Domestic abuse services

Closed 10 Feb 2017

Opened 11 Jan 2017


The Council is committed to delivering effective support for people experiencing domestic abuse whilst ensuring best use of reducing resources. It is a clear priority to provide refuge beds to help meet both the local and national need, but the Council also needs to ensure that local services are available to prevent domestic abuse, provide outreach support and support to break the cycle of abuse. 

In 2017 Reading Borough Council has the opportunity to redesign local provision to ensure these service needs are met, and we want your help to prioritise what services are important.

In addition to seeking responses online we will be holding a drop-in session for anyone affected by this proposal who would prefer not to respond in writing at 9.30am on Friday 10 February in Committee Room 4a at the Civic Centre.

Why We Are Consulting

Reading Community Safety Partnership’s Domestic Abuse Strategy 2015-18 outlines Reading’s focus for tackling domestic abuse over the three years. Reading provides a good range of services and support for people who experience domestic abuse, within the challenging financial restraints facing public services.  The strategy aims to continue to improve the services available and deliver the best possible coordinated response to the challenge of domestic abuse in Reading. 

The strategy identifies four key areas to be focused on by the Domestic Abuse Strategy Group: 

  • Encouraging people to seek support earlier - improving information, education and prevention
  • Providing the right response first time - improving identification, encouraging disclosures and ensuring an appropriate immediate response.
  • Having the right services available - improving support to move from victim to survivor or to change abusive behaviour.
  • Understanding the challenges in our town - improving data analysis and community engagement.

New contracts for domestic abuse services are due to be agreed and implemented in 2017, however due to the national budget cuts to local authorities, and the subsequent pressure on Reading Borough Council’s budget, it is currently proposed that the budget for the services is reduced by a further £58k in addition to previous reductions that have been agreed, resulting in a total budget of £345k. This would equate to a 22% reduction in spend in comparison to the current 2016/17 budget for Domestic Abuse Services.

As part of this process it is proposed that funding on domestic abuse services are rebalanced in line with the current domestic abuse strategy. The specific amounts spent on different services will be agreed when the new contracts are finalised, however, it is expected that Reading Borough Council will reduce the funding for refuge provision. This would enable the remaining budget to be invested in non-accommodation based support, for example, but not limited to, outreach support, preventative activity and support to break the cycle of abuse. It is expected that this would lead to an increase in funding available for this type of support.

Implications for refuge provision

Reading currently has 25 refuge places in the town, which is significantly more per 100,000 population than any other local authority that provides refuge in the Thames Valley and also Southampton who were included in the comparison exercise. Currently around 80% of these refuge places are accessed by households from outside the Reading area – the nature of refuge provision is that to improve their safety, people experiencing abuse predominantly seek emergency accommodation a distance away from the perpetrator.  Based on Reading’s population size, to be in line with the average in the Thames Valley, Reading would be required to provide 12 refuge places.

As stated above, it is proposed that the refuge budget is reduced and this would result in the number of funded refuge places in Reading reducing to 15, 4 of which would remain as a specialist provision for women from the Asian community (currently 8). The number of support hours for each of the households funded by Reading Borough Council would reduce to 6/7.5 hours a week per household (currently 10). This current proposal would mean that Reading would still be funding above the regional average number of refuge places.

This does not mean that the number of refuge places in Reading would definitely reduce, this is a matter within the control of the current provider or the availability of national funding, only that the number paid for by the Council will reduce.

Non–accommodation based support.

Demand for outreach services has increased significantly in the last 12 months, and this increase in activity is reflected in Children’s Social Care and specialist referrals to the police.

This proposal seeks to increase funding in this area, even with a reduction in overall spending. The new contract would also cover preventative activity and training, as well as support to young people and all members of the household to break the cycle of abuse.

We are seeking views from service users and other stakeholders to understand:

  • Local priorities for domestic abuse services and reasons why
  • The impact of reducing funding from local refuge provision including part of the specialist Asian provision
  • How we can best support people experiencing domestic abuse via services available outside of the refuge provision.

What Happens Next

A report on the response to this consultation will be presented at the Council’s Policy Committee on 13 March 2017.


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