Buckinghamshire Domestic Violence and Abuse Strategy 2021 to 2024

Last updated: 5 January 2022 Download the strategy (pdf, 1.2 MB)

3. Our strategic priorities

Our overall aim is to end the prevalence of domestic abuse. We want to make sure that the right help, intervention and support is available, that fewer victims and their children reach crisis point, and that any harm caused is significantly reduced or prevented altogether.

In Buckinghamshire we take a Zero Tolerance approach

If we are to realise this vision, domestic abuse must become everyone’s business. This strategy is a call to action for us all over the next three years to work together to make Buckinghamshire a safe place.

The purpose of this strategy is to set out our partnership approach to ending domestic
abuse in Buckinghamshire. It has been developed, and its delivery will be overseen by the Buckinghamshire Domestic Abuse Board, along with being underpinned by a SMART action plan.

It proposes 4 new ongoing priorities, whilst also recognising a strategy must be a living document, flexing to respond to new opportunities and challenges.

These 4 priorities and their commitments are for all people irrespective of gender, gender identity or gender reassignment, age, disability, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, marriage or civil partnership and pregnancy or maternity, whilst recognising the intersectionality of all these characteristics.

This will be reflected within our equalities impact assessments and our action plan.

Our priorities:

  1. Early intervention and prevention
  2. Effective services that meet the needs of victims and their families
  3. Tackling perpetrators to reduce reoffending
  4. Supporting professionals to make a difference

1. Early intervention and prevention

Sadly, domestic abuse continues to be a crime that people do not feel they can report. Individuals and families may live with domestic abuse for a significant period of time and suffer a multitude of incidents before asking for help.

Together, we must change this. We must talk and educate about domestic abuse and look out for our friends, colleagues, neighbours and communities to support victims and reduce the tolerance for behaviour that has lifelong impacts on health and wellbeing.

This priority focuses on prevention and enabling appropriate interventions as early as possible, as well as proactively educating, raising awareness and promoting services.

Commitments under this priority are:

We will be proactive in communications

  • Deliver a programme of public-facing campaigns and culturally relevant communications which raise awareness of abuse in all its forms, how it is everyone’s business and educate on how to get support from local and national services. This will be driven by data to focus on specific locations and populations.
  • White Ribbon seasonal campaigns, Ask Ani codeword schemes and heightened coverage around key sporting events (Such as the Football World Cup ’22). Information will be consistently available in a range of accessible formats and languages, with the use of digital platforms, community and universal settings to offer help or signpost to specialist services.
  • We want anyone affected by domestic abuse to know that it is ok to talk about it and know where to access support - we will listen, we will give you choices, we will support you to be in control.
  • Enable friends, colleagues, family and neighbours to be aware of what domestic abuse is and be confident to reach out to those experiencing it safely and know what services are available locally. Engaging audiences in bystander training.

We want to increase numbers of people disclosing domestic abuse to services (including demographics we believe are most underrepresented). Professionals need to be aware of services available and their referral pathways to support quicker access to help that is needed. We will aid this through cross-agency training.

Ensure a wide range of support is available at the earliest opportunity which can be tailored to individual needs. This will also include ‘during’ and ‘post’ abuse support offers to help rebuild lives through multi-agency working, learning from the innovative pilot in adult social care which sees a multi-agency front door.

Promote and increase the use of the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (Clare’s Law) to allow early identification of potential risk.

A ‘Tell Us Once’ Referral Pathway, limiting the amount of times a victim has to revisit their trauma by retelling their ordeal, as well as developing a Safeguarding Information Sharing agreement between partners across Buckinghamshire.

Prevention Through Engagement in Schools as prevention starts with changing attitudes. Developing a toolkit for primary and secondary schools, delivering positive relationship education with children and young people from an early age in order to raise their awareness, understand healthy relationships (especially those who themselves are in sexual relationships) and to not tolerate unhealthy behaviour.

