Council domestic abuse policy ‘making real difference’ to victims
A zero tolerance domestic abuse policy introduced by West Dunbartonshire Council has made a difference to the lives of 130 victims in its first year.
No Home for Domestic Abuse introduced a range of support for victims including immediate access to practical help and legal assistance following any instance of violence in a council home.
Using anti-social behaviour powers and housing legislation, the council campaign also supports victims to remain in their home, while the perpetrator is removed and stopped from returning.
In total, 130 people have been supported by the initiative, including 8 men, in the year since it was launched.
A number of victims were assisted with changed locks, while others requested to be moved and were successfully relocated within West Dunbartonshire.
A significant number contacted the team for advice only, and were provided with information about their options.
Due to personal circumstance, some victims took the decision not to proceed with any action, but received advice and assistance about their rights in the future.
The new policy saw the council remove six perpetrators from homes following intervention.
The scheme also provided support to help a perpetrator make positive changes, after he recognised his behaviour following the launch of No Home for Domestic Abuse.
West Dunbartonshire Council is the first authority in Scotland to introduce such robust measures to combat domestic abuse – but more than half of authorities in Scotland have requested information with a view to introducing it in their area.
Councillor Diane Docherty, convener of housing and communities, said: “The way in which this has helped some of our most at-risk residents is such an achievement and something we can all be proud of.
“These changes in our policy have supported people to change or escape from dangerous and often life-threatening situations.
“We have also had more than half of all Scottish local authorities consider adopting the scheme, so we are kick-starting progress on a national scale.”
Councillor Caroline McAllister, vice convener of housing and communities, and also West Dunbartonshire Council’s Violence Against Women Champion, added: “This scheme was launched in reaction to the high instances of domestic violence in West Dunbartonshire. The number of people helped in just one year of the No Home for Domestic Abuse campaign shows how far reaching the policy is.
“We are still working as hard as ever towards ending domestic violence in our area, including with our domestic abuse summits due to be held later this year. Educating people on what constitutes domestic abuse is key and this is part of our focus for these events, as well as showing people who to turn to if they suspect somebody they know if being abused.
“There’s still more work to be done but West Dunbartonshire Council will continue to work with or partner authorities to combat this scourge on our area.”
The initiative was launched in partnership with Police Scotland, Women’s Aid and the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA).
One victim – a mother-of-three – has shared her experience of the support she received through the policy following an incident of domestic abuse in her home.
The 27-year-old said: “My partner was having problems with alcohol and drugs, and had been violent in the past. This particular time last September, it was worse. I just knew I had to do something, because I was frightened at how far he had gone. He didn’t live with me but he knew where we were and I just didn’t feel safe anymore.
“I was lucky enough to have a good relationship with my health visitor, and told her what had happened. It was through her that I became involved in the council’s scheme. I’m so glad as I didn’t know where to turn to. I had actually seen details about the scheme when ti launched but I didn’t realise how much it could help in practical ways.
“The officer I spoke to was brilliant with me. She explained everything, and all the different options available to me. Just having someone there that could answer my questions was great as before I felt like I was up against a brick wall and I wasn’t sure where to turn.
“If anyone out there is struggling with domestic violence I would really recommend getting in touch with the council for help. Within a week of contacting, I had keys to a new home which meant me and my kids could feel safe. That was the right choice for me but I know they also offer lock-changing and security cameras, as well as removing the person responsible for violence from the home. Even if you don’t feel comfortable going forward with that type of support, the one-t-one advice is so helpful. I am really grateful for the team’s assistance.”