North Yorkshire Council unveils ‘victim-centric’ domestic abuse policy

A local authority which last year faced criticism for not spending £450,000 of government funding allocated to support domestic abuse victims has unveiled a policy designed to reduce the risk of domestic abuse and bolster support for victims.

A meeting of North Yorkshire Council’s executive saw leading councillors welcome the proposed domestic abuse policy for its housing service, ahead of a full meeting of the authority considering adopting the policy next month.

While Office for National Statistics figures show 8,652 domestic abuse-related crimes were recorded by North Yorkshire Police in the year to March 2022, the authority believes it is likely that many more people are affected, and authorities are unaware of the abuse.

However, it is known between July 2022 and June 2023, 202 households affected by domestic abuse applied as homeless in North Yorkshire.

The policy, which the meeting heard would be part of a multi-agency response, underlines that as a local authority and housing provider, the council is “well placed to recognise and respond to domestic abuse”.

The council’s executive member for housing, Councillor Simon Myers, said the authority, as landlord to 8,500 properties across the county, was putting “a victim-centric approach” at the heart of its housing service and pledged that victims would receive “every assistance”.

He said the authority wanted to respond sympathetically and knowledgeably with trained officers to domestic abuse incidents as they arose, saying the council would seek to proactively protect victims.

The policy will see the council create “safety at home” for victims of domestic abuse who wish to stay within their home, by working with the police and partner agencies to create a safety plan, consider the use of legal measures to remove the perpetrator from the property, and providing panic alarms, locks, and additional security measures.

It also states the council will support victims who wish to relocate because it is not safe, or preferable for them to not remain at their address because of domestic abuse, by providing guidance and assisting their move to alternative accommodation.

The policy states: “We reserve the right to take enforcement action against North Yorkshire Council tenants, using the powers available under the Housing Act, up to and including terminating a tenancy, for domestic abuse-related offences.

“When taking any action against perpetrator/s, we will prioritise the safety and wishes of their victims and ensure that their wishes and housing needs are considered.”

The meeting heard the authority was working towards accreditation through the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance to prove it was following the best practices.

Coun Myers said: “It’s an important part of our responsibilities as a landlord and it’s very important that throughout the housing service, our staff are well versed in the various manifestations and