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National experts join forces with east London council to address domestic abuse

The Barking and Dagenham Domestic Abuse CommissionTags Adults , Children , Family , Residents , Teenagers

Twelve experts from across the country will join officers and councillors at City Hall tonight at the launch of a ground-breaking initiative - The Barking and Dagenham Domestic Abuse Commission - set up to tackle the issue of domestic abuse at its root.

The Commission, chaired by Polly Neate, chief executive of the charity Shelter, has a panel of national experts, including Jess Philips, MP and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Domestic Violence and Abuse. The council hopes that this initiative will make a fundamental change in its own communities, and more importantly, create a blueprint for others to use to tackle intimate partner violence.

In 2017/18, Barking and Dagenham had the highest rate of reported domestic abuse offences in London, with 12.8 offences reported per 1,000 people and 28 per cent of social care assessments of children under five having domestic violence listed as a factor.

In a survey conducted in 2017 and 2019 with over 2,500 secondary school students in Barking and Dagenham, 26 per cent of the young people surveyed thought it acceptable to hit your partner and another 32 per cent thought it sometimes acceptable to use hurtful or threatening language to a partner.

Over the next 12 months, the commission will explore the attitudes around domestic abuse in Barking and Dagenham, making a series of recommendations which will help to create a long-term change in people’s attitudes towards domestic abuse, given it is often normalised by communities.

The Commission is sponsored by Cllr Maureen Worby, the council’s Cabinet Member for Social Care and Health Integration. She said:

“Domestic abuse is having a profound impact on our communities - and is a significant factor in homelessness, mental and physical ill-health and the costs - not just for the council - are too high for individuals and families as well.

“I have launched this commission to help us look at this issue through a new lens and do something different to understand why domestic abuse is normalised within our communities. I hope the commission will be the beginning of us finding a lasting solution – working with all of our partners including residents to address this issue.”

Polly Neate, Chair of the Commission, emphasises the importance of this work:

“Domestic abuse is a national crisis and is everybody's business. At Shelter we are acutely aware that it is a significant cause of homelessness. There is a need to do something now and to do something different. It's hugely exciting to have the opportunity to chair this commission, which will show what communities can do - not only to respond better to domestic abuse, but to prevent it, and challenge the attitudes and culture that feed it.  

“The Domestic Abuse Bill has stalled, making work at a local level on domestic abuse even more important. For all local areas across the country, there are still unanswered questions about why and how domestic abuse is normalised and tolerated.  

“This is why this commission is so important, and I am honoured to be its chair. I think Barking and Dagenham Council have been incredibly brave – opening themselves up to a commission of national experts to have honest and difficult conversations. The work in Barking and Dagenham will enable us to create a blueprint nationally for how we tackle domestic abuse.”

Over a 12 month period the commission’s work will focus on bringing together data to deepen the understanding of domestic abuse outside of police reported data.

Importantly, it will engage with residents and gather qualitative data – the commission has a dedicated full-time community engagement officer who is engaging with both survivors of domestic abuse to understand their lived experiences, and residents more generally to understand attitudes related to domestic abuse.

It also has a dedicated survivors’ panel who are playing a key role in both providing evidence of their experiences to inform the commission and helping to shape the recommendations. 

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