’s already issues around the benefits system and refuges anyway.

“We definitely need to be providing that accommodation as and when it’s needed at the point when it’s needed, but the government has to fund it and it needs to recognise that it needs funding.”

Coun Bell’s motion, which will be considered at full council next Wednesday, will call on the council to write to the Home Secretary to demand additional funding to support essential housing provision for victims of domestic abuse.

It will also commit the council to work towards delivering a comprehensive, “whole council” approach to domestic abuse.

The current domestic abuse strategy was approved in February 2018 and was intended to run until 2023.

However, it is intended that the new strategy will replace this.

Coun Bell said it is crucial that any strategy that is developed is able to have a “lasting impact”.

For that to happen, the necessary support needs to be provided by central government.

“What frustrates me at the minute is that everything seems to be a bit half-hearted,” Coun Bell said.

“There’s lots of politicians nationally saying the things that people want to hear, but there’s no actual infrastructure behind it, which again is some of my frustration when I’ve come into this portfolio.
“I don’t want it to be piecemeal. If we’re going to put a strategy together and we’re going to do work properly, then it needs to be thorough and it needs to leave a lasting change and a lasting impact.

“Because we can’t keep dealing with things like this half-hearted.”