Develop a comprehensive service map to maintain a clear overview of service provision, to ensure that the development of provision meets changing needs within the community and that we are able to quickly identify any gaps in service.

Empowering victims through ensuring a range of support networks are available for victims and children to access as part of their journey to move forward and recover from domestic abuse. Survivors value peer support groups and programmes; however, they are not widely available.

We will work with businesses to ensure that they have access to employer toolkits and information on how to support staff members who may disclose abuse. All partner organisations on the Domestic Abuse Board will be class leading as an exemplar employer, helping guide the way and ensuring upskilling, education and awareness within their workforce.

Understanding the uniqueness and potential complexities of LGBT+ communities, male victims, minority ethnic groups and other minoritised communities, older adults, children and young people, allowing a better understanding of how abuse may be presented by those individuals and establishing communication tools and best practices to overcome barriers to reporting, ensuring early intervention and referrals to relevant services.

2. Effective services that meet the needs of victims and their families

Domestic abuse has a devastating effect on families, children and our local communities.

With recent government research showing that domestic abuse costs society £66 billion a year, we have a commitment to continue to work together, across all agencies and sectors, to provide effective and fit for purpose services to tackle domestic abuse.

This priority focuses on making sure services across Buckinghamshire are engaged, informed and responsive and are meeting the unique, individual needs of all victims and their families.

Commitments under this priority are:

All agencies will review service provision and support, focusing on reducing barriers to reporting, identifying how best to reach and engage with minority ethnic groups and other minoritised communities and ensuring that support services available meet all the complex needs of victims.

The commissioning and provision of services will be informed by the views of those who have been affected by domestic abuse or are at significant risk of it. Victims are the experts in domestic abuse.

Through our community boards we will be vocal about the issue of domestic abuse. We will give families, friends and colleagues the information and skills they need to support people when they are concerned about them and signpost to where they can get specialist help and support to prevent harm. We welcome working closely with communities to strengthen community enabling and community capacity to support those who have experienced, or are experiencing, domestic abuse.

Take a ‘whole family’ approach – families do not operate in silos so neither should we. Engaging with the whole family means more opportunity to make people safer sooner, including looking at how perpetrators are managed in, or can be removed from, the family dynamic, creating long-term changes not short-term fixes. Where there are signs of abuse including adolescent to parent abuse, we want to ensure that families are supported to address this behaviour. This will be through access to programmes, including a focus on child victims (especially those sexually harmed) for rehabilitation and behavioural change to positively influence adult behaviours. We will also include support programmes for pregnant or postpartum women.

It was clear from speaking to survivors that recovery from abuse is a long and difficult journey, both emotionally and practically. We will continue to develop longer term support mechanisms using the voice of those affected to shape provision. Support services will also look at trauma informed health, welfare and legal options for the whole family, as well as the reflective ‘Distance Travelled’ model to monitor outcomes.

Specialist Support - Provision of services for LGBT+ communities, male victims, minority ethnic groups and other minoritised communities, older adults and those in need of, or receiving social care support. We will provide services from an expert understanding of the victims’ unique needs, understanding and overcoming barriers to reporting, to facilitate and engage with effective, long- term support.

Understand the needs of those who need access to safe accommodation and ensure a wide range of safe accommodation options are available for victims, survivors and their children, including collaboration with registered providers to help facilitate urgent moves and management transfers for both those within Buckinghamshire and whose original residence was located out of county. DLUHC define Relevant and Safe Accommodation as:

  • Refuge accommodation
  • Specialist safe accommodation for BAME, LGBTQ+, and disabled victims and their children
  • Dispersed Accommodation
  • Sanctuary Schemes
  • Move-on and second stage accommodation
  • Other forms of domestic abuse emergency accommodation

Complete a comprehensive needs analysis of housing (refreshed at least every 3 years) which includes a focus on economic abuse and housing – where research has highlighted specific examples relating to mortgages and other debts secured to private owned property.

