Brighton and Hove City Council – Creating inclusive and accessible services to support all victims and survivors

Brighton and Hove City Council have a diverse community with varying needs and have long valued engaging with victims and survivors to inform their domestic abuse service provision. In 2019/20, they wanted to ensure that their future local service provision would be truly inclusive of all victims and survivors.


Context

Brighton and Hove City Council have a diverse community with varying needs and have long valued engaging with victims and survivors to inform their domestic abuse service provision. In 2019/20, they wanted to ensure that their future local service provision would be truly inclusive of all victims and survivors. To inform their service specification, they utilised an extensive consultation process used to develop the Pan Sussex Strategic Framework for Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence. 

The Pan Sussex Strategic Framework for Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Framework, which included East and West Sussex County Councils, was developed to ensure, consistent quality and equity of access to service provision across Sussex. The local authorities agreed four broad priorities as the basis of their framework; 

  1. Investing in early intervention
  2. Improving the quality-of-service provision
  3. Holding perpetrators to account
  4. Developing partnership working and drive towards a non-competitive culture between providers

Alongside these priorities however, Brighton and Hove wanted to ensure that their newly commissioned services in April 2021 would meet the needs of their local community ands were truly inclusive for all victims and survivors and those with protected characteristics.

What did they do?

Brighton and Hove used the consultation and engagement exercise to ensure victims’ and survivors’ experiences were directly informing service design, acknowledging the different ways different people experience domestic abuse.

We needed to ensure that pathways into domestic abuse services are tailored in such a way as to meet individual needs."

- Jo Player - Acting Head of Trading Standards , Brighton and Hove

The insights of this five-month process helped inform the Pan-Sussex Strategic framework and the associated equality impact assessments. This in turn led to developing a service specification for domestic abuse services in Brighton and Hove, with victims and survivors at the centre.

Brighton and Hove have a history of engaging with those with protected characteristics to understand their experiences and ensure services are tailored to their needs. For example, in 2009 Brighton and Hove partnered with Brighton University as part of the ‘Count Me In Too Project’ to better understand the needs of their prominent LGBTQ+ community. The project carried out in-depth analysis and discovered that 1)30 per cent of LGBTQ+ people experience abuse from a family member or someone close to them in their lifetimes and that2) Bi and trans people are even more likely to experience domestic violence and abuse than lesbians and gay men, as are those who are disabled and have poor mental health.

The ‘Count Me In Too Project’ led to the existing service provider that was supporting women and families affected by domestic abuse at the time, to recruit two LGBTQ+ workers to ensure that gay men and trans people also benefited from the service and their needs were met. 

This experience fed into the design of the consultation and engagement exercise with victims and survivors. Brighton and Hove included LGBTQ+, BAME, and older people groups to ensure they understood their lived experiences.

Outcomes and impact

From the consultation, Brighton and Hove had a greater understanding that domestic abuse cannot be tackled in isolation, as it is part of a much wider complex picture of needs and intersectionality. They recognised that it wasn’t about meeting the needs of women, people from BAME communities or gay men in isolation, but how protected characteristics can often intersect and are part of a wider complex picture.

For example, Brighton and Hove recognised that refuge provision needed to accommodate different needs.

A seventy-year-old with domiciliary care needs being accommodated in a refuge will require a more tailored service to meet both their care needs and need for support following domestic violence."

- Michaela Richards, Strategic Commissioner, Domestic and Sexual Abuse and Violence against Women and Girls

The consultation, which informed the new service specification, enabled inclusion and accessibility for those with protected characteristics to be properly addressed. In addition, Brighton and Hove also found that of the 183 victims and survivors who were surveyed for their views, one third had never accessed nor attempted to access specialist domestic abuse services. This meant they had the benefit of a much broader set of views to inform their service specification rather than only those speaking to service recipients.

The provision beginning in April 2021, informed by the consultation, will include ‘Independent Domestic Abuse Advisors’ with various lead roles for LGBTQ+, Children and Young People, BAME groups, mental health, older people; and male victims.

The Independent Domestic Abuse Advisors will undertake specialist casework and forge links with specialist community groups, keeping abreast of new developments through attending conferences, reviewing relevant publications and joining communities of best practice. Through this engagement they will proactively initiate service improvements relating to their respective protected characteristic groups; and disseminate specialist learning across the entire team via a comprehensive multi-agency training programme to develop expertise and resilience.

Brighton and Hove believe that their commissioned provider will ensure their Domestic Abuse services are truly inclusive and accessible to those with protected characteristics, as well as women and women with children who remain the primary focus of domestic abuse provision in Brighton and Hove.  

Lessons learnt

Start engagement early with victims and survivors

Brighton and Hove identified the need to start engagement at least a year in advance of writing the service specification recognising it takes time to properly engage with victims and survivors to understand their lived experience. 

Consider longer term service contracts of up to seven years or even longer

Brighton and Hove recognised that longer-term contracts for service provision can generate greater security for providers regarding funding streams. Furthermore, more frequent renewal of contracts could potentially lead to service users’ needs falling through the gaps.

Contact

Jo Player, Acting Head of Trading Standards, Brighton and Hove City Council (Jo.Player@brighton-hove.gov.uk)