Matthew Scott is the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Kent. Here he tells us about the work the PCC is doing alongside Kent Police to improve support for people living with domestic abuse.
“Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls is one of the priorities in my Police and Crime Plan and Domestic Abuse is a key part of that. Last year the Kent force control room received more than 40, 000 calls relating to it.
We often think of the victims being women, but of course domestic abuse can affect men, women, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, colleagues, friends and children. Here in Kent both my office and Kent Police are constantly seeking new ways to ensure DA victims receive the best service possible and we’ve recently updated and reformed how we deal with these cases. Its still a work in progress, but over the course of the year we aim to transform the service, to make sure we’re providing a first-class service for victims.
Creation of new Proactive Domestic Abuse teams
The Force has set up new specialist Domestic Abuse teams who will focus on those offenders, who pose the greatest harm. They will target known DA offenders, using a range of tactics to tackle all types offending and work with partners to identify the best way to manage their behaviour through diversion, arrest or control.
Here in Kent, we are lucky to have a bespoke perpetrator programme, designed to prevent persistent offenders from committing violence in the future. The new DA teams are responsible for identifying and referring suitable individuals to join the process. This innovative approach is funded by my office. Known offenders undertake a 10-12 week rehabilitation course either in the form of one-to-one sessions, or in a controlled group environment. Established less than a year ago, we’re currently working with 40 referrals.
Creation of Domestic Abuse Hub
Kent Police has also set up a new Domestic Abuse Hub which will operate 7 days a week 8am – 10pm, the peak times for DA calls. It will become a centre of excellence for Domestic Abuse and will:
- utilise video technology and telephony to virtually respond to suitable DA calls. This service will be available for non-immediate calls only and only where the caller consents. 2. Victims can speak with an officer over a video or phone (their choice) whereby immediate evidence can be secured and an immediate risk assessment made
- signpost victims and refer them to the most appropriate support service
- own and manage the ‘Right to ask, right to know’ processes, also known as Clare’s Law.
Creation of Domestic Abuse Liaison Officers (DALO’s)
The concept of a new role of Domestic Abuse Liaison Officer has been approved. It’s being piloted in the borough of Medway, and it will be fully assessed before we consider how best to roll it out across Kent. It’s hoped these specialist officers will be able to provide consistent and coordinated support to safeguard victims most at risk.
Training has always been a focus for Kent Police and they’ve recently refreshed provision in this area, to ensure officers and staff are equipped to spot the signs of domestic abuse and act effectively from the start of their careers.
There’s a week-long specialist training programme for investigators and we’ve introduced a whole faculty dedicated to vulnerability as part of our Crime Academy. Since we launched in January this year, officers and staff have taken part in masterclasses on coercive and controlling behaviour, stalking, domestic homicide and honour-based abuse.
As the Police and Crime Commissioner, it is my responsibility to commission a full range of victim support services and IDVAs or Independent Domestic Violence Advisers. Here in Kent we fund services which include counselling, tailor-made support for children and young people, therapeutic services for families who’ve been impacted by DA and a bespoke service for male victims.
This provision is essential. To give you an idea of how important these services are, we initially thought we would have about 250 referrals a month, in fact we average about 575 victim referrals a week!
I would like to assure everyone that tackling Domestic Abuse and supporting victims of it, really is one of our priorities in Kent. We have learned from past mistakes and are putting measures in place to address any areas of concern. I’m confident we’re on the right track, but I will be monitoring our progress at the regular Performance and Delivery Boards I hold with the Chief Constable.
Victims remain at the heart of everything we do in Kent.”