Lewisham Council
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Agenda item

Violence against women and girls

Decision:

Resolved: to note the report and to receive additional information about familial abuse.

Minutes:

Geeta Subramaniam-Mooney (Head of Crime Reduction and Supporting People) introduced the report; the following key points were noted:

 

  • Lewisham previously had the highest reported levels of domestic violence in the country.
  • The Safer Lewisham Partnership had made the reduction of domestic violence a priority and had focused resources on a range of initiatives, including; a specialist domestic violence court, individual domestic violence advocates, multi-agency risk assessment conferences (MARAC), victim support and refuges.
  • In response to the broader context of inequality and violence facing women and girls; the government and the Mayor of London had developed violence against women and girls (VAWG) strategies which included plans to eliminate:
    • Domestic violence
    • Rape and sexual violence
    • Prostitution and trafficking
    • Sexual exploitation
    • Female genital mutilation (FGM)
    • Forced marriage
    • Honor based violence
    • Stalking and harassment

 

  • In Lewisham, it was recognised that there was good information and data about domestic violence but there was a lack of information in the majority of the other areas.
  • Lewisham had piloted the Multi Agency Sexual Exploitation (MASE) conference to improve coordination between agencies. The learning from this pilot had now been adopted by all London boroughs.
  • Lewisham had also commissioned Imkaan (an organisation committed to tackling violence against women and girls) to review the borough’s violence against women and girls strategy and make recommendations for improvements.
  • As a result of the consultation, a new combined service was being created to develop a single approach to tackling VAWG in the borough.

 

In response to questions from the Committee, the following key points were noted:

 

  • A tendering process for the new service was underway. The new combined service would start in April next year.
  • No decision had been taken about the location of the new service. There were no particular domestic violence hot spots in the borough. Crimes were distributed across Lewisham.
  • The new service would be required to find its own premises; however there would be an expectation that it would have a presence at Lewisham Police station – which was a considerable source of referrals.
  • The service would support all victims, including boys and men.
  • There had been 49 responses to the consultation on the violence against women and girls strategy. There was concern that this number was low. However, it should be noted that there were only 69 responses to the Mayor of London’s violence against women and girls strategy consultation, so in comparison the response to the Lewisham consultation was good.
  • The review highlighted some gaps in the provision of support services in Lewisham. Of particular concern was the experience some victims identified of approaching agencies for support and not being believed.
  • It was proposed that the new organisation would develop an approach to prevention and awareness raising - as well as initiatives to encourage healthy relationships.
  • There had been five reviews into domestic homicides in the previous two and a half years, which highlighted a number of issues but also enabled Lewisham to consider the combined dangers of poor mental health, substance misuse and violence.
  • There was no straightforward definition of what constituted a gang.
  • There had been a shift in Lewisham from street gangs of school age children (who fought over territory and status) to looser groupings of young adults that operated as ‘criminal cliques’.
  • The primary focus of these groups was to run unregulated drug businesses. They used violence to support their businesses as part of their association with wider criminal networks.
  • Much of the violence against gang associated girls was hidden.
  • Support for gang associated girls was not a separate strand of the VAWG agenda.
  • Anecdotally it seemed that there had been an increase in the numbers of women associated with gangs as perpetrators.
  • The new VAWG service would focus on three priorities – domestic violence, sexual abuse and rape as well as child sexual exploitation.
  • Dealing with gang related sexual violence would not be part of the contract for the new service, but the service would work to support people who were experiencing issues in any of the strand areas.
  • The challenge for the police was dealing with the changing nature of criminal activity – some of the young people found to be involved in drug running for criminal groups were unknown to any agency and had no previous contact with police, meaning that their involvement was hidden.
  • A range of early intervention, awareness raising and prevention work had been carried out in the borough. There was no single programme. Lewisham had worked with the police service to pilot the ‘Heart’ project, which focused on developing healthy relationships. Officers continued to build on this work.
  • The DV MARAC in Lewisham enabled a comprehensive package of support to be put in place for victims and their families.
  • It was recognised that suffering abuse or witnessing violence at an early age was damaging to development.
  • Work had been carried out with the nurse family partnership to support vulnerable parents and children.
  • Officers in the Children and Young People directorate had responsibility for looked after children. Lewisham and its partners worked well together to ensure that there were good routes into services for young people at risk.
  • Training with foster carers also took place to prevent placements breaking down.
  • It was important to remember that young people in care were not ‘trouble makers’. There was an unhelpful tendency for people to think that all looked after young people were problematic, which was not the case.
  • Lewisham offered a menu of training and support options for schools to take up. Each school that wanted support had a bespoke offer.
  • There was variability in the take up of support in schools. Schools were being asked to manage intervention programmes and risks from a range of different sources. It would be useful to determine what might constitute a good offer to schools and what might be seen as a reasonable level of uptake.
  • Parents teachers and pupils were all targets of work in schools.
  • The Council was supporting a new peer advocacy project ‘Parents Standing Together’ lead by the parents of victims to support other parents and young people, which it was hoped, would be an effective way to spread the message.
  • The Council and its partners were working with faith and community groups locally to challenge perceptions and build on the ambitions of the VAWG plan.
  • It was recognised that there was some hidden violence committed by older children against their parents, which was an increasing problem as older children moved back in with their parents because of the lack of affordable housing.

 

Resolved: to note the report and to receive additional information about familial abuse.

Supporting documents: