St Helens councillor will make tackling domestic abuse 'a priority' as summit is postponed

There are more than 2,400 incidents of domestic abuse reported to the police in St Helens every year
There are more than 2,400 incidents of domestic abuse reported to the police in St Helens every year

A summit on domestic abuse has been put back due to concerns over its effectiveness, it has been revealed.

There are more than 2,400 incidents of domestic abuse reported to the police in St Helens every year.

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

As part of the re-focus, a summit on domestic abuse was due to take place this week.

It is understood that Coun Jeanie Bell, who recently re-entered the cabinet as part of a re-shuffle, decided to push back the event shortly after taking over the community safety portfolio.

Coun Bell, elected member for Newton-le-Willows, explained the reasons behind the decision at the People’s Board on Wednesday.

“This is going to be one of my priorities for the next year and I want to make sure the summit has a strong work stream attached to it that is very tangible to what we want to achieve and how we want to achieve it,” Coun Bell said.

“I know there were already apologies coming through for availability for agencies to attend, and I really, really strongly feel this needs to be something we do in partnership with as many agencies involved as possible.

“It is a problem and it does need addressing. But it needs to be done properly.

“So, I’ve asked that this is put back so we can make sure that it has the impact that we really need it to have in St Helens.”

It is understood Coun Bell has instructed officers to carry out several pieces of work around domestic abuse in preparation for the re-scheduled summit, which is expected to take place later this year.

On Wednesday, the People’s Board was asked to come up with a co-ordinated response to a government consultation on proposed changes to domestic abuse services.

The consultation paper seeks views on the government’s proposals for a new approach to support victims of domestic abuse and their children in accommodation-based services in England.

Stephen Tracey, the council’s senior assistant director for housing and and safer communities, said it was clear this would place a statutory responsibility on the local authority.

He said the government recognises there will be a funding requirement, but said it is not yet clear to what extent this will be.

Coun Bell told the board she had “significant concerns” around the additional funding that will be required if the changes are made.

“I actually think we do need to take this on board, and it does need to be a priority because it is an issue for St Helens and it’s something we should be taking seriously,” Coun Bell said.

“But as I said I am very concerned about funding on an already stretched service because I want this to have the funding it needs to work properly.”