Tackling Violence against Women and Girls

Tackling violence against women and girls (VAWG) is a priority for Lambeth Council and its partners. The Lambeth Made Safer VAWG Strategy 2021-27 has been developed by experts by experience, residents and those working with victims and survivors of all forms of VAWG. It sets out the partnership’s vision, goals and commitments to make Lambeth a borough where everyone is safe.

The challenge:

Violence against women and girls (VAWG) affects everyone in the community and therefore is a council wide priority. This is Lambeth’s third VAWG Strategy and builds on a decade of work to establish effective services, partnerships and processes that support victims and survivors and their children, and to hold perpetrators to account.

Data tells us that domestic abuse, sexual violence, female genital mutilation/cutting, stalking and harassment are the most widespread forms of VAWG in Lambeth. There have been significant increases in reporting related to these in the last five years. This may be because people feel more confident in reporting but we also know that these issues remain hidden and under-reported by victims and survivors.  The true levels of VAWG in the borough are likely to be significantly higher than the data tells us.

VAWG is a product of gender inequality. Individual experiences of violence and abuse reflect wider power dynamics within society. Structural inequality, discrimination and disadvantage impact individuals in their experience of VAWG, accessing support and experiences within services. Lambeth recognises that it does not have to be this way.

Because these are issues that exist across all of society, we need everyone – residents, statutory agencies, communities, charities, faith-based organisations and businesses – to work together to make Lambeth safer.

The solution:

The strategy was developed with people with lived experience of VAWG, residents, and practitioners working with the victims, survivors and their children. A range of tools were used such as surveys, focus groups and public events and use of ‘critical friends’ from specialist organisations. Central to the strategy are intersectionality and anti-racism to tackle the structural inequalities and discrimination that create barriers to support and differences in outcomes for those experiencing VAWG.

A partnership approach is essential, and the strategy is designed to ensure collective action is taken.

The strategy has five key strategic priority areas:

  • Specialist support – which meets the needs of our diverse communities 
  • Working together – strengthening partnerships between key agencies 
  • Community response – utilising the expertise and assets of our communities 
  • Children and young people – prioritising education and early intervention 
  • Reducing harm from perpetrators – identifying and responding to the source of the problem 

The strategy will be delivered by listening to the needs and experiences of our communities. They are rich with assets that can provide solutions to many of these needs, and we are open to considering all possible solutions to meet our commitments and goals. We have created an animation to communicate our work with residents and this has been translated into Lambeth’s key languages, including British Sign Language. The strategy will be delivered by a wide range of partners, our councillors, council officers, our residents, experts by experience, practitioners, stakeholders, and our communities.

We want to create a truly coordinated community response, and for that we need to work together, listen, learn and act.

The impact:

Lambeth’s VAWG strategies have raised awareness of all forms of violence and improved responses to victims, survivors, their children and perpetrators.

Lambeth has protected VAWG services from cuts and invested additional money in this area. Since 2011 many dedicated individuals, services, and agencies have driven real improvements in the way we work together to address VAWG in the borough. The refreshed strategy is designed to build on this collective action and to embedding the expertise of those who have experienced violence and abuse in the development and delivery of all our work.

Since 2016, over 2,000 people from a range of statutory, voluntary and community settings have been trained on how to identify and respond to all forms of VAWG

Lambeth has the largest commissioned refuge provision in London, 85% of this culturally specific support.

The community based VAWG support service, the Gaia Centre, receives an average of 1,500 referrals every year and 94% of victims and survivors state increased feelings of safety.

How is the approach being sustained?

This strategy will be live until 2027 and it aligns with other work in Lambeth, such as the Lambeth Made Safer Strategy which focuses on reducing violence that impacts children and young people.

The strategy is reviewed regularly to ensure that the response is flexible to changing circumstances. We are committed as a partnership to invest in specialist support, drive improvement across all services, and creating a learning culture that can evolve and respond flexibly to the changing needs of the borough.

Lessons learned / advice for others:

In 2011 we looked at all the data we had on reported cases, consulted with victims and survivors, and knew that we needed to do more to address all strands of VAWG and the relationships between them. We are proud that from this, Lambeth developed one of the first VAWG strategies in the UK and created the pioneering Gaia Centre, offering a single point of access for anyone experiencing any type of VAWG in Lambeth. Subsequent consultation has supported having a VAWG strategy that recognises the intersections between all forms of gender-based violence and that offers integrated support services.

More still needs to be learnt about the over and under representation of some of Lambeth’s residents in services and the council will improve data collection, learning from those who have lived experience to ensure that the strategy and delivery is inclusive and representative. Through all the hard work and commitment over the past ten years, we are now in a stronger position to develop better processes to understand where there are differences in reporting, responses, risks and outcomes for individuals experiencing VAWG.

Lambeth Made Safer: Violence against women and girls strategy 2021–2027

LA Contact: Kimberly Cassius – Violence Against Women and Girls Programme and Commissioning Manager - KCassius@lambeth.gov.uk