Councillors to look at spending on support for domestic abuse victims

The outcry after domestic abuse charity RISE lost a key council contract has spurred councillors to secure closer oversight of new spending on support for victims of domestic abuse and violence.

Hove Town Hall

The move comes after Brighton and Hove City Council was awarded £606,000 by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The money is to enable the council fulfil its new duties under the Domestic Abuse Act.

The new law requires councils in England to provide support to people experiencing domestic abuse, and their children, including refuges and other safe accommodation.

Councils are also required to prepare a “needs assessment” and publish a local strategy by Saturday August 21.

A Brighton and Hove council committee asked for a report next month detailing spending so far so that they can debate how best to allocate the rest of the money.

Councillor Simson said that the furore surrounding how RISE lost a key contract – with the council, East Sussex County Council and the Office of the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner – would not have happened if a cross-party working group that should have monitored the recommissioning process had been set up.

She said: “We know what has happened before regarding the recommissioning of services in the city. We don’t want anything like that to happen again.

“We want everything to be out in the open so people are fully aware of how this money is being spent and what is it being spent on.

“That would have happened if we’d had the cross-party working group before the recommissioning. That didn’t happen – and we can’t go back.

“We want to make sure members involved in this have complete oversight.”

Councillor Simson asked about £50,000 going to the Pan Sussex Partnership which includes the city council, other councils and the Office of the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner.

The government gave the money to the council and it paid for officials’ time, including a project team which carried out the “needs assessment” and the drawing up of a strategy.

It also helped to provide support to landlords to enable them to gain accreditation so that they were eligible to provide services and a place to stay for victims of domestic abuse.

The council’s head of safer communities, Jo Player, said: “I have made it very clear to the project team that, in relation to Brighton and Hove, I expect that they involve third sector providers such as RISE.

“I have requested that work is done with all providers in the city and not just those that are commissioned.”

At the start of the meeting, during public questions, a RISE campaigner asked about the lack of refuge beds in Brighton and Hove.

Later, Labour councillor Amanda Grimshaw echoed those concerns and asked: “Are there any other refuge providers other than Stonewater that have refuge accommodation in the city?”

She asked how quickly another refuge could be set up and running if one was needed.

Councillor Grimshaw was told that RISE has some refuge spaces in Brighton and Hove in addition to the Stonewater refuge.

The committee was told that RISE would be involved in the needs assessment, which would also involve officials speaking with individuals and a wide variety of local organisations.

Councillors allocated £25,000 so that a policy could be drawn up for the commissioning and oversight of domestic violence and abuse services.

In July, councillors are expected to receive options for spending the remaining £581,000 government grant money at a special sub-committee meeting.