All victims of domestic abuse will be prioritised as high risk under the housing priority need (not related to DASH risk grading) using the Whole Housing Approach component parts. We will also explore what provisions are currently available in Buckinghamshire and identify gaps.

3. Tackling perpetrators to reduce reoffending

In Buckinghamshire between 2020-21 there were 3,212 recorded domestic abuse perpetrators. This is a 13% increase on the 2,839 of the same period the previous year.

72% of perpetrators of known gender were male (aligning with the disproportionate 71% of victims being female) and 64% of perpetrators of known age were 40 years old or under. Perpetrators can be children as well as adults and research and local professionals tell us that teen-to-parent and teen-to-teen domestic abuse occurs locally, highlighting the need for education and behavioural rehabilitation.

Without a focus on the perpetrators we will not be able to prevent domestic abuse or effectively maintain safety for victims. It is vital that we understand more about perpetrators if we are to understand how to prevent abuse and change their behaviour. It is also important to understand that some victims do not see themselves as victims, and that victim engagement, education and support is critical in tackling perpetrators and reducing reoffending.

There is limited evidence for this area of work however best practice will be sought from criminal justice agencies and research and academic evaluation.

Commitments under this priority are:

Develop a multi-agency (risk management) approach to working with perpetrators to reduce and prevent repeat domestic abuse, including increasing the number of cases that progress through the criminal justice system.

Develop an improved approach to dealing with perpetrators which includes equipping frontline professionals with the skills to engage and work with them.

Work with probation services to gain valuable insight from their expertise and experiences, utilising this information to adapt and inform current and new perpetrator prevention services.

Address the issue of perpetrator plans being seen as a ‘quick fix’ and raise awareness that real change comes from getting to the source of offending. Increase referrals both voluntary and compulsory into perpetrator plans and raise awareness of ‘disguised compliance’ where a perpetrator may go along with a risk reduction plan for an ulterior motive (such as securing child visitation).

Go further in working with perpetrators in both prevention and bringing them to justice. This includes engaging with victims and offering support services around providing police with statements and securing support of police/criminal action, as without this, criminal charges can be difficult to achieve.

Review and increase the use of protection orders, including Domestic Violence Protection Orders, FGM Protection Orders and Forced Marriage Protection Orders, as an effective tool for limiting perpetrators’ actions. Along with this look at perpetrator accommodation policies to avoid unnecessary rehousing of victims and minimise risk of orders being breached due to perpetrators being of ‘No Fixed Abode.’

Promote and increase the use of the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (Clare’s Law).

Work with schools to educate early on acceptable relationships behaviours, family dynamics and an understanding of where support services are available.

Work with minority ethnic groups and other minoritised communities, groups and cultures to increase perpetrator engagement, through understanding of perpetrator circumstances and causes, but also through education, increased awareness and a reduction of risk to individuals to identify, challenge and report abusive behaviour without fear.

Raise awareness of abuse pertaining to Family Courts and work with service providers for victim care around the Family Courts process. The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 highlights new legislation that perpetrators cannot cross-examine victims in Family Court, however abuse outside of the Family Court environment can still take place, such as harassment, threats and coercive behaviour around child visitation and child custody. We will explore ways to improve the criminal justice pathway and court room experience, including family court, in line with the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime and New Witness Charter

Work with all services that have regular contact with victims and survivors of domestic abuse to ensure that they are systematically assessing risk and are using the preferred risk assessment tool: DASH RIC. We will ensure that services take up appropriate training in risk assessment and have a good understanding of how to respond, including the aforementioned proposed Safeguarding Information Sharing agreement between partners across Buckinghamshire.

Undertake work to ensure compliance with the Safe Lives national quality assurance framework for MARACs, with the aim of developing a more systematic approach to the identification of who is at risk, what risks they face and from whom, and how the risk can be reduced or removed.

Explore options to address the needs of women offenders with a history of domestic abuse. This will include the consideration of community-based alternatives to a custodial sentence to divert vulnerable women away from crime and tackle the root causes of their offending.

4. Supporting professionals to make a difference

This priority focuses on strengthening collaboration and improving the way we work together. This includes ensuring frontline professionals work together well with local authority services and local charities to safeguard children, young people and adults.

Domestic abuse ties in to a number of other elements and offences, including substance misuse. The relationship between domestic abuse and substance misuse is a complex one, both for perpetrators as a cause or catalyst to abuse, and victims as a coping mechanism for the suffering experienced. It will be important to understand the links with substance misuse to domestic abuse, poor mental and physical health, as well as the impact on surrounding family, taking steps to address these.

We will promote a more cohesive approach to tackling domestic abuse, working together to achieve our collective aims. It is important that we proactively approach integrated, cross-agency working across all services and sectors.

Commitments under this priority are:

All agencies to reaffirm their commitment to working together to provide co-leadership, pool resources, and take a more strategic and effective response in meeting our collective aims.

Senior leaders across the sectors will become Domestic Abuse Champions signalling their intent and helping to convey the aspirations within this document back to their organisations. We will also increase the diversity within the champions scheme to reflect the diversity of those affected by domestic abuse.

Agencies and professionals need to feel equipped to handle disclosures of domestic abuse sensitively to minimise the risk to the victim. We will be committed to cross-agency training to enable domestic abuse to be identified and responded to swiftly. We will work together to have multi-agency workshops as well as cross-agency scenario-based training that challenges harmful attitudes, language and behaviour. We will promote both online based and evidenced based training for key stakeholders and frontline workers, to better equip frontline professionals with the skills required. We will work with DWP and other agencies to provide training and information on financial abuse and how to identify and support those at risk.

Look at training for all key partners and agencies to understand the uniqueness and potential complexities of LGBT+ communities, male victims, minority ethnic groups and other minoritised communities, older adults, children and young people, allowing a better understanding of how abuse may be presented by those individuals and establishing communication tools and best practices to overcome barriers to reporting, ensuring safe referral to effective and relevant services.

Tackle the root causes of domestic abuse to break the cycle. Victims, perpetrators and their children need to be identified early and provided with the appropriate level of support to break cycles of domestic abuse and overcome the impact it has on their lives. We will focus on prevention and early intervention to decrease demand on crisis services (and in the short term maximise rapid response services that are available) utilising a multi-agency reporting dashboard to identify where services may be at capacity and need further support.

Improving systems – Every contact counts and we will make sure that when requests come in about keeping children or adults safe they get shared with the right people as early as possible. We will improve coordination particularly on high-risk cases and cases with multiple incidents, utilising a cross-agency case management system, alongside the aforementioned proposed Safeguarding Information Sharing agreement between partners across Buckinghamshire.

Continue streamlining victim pathways which are fully understood by all frontline staff and can support all victims without prejudice. This will include the creation of a ‘Tell Us Once’ referral pathway; a single referral pathway minimising risk of cases and multiple/repeat incidents being missed and reducing the number of times someone has to revisit their trauma as they tell their story. This will allow effective triaging and help ensure timely, responsive delivery of services, which will be aided by specialist Domestic Abuse Triage Officers.

Both children’s social care and adults social care highlight the prevalence of domestic abuse in the referrals they receive. We will work with social workers to understand missed opportunities and identify where abuse isn’t being identified, reported or referred, to affect positive changes.

Give staff in all key agencies better tools, advice and understanding to carry out effective safety planning, risk management (DASH assessment tool) and support work with the families they are already involved with. Ensuring people understand when it is right to refer on or to work together, empowering families to be resilient and independent.

Survivors have advised us of barriers preventing access to services that we need to respond to. We will collectively identify and act on the gaps in service provision from the needs assessment with an additional focus on those with protected characteristics.

A victim’s story is more powerful than numbers. We will continue to capture survivors’ voices and constantly learn from their experiences.