The Interim Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change, submitted a report, the purpose of which was to seek approval to bring the drop-in provision and floating support / support in the community elements of Bridgend County Borough Council’s (BCBC) funded domestic abuse provision in-house, to be delivered directly by BCBC and develop a new needs led first point of contact / support in the community service for victims of domestic abuse that will be delivered in house by staff employed by BCBC.
She explained that BCBC currently funds a range of domestic abuse services through an externally commissioned contract. This was the Integrated Domestic Abuse Services contract, as highlighted in paragraph 3.1 of the report.
Following previous approval from Cabinet on 17th September 2019 to continue service delivery, the current Integrated Domestic Abuse Services contract expires on 30 April 2021. There was no further scope to extend the existing contract. Arrangements are required to be put into place to improve accessibility and reduce duplication of services for those living and working in Bridgend. Longer term, there was a commitment to explore the modelling and commissioning of regional services across the Cwm Taf Morgannwg Region and Bridgend.
In addition to the above services, BCBC also directly employed three Independent Domestic Violence Advocates (IDVAs), who work alongside the external provider of the Integrated Domestic Abuse Services contract as part of the ‘Assia Suite’.
The Interim Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change, advised that, provision for victims of domestic abuse is key in meeting BCBC’s duties under the Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015 (“the VAWDASV Act”). As detailed in the report, the current externally commissioned contract will come to an end on 30 April 2021. Bridgend now came within the revised Cwm Taf Morgannwg regional footprint and as such scope for regional planning and commissioning is in its infancy. It is noted that there are areas of concern in relation to the current delivery model in Bridgend and that this needs to change to ensure victims are in receipt of the best services possible.
She continued by advising, that in line with the VAWDASV Act and subsequent commissioning guidance an independent assessment of need was commissioned in 2019 by Safer Merthyr Tydfil on behalf of the Bridgend VAWDASV partnership, the Bridgend VAWDASV Needs Assessment, to help inform need and future commissioning. In addition, a second piece of independent work was completed in early 2020, which reviewed the strengths and weaknesses of existing provision, the Review of the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence services in Bridgend, commissioned by BCBC.
The Interim Head of Finance, Performance and Change, stated that both the needs assessment and the review of existing provision, were carried out by the same Independent Domestic Abuse Consultant. The next sections of the report, gave further information that was collated as a result of this, including in respect of the Assia Suite. As could be seen from the findings, this suggested that further improvements could be made in the provision delivered through the Assia Suite.
In order to help address these issues and to be able to deliver a needs led, consistent and high quality service, it was proposed that the IDVA and current externally commissioned drop-in provision and floating support in the community teams are brought together to form a holistic, trauma informed qualified and experienced team that is managed in-house by BCBC. The next part of the report, outlined some of the benefits such a proposal would bring about.
In order to facilitate this change, staff from the externally commissioned provider would be transferred to BCBC in line with TUPE arrangements to create a new team, alongside the existing IDVA staff.
It should be noted that this proposal only related to the Assia Suite elements of existing provision; a separate commissioning exercise will be undertaken for the other elements of the existing domestic abuse provision, including accommodation based services / refuge and provision to children and young people. This exercise will allow for continued service delivery of these elements from 1st May 2021.
The proposed in-house service will be established in line with the sector specialist quality standards to maximise safety and access to support for victims. In-house provision and subsequently commissioned services will be expected to demonstrate adherence to the relevant standards.
The proposed service will be delivered in house whilst the discussions outlined in sections 4.29 to 4.31 of the report, in relation to a regional approach to commissioning are undertaken.
The Cabinet Member – Future Generations and Wellbeing advised that it was a sad fact that domestic abuse was on the increase and that this report, brings forward some proposals that will assist in addressing the problem. She added the recommendations made also arose from independent reviews and the Council would be working with partners in the coming weeks and months to address other recommendations in the review, such as the Council’s offer of support to a wider group of individuals, such as BAME and the location of services. There would be an expansion of the current support services provided. The Cabinet Member – Future Generations and Wellbeing thanked the Police and Crime Commissioner for his input and feedback on this initiative also, which had helped shape the report and its recommendations.
This was echoed by the Cabinet Member – Communities, as Chairperson of the Community Safety Partnership. He stated that unfortunately, domestic abuse had increased since the pandemic had been in being. He added that the Police and Crime Commissioner had been complimentary of the Council’s current direction of travel in putting more robust processes and procedures in place to help people who were subjected to all kinds of domestic abuse.
The Leader advised that it was important to note, that the report was the first in a series of actions that would be pursued, to improve the avenues of support that were presently available. Cabinet would await further reports, in respect of the continued re-modelling of services to best meet the needs of sufferers. The Council would continue to engage with its stakeholders to take the service further forward.
RESOLVED: That Cabinet:
1. Approved bringing the drop in provision and floating support/support in the community service, which is currently part of the Integrated Domestic Abuse Services contract in-house.
2. Approved the development of a new needs led first point of contact/support in the community (including the drop-in and floating support/support in the community service, out-reach surgeries) services for victims of domestic abuse that will be delivered in-house by staff employed by BCBC.