Agenda item

Report of the Head of Communities (SC/21/3) providing an outline of the New Statutory Duties on Local Authorities arising from the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 and a proposed Strategy, attached.

 

The Corporate Infrastructure and Regulatory Services Scrutiny Committee had at its meeting on 23 September 2021 considered the Report of the Head of Communities (SC/21/1) on the delivery of the Council’s statutory duty under Part 4 of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, (Minute 13 referred) and subsequently RESOLVED that the Report be commended to Cabinet, subject to (a) Devon County Council be asked to sign up to the employer’s initiative on domestic abuse, and encourage partners to do the same; and (b) Outcome 2 objectives refer to needing a multi-agency approach that should specifically include employers and trade unions.

Decision:

RESOLVED

 

(a) that the draft Strategy for Domestic Abuse Support in Safe Accommodation in Devon 2021 be approved; and

 

(b) that delegated authority be given to the Head of Communities, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Public Health, Communities and Equality, to implement the Strategy, including reporting to Government.

Minutes:

(Councillors Biederman, Brazil, Dewhirst, Hannaford, Hodgson and Whitton attended in accordance with Standing Order 25(2) and spoke to this item).

 

The Cabinet considered Report of the Head of Communities (SC/21/3) which provided an outline of the New Statutory Duties on Local Authorities arising from the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 and a proposed Strategy, the Report having been circulated prior to the meeting in accordance with regulation 7(4) of the Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Meetings and Access to Information) (England) Regulations 2012.

 

The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 came into force on 29 April 2021 and included a wide range of provisions intended to raise awareness and understanding about the devastating impact of domestic abuse on victims and their families. The Act placed a duty on upper tier local authorities in England to provide accommodation-based support to victims of domestic abuse and their children in refuges and other safe accommodation. In order to deliver this, upper tier authorities had to carry out a needs assessment and develop and publish a strategy by the end of October 2021. Local Authorities also had to create a Domestic Abuse Local Partnership Board with a minimum representative membership, as set out in the Act. The role of the Partnership Board was to support and advise the Local Authority in the delivery of the duty. The Cabinet noted that the Board was not an executive or decision-making body.

 

Local Authorities must also monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the Strategy and report back annually to Government.

 

The Council had formed a Domestic Abuse Local Partnership Board with broad representation that went beyond that required by the Act. It was chaired by the Head of Safeguarding for NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group and Membership was outlined in the Report.

 

The Council had carried out a needs assessment and the findings had been included in the draft Strategy. The Strategy identified eight outcomes that it aimed to deliver, with specific objectives linked to each outcome.

 

The challenge to the delivery of the Strategy was the acute shortage within Devon of accommodation and housing that fell within the legislation’s definition of “safe accommodation”. The duty however explicitly excluded temporary accommodation with shared facilities. Devon had only 41 bed spaces of safe accommodation and all were the product of local housing or domestic abuse organisations establishing and maintaining the provision independently.

 

The Government had allocated £125 million New Burdens funding to local authorities, to cover the costs of the new duty to provide support in safe accommodation for 2021-22. The funding allocated to Devon County Council in 2021/22 was £1.4m.

 

The Cabinet noted that the Council had for many years delivered or commissioned a county-wide domestic abuse service, even when there had been no statutory duty or designated government funding.

 

The Report outlined the consultations that had taken place as well as presenting the draft strategy to the Corporate, Infrastructure and Regulatory Services Scrutiny Committee on the 23rd September 2021. The Scrutiny Committee had RESOLVED that the Report be commended to Cabinet, subject to (a) Devon County Council be asked to sign up to the employer’s initiative on domestic abuse, and encourage partners to do the same; and (b) Outcome 2 objectives refer to needing a multi-agency approach that should specifically include employers and trade unions.

 

In response, the Report outlined the objective supporting Outcome 2 had been amended in line with recommendation of the Committee, but that further consideration was required on signing up to ‘the employers initiative on domestic abuse’. It was suggested that the lead Cabinet Member, Member champions and key officers consider the implications more fully, however, it would be the initial intention to pursue the initiative, subject to assessing the impacts on both the Strategy and the wider Council.

 

The matter having been debated and the options and/or alternatives and other relevant factors (e.g. financial, sustainability (including carbon impact), risk management, equality and legal considerations and Public Health impact) set out in the Head of Service’s Report and/or referred to above having been considered:

 

it was MOVED by Councillor Hart, SECONDED by Councillor McInnes, and

 

RESOLVED

 

(a) that the draft Strategy for Domestic Abuse Support in Safe Accommodation in Devon 2021 be approved; and

 

(b) that delegated authority be given to the Head of Communities, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Public Health, Communities and Equality, to implement the Strategy, including reporting to Government.

Supporting documents: