There is not enough money in the system to fund domestic abuse services, and some services have been overwhelmed with cases, a meeting heard.
A Domestic Abuse Safe Accommodation Needs Assessment was presented to Central Bedfordshire Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board (October 27). This assessment is one of the council's legislative duties set out by the Domestic Abuse Act.
Joy Piper, strategic manager for domestic abuse and responsible individual for children’s homes, who presented a summary of the report, told the board there is a "huge amount" of under-reporting of domestic abuse incidents, both locally and nationally.
However, the number of reported cases has increased over the last three years, she said.
"During this year some of our voluntary sector has said to us that they have never seen this amount of contacts and approaches for support.
"Some have had to pause their case list because they don't have the staff to cope," she added.
Celia Shohet, assistant director of public health at the council, said: “You said one of the barriers to seeking help is the waiting list and the time it takes to get help. I think we're absolutely doing the right thing by encouraging people to come forward, but there could be an issue there, couldn't there?”
Ms Piper replied that there are national services that provide help locally, and it is important that the council has a tiered pathway,
“So that we can offer what's out there and someone will be able to choose what's relevant to them”, she said, adding that front-line professionals should know where support is available and how to signpost to it.
“Our voluntary and charity sector has, over the past year, come together a lot more than they've done previously.
“So they would be able to say ‘my waitlist is closed, but I do know another support service that could be really fantastic for you, are you happy with me with your consent to refer you?’
“So we are doing some referrals between agencies that we've not done before.”
Ms Shohet said: “I know that many domestic abuse support and services are not funded on a very sustainable basis, has that changed at all?
Ms Piper said: “Some of our voluntary and charity sectors are funded on a yearly basis, which isn't particularly sustainable.
"When you get your confidence and you get the residents to understand your service, you’re then going into a funding cycle again asking for grant funding.
“There is not enough money in the system for domestic abuse, and that has been the case for decades.
“But we do have a little bit more coming into the system due to the Domestic Abuse Act this year and for the next three years than we had before in the local authority.
“So, this does give us a window of opportunity where we can commission for the areas that we haven't got provision for at the moment.”