Pan-Sussex Strategy for Domestic Abuse Accommodation and Support 2021-2024
Consistent and collaborative
Promoting partnership working and co-production with survivors to ensure consistent support across Sussex
The need for improved consistency in service offers, approaches and data collection across the county, as well as the benefits of multi-agency collaboration, were common themes discussed by stakeholders. Creating a more consistent offer of services across England and Wales is also a key priority of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, Nicole Jacobs:
“The (DA) Act sets out my legal powers which I will use to support all victims across England and Wales by first tackling the ‘postcode lottery’ of services.”
The key inconsistencies and gaps identified throughout Sussex are summarised in the table below and will be discussed in more detail throughout the Strategy.
Table 3: Inconsistencies and gaps in Sussex
|Service provision||Inconsistency/gap||Local authority area|
|Refuge||Refuge considering referrals from survivors with multiple complex needs||West Sussex|
|Refuge with disability support, including wheelchair access and equipment for deaf survivors||Pan-Sussex|
|Refuge considering referrals from survivors with No Recourse to Public Funds||West Sussex|
|Refuge considering referrals from transgender survivors||West Sussex|
|Refuge accommodating larger families||Pan-Sussex|
|Specialist accommodation||LGBTQ+ specialist accommodation|
|Male domestic abuse specialist accommodation||Pan-Sussex|
|Specialist accommodation for survivors with multiple complex needs||Pan-Sussex|
|Specialist accommodation for survivors from minoritised ethnic groups||Pan-Sussex|
|Other accommodation options||Dispersed/Self-contained accommodation||Pan-Sussex|
|Sanctuary Scheme||Brighton & Hove|
|Short-term respite accommodation||West Sussex and Brighton & Hove|
|Appropriate move-on accommodation||Pan-Sussex|
|Children and young person specialist worker||East Sussex|
|Whole family intervention||East Sussex and Brighton & Hove|
|Availability of in-person assessments for housing and support services||Pan-Sussex|
|Availability of interpreters and British Sign Language easily available for housing and support services||Pan-Sussex|
|Training||Trauma-informed approach training||Pan-Sussex|
|Awareness training on marginalised groups, including No Recourse to Public Funds||Pan-Sussex|
- Inconsistencies and gaps in service provision across Sussex should be addressed to reflect local demand and needs, in line with national policies and initiatives.
The needs assessment highlighted inconsistency in case management systems and data collection. At least six different case management systems are currently used by district and borough councils in Sussex. This made it challenging to easily compare and fully understand service provision and demand in Sussex. Data on referrals was often contained in individual case files which needed a manual check. There was also a lack of available data relating to domestic abuse from health partners.
To improve future needs assessments and provide a stronger evidence base, more standardisation in data collection is required. Establishing clear reporting requirements, including the collection of data on protected characteristics such as LGBTQ+ and disability status, introducing unique client identifiers and developing information sharing agreements would assist in both improving consistency and monitoring victims/survivors as they move between services.
- The consistency and quality of data collection must be improved across all services by establishing clear reporting requirements which include protected characteristics, unique client identifiers and pragmatic data sharing agreements.
Stakeholder engagement reinforced the benefits of collaboration and partnership working in improving consistency and ensuring a holistic approach to supporting victims/survivors of domestic abuse. In Sussex, arrangements for the provision of domestic abuse and sexual violence services are currently managed in partnership by Brighton & Hove and East Sussex local authorities but co-commissioned with the Police & Crime Commissioner and Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). West Sussex County Council commissions refuge services but does not commission a community service, as this is provided ‘in house’. The Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) commissions many services on a pan-Sussex as well as individual basis, including stalking and sexual violence service contracts. The joint delivery of this Strategy by the OSPCC, the Tier One and Tier Two authorities in East and West Sussex reflects the importance of partnership working for the benefit of victims/survivors across Sussex.
Partnership working and collaboration is seen operationally through the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) held regularly by each Tier One local authority in Sussex.
“The MARAC leads multi-agency safety planning for high-risk victims of domestic abuse. It brings together the police, independent domestic abuse advisers, children’s social services, health, social landlords and other relevant agencies. They share information and write a safety plan for each victim and family, which may include actions by any agency present. The housing authority should be consistently represented at the MARAC and encourage relevant social landlords to also be represented.”
Feedback indicated that in East Sussex, housing authority representatives do not regularly attend MARAC, although they do attend when cases known to them are discussed. In Brighton & Hove and West Sussex, housing representatives attend each MARAC for the whole duration of the meeting. To be consistent and ensure that expert housing advice is available when it is needed, housing officers should attend each MARAC.
- Housing Teams must be regularly represented at MARAC, alongside other relevant organisations.
Collaboration is also fundamental in the development of procedures and service models to ensure they are efficient, consistent and led by expertise. Specialist domestic abuse services told us that the quality of response to domestic abuse is highly varied between housing teams across Sussex, with some areas creating artificial barriers for victims/survivors in accessing support. This finding highlights the need for collaboratively agreed and actioned processes or approaches, which will be supported by the creation of the Domestic Abuse Partnership Board.
One example of collaboration in Sussex is the development of a consistent and trauma-informed move-on procedure between East Sussex housing authorities and Refuge, which ensures the best outcomes for victims/survivors leaving Refuge. Sussex is also in the process of co-locating Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs) at housing authorities to promote more collaboration. IDVAs and housing officers may still disagree about whether a victim/survivor should remain in area or move away, but overall, this measure would ensure dedicated domestic abuse knowledge is available during the housing application process.
In a bid to promote a more holistic approach, under Part 4 of the Domestic Abuse Act, local authorities must also have regard to other related areas of work, such as community safety, safeguarding, housing and homelessness and Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG), to name a few.
In Sussex, there have been several recent joint funding applications to promote the safety of and reduction in violence towards women and girls including the government’s Changing Futures programme and Safer Streets Fund round 3. Please see Appendix 1 for more information about these bids.
- Sussex local authorities should promote collaboration in the development of procedures and service models, including move-on pathways and co-located IDVAs. Wherever practical, Sussex authorities should look for opportunities to jointly commission or align the commissioning of domestic abuse safe accommodation and support, to ensure consistency and value for money.
Partnership working and collaboration must include the voices of victims/survivors themselves, ensuring that their feedback and experiences are incorporated at all stages of service design, delivery, implementation and monitoring. As a first step, Sussex local authorities have recently recruited a Community Development Officer who will be responsible for developing a joint Lived Experience Board to meaningfully engage with, and advise, the Pan-Sussex Domestic Abuse Partnership Board. This Lived Experience Board must incorporate the experiences of victims/survivors from a range of backgrounds and with varied protected characteristics.
- Victims/survivors must be able to actively participate in the design and commissioning of domestic abuse safe accommodation and support services, for example through the Lived Experience Board.