Chelmsford City Council – supporting the needs of victims and survivors locally

Chelmsford City Council implemented a local support hub for domestic abuse which co-located community safety, public protection, business compliance and housing with greater integration into public health and the local police.


Chelmsford City Council have recognised that a district-level approach was valuable to maximise the impact of the county-wide approach taken by Essex County Council. Essex County Council are part of the Southend, Essex and Thurrock Domestic Abuse Board (SETDAB). The board has representatives from agencies and organisations such as the police, health and the probation service. SETDAB facilitate Southend, Essex and Thurrock’s vision to work together to enable everyone to live a life free from all forms of domestic abuse.

To support this vision, Chelmsford City Council have enacted local initiatives such as the co-location of services, a staff policy and training to raise awareness around domestic abuse, which latterly informed a local social media campaign.

What did they do?      

To improve information sharing and integrated working at a district level between services, Chelmsford City Council led on the co-location of services. They implemented a local support hub for domestic abuse which co-located community safety, public protection, business compliance and housing with greater integration into public health and the local police. In addition to co-location, Chelmsford City Council also implemented joint operational meetings between services focused on supporting the needs of victims and survivors.

In addition to co-location, Chelmsford City Council also developed a staff policy dedicated to domestic abuse, recognising their role as an employer. They believed they could be doing more to tackle domestic abuse internally, acknowledging that their staff could be victims or perpetrators of domestic abuse. The policy became the starting point for a wider programme of training.

The purpose of the policy was to:

  • support employees experiencing domestic abuse
  • aid managers seeking to help team members experiencing domestic abuse
  • assist colleagues of those experiencing domestic abuse

The policy also ensured named contacts against specific roles to support members of staff dealing with domestic abuse. The specific roles were;

  • providing advice and signposting
  • undertaking a risk assessment
  • being a continuing point of contact

The more people you upskill around recognising the signs of domestic abuse, the more chance we have of tackling it"

- Spencer Clarke - Protection Manager, Chelmsford City Council

Impact and outcomes

The co-location and joint operational meetings has enabled greater information sharing and the ability to allocate tasks to specific agencies to better jointly manage and support victim and survivors. This integrated way of working has reduced duplication and improved efficiency. 

Chelmsford City Council’s staff policy received particularly positive feedback from staff. It led to staff asking for further information and training to better understand domestic abuse. Chelmsford City Council provided training delivered by a former victim and survivor of domestic abuse. This led to:

  • Some staff widening their understanding and perception of domestic abuse, having previously believed that domestic abuse was just physical.
  • Helped staff identify strong links between domestic abuse and other issues within a complex picture of need. For example, young people being involved in gangs and growing up around unhealthy relationships was potentially leading to the exploitation of girls and women.
  • There was also a recognition amongst staff that greater focus should be given to challenging perpetrator behaviour.

Chelmsford City Council recognised the benefits of raising awareness amongst staff and sought to go further. They used the learnings from the staff training to inform social media messages on twitter and Facebook.

Through making more people aware we can increase the reporting and referrals related to domestic abuse"

- Spencer Clarke - Protection Manager, Chelmsford City Council

Chelmsford City Council have also extended their training, as part of the ‘The J9 Domestic Abuse Initiative’, to include elected members, community groups, and, professionals within the community such as hairdressers. The J9 Domestic Abuse Initiative aims to raise awareness of domestic abuse and assist survivors to access support safely by training professionals and members of the community to recognise domestic abuse and respond to victims and survivors

The J9 Domestic Abuse Initiative is named in memory of Janine Mundy, who was killed by her estranged husband while he was on Police bail. The initiative was started by her family and the local police in Cambourne, Cornwall, where she lived and aims to raise awareness of domestic abuse and assist victims to seek the help they so desperately need.

Lessons learnt

Every council should have a staff policy on domestic abuse

The positive feedback from staff regarding the staff policy and subsequent training has enabled Chelmsford City Council to raise awareness amongst staff to identify and address domestic abuse.

A county approach to domestic abuse is not enough; you need to ensure you meet needs locally

Chelmsford City Council recognised that you need to provide a tailored approach to local needs in addition to supporting the county’s wider strategy. They wanted to ensure they were doing everything within their power to tackle domestic abuse.

Having a single point of access to refer to domestic abuse is important

Signposting across different districts is considerably more straight forward when there is a single of point of access for referrals across the entire county, in this case, The Essex Compass. It’s an excuse not to report if it’s complicated’. (Spencer Clarke - Protection Manager, Chelmsford City Council)

Contact

Spencer Clark, Public Protection Manager, Chelmsford City Council (Spencer.Clarke@chelmsford.gov.uk)