To seek approval to the updated Housing Service Domestic Abuse Policy.
The report explained that post June 2019, the Housing Services’ policy objectives in relation to domestic abuse formed part of the Authority’s Anti-Social Behaviour Policy.
For the Authority’s Housing Service to achieve accreditation from the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance (DAHA), there was a requirement to create a ‘standalone’ Domestic Abuse Policy. In response to this requirement the Domestic Abuse Policy was developed and approved by Cabinet on 29 July 2019. DAHA accreditation followed in February 2020.
The introduction of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 prompted a review of the current Housing Service Domestic Abuse Policy. This review was carried out in partnership with the North Tyneside Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance Steering Group. The review concluded that amendments to the 2019 Policy was required to ensure that the Policy remained fully compliant with new legislative requirements.
A review of the procedures that the Housing Services’ teams followed when responding to domestic abuse disclosures had also been undertaken. The new process, an easy-to-follow flow chart for dealing with domestic abuse disclosures, was appended to the attached policy.
Having carried out a review of the Housing Service Domestic Abuse Policy, it was identified that some changes were required. These included:
· Inclusion of the statutory definition of “Domestic Abuse”, as set out in Domestic Abuse Act 2021,
· Change of language when referring to people who have experienced domestic abuse, adopting the term “survivor”,
· Inserting a section stating the intended outcomes of the Policy,
· Inserting a section stating the role of Housing Services in recognising the signs of domestic abuse, supporting survivors and reference to action taken in dealing with tenants who are perpetrators of domestic abuse,
· a timescale for reviewing the Policy.
In December 2019 the Government was elected with a manifesto commitment to“support all victims of domestic abuse and pass the Domestic Abuse Bill” originally introduced in the last Parliament. The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 was passed in April 2021 with the aim of ensuring that victims of domestic abuse had the confidence to come forward and report their experiences, safe in the knowledge that the state, including local government, would do everything it could, both to support them and their children and pursue the abuser.
The Government’s Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy 2021 set out the approach to tackling crimes which disproportionately affected women and girls. It included a set of ambitions that focused on Prioritising Prevention; Supporting Victims; Pursuing Perpetrators; and Strengthening the System.
Relationship education was made compulsory in primary schools, with sex and relationship education had been compulsory in secondary schools since 2020.
The Statutory Definition of Domestic Abuse under Section 1 of Domestic Abuse Act 2021
• Behaviour of a person (“A”) towards another person (“B”) is “domestic abuse” if: (a) A and B are each aged 16 or over and are personally connected to each other, and (b) the behaviour is abusive.
• This includes physical, emotional, economic, sexual abuse and controlling and coercive behaviour.
‘Personally connected’ means: intimate partners, ex-partners, family members or individuals who share parental responsibility for a child. The expanded definition can be found at Appendix 1 of the updated Housing Services Domestic Abuse Policy.
Domestic abuse was still a largely hidden crime and happened in all communities, regardless of sex, age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity. As a housing provider the Authority was well placed through its contact with its tenants to recognise the signs of domestic abuse.
The Authority would not tolerate domestic abuse. If a council tenant carried out or threatens to carry out any act of domestic abuse the Authority would take action against the tenant. If a council tenant reported abuse to the Authority they would be treated in a sympathetic, supportive, and non-judgemental way. The Authority also recognised that its staff may be experiencing domestic abuse and was committed to supporting them in accordance with the Authority’s Employee Domestic Abuse Policy.
The Authority’s customers should not live in fear of violence, abuse or harassment from a partner, former partner, or any member of their family. Domestic abuse often has consequences for the housing of survivors and their families who will frequently turn to the Authority’s Housing Services for help. The Policy aims were detailed in the report.
The intended outcomes of the policy were to provide employees with clear and practical guidance to ensure the Authority supported and protected survivors of abuse. Survivors would had information on what options were available to them to enable them to make informed decisions.
· The Authority would create a safe environment where survivors of abuse felt they could approach officers and be listened to by trained staff.
· Provide timely and effective guidance by working in partnership with relevant agencies to respond to any cases of domestic abuse that may arise. The Authority would seek to enhance the safety and security of those involved and support them to increase their confidence, resilience and empower themselves to live independently.
· Raise awareness of the impacts of domestic abuse.
Cabinet considered the following decision options:
Option 1: to accept the recommendations set out in paragraph 1.2 of the report.
Option2: to approve the revised Draft Housing Services Domestic Abuse Policy subject to amendments or conditions.
Option 3: Not to approve the recommendations as set out in paragraph 1.2 of the report and request Officers to consider the Authority’s response to this matter further.
Resolved thatthe updated North Tyneside Housing Services Domestic Abuse Policy as set out in Appendix 1 to the report, be approved.
(Reasons for decision: Approval of the updated Housing Services Domestic Abuse Policy reflects new legislation; Domestic Abuse Act 2021.
DAHA Accreditation is due to expire in January 2023, as part of the assessment criteria the Authority must produce a stand-alone Domestic Abuse Policy that is revised regularly and reflects changes in national legislation. By approving the revised policy this will place the Authority in a good position when re applying for DAHA Accreditation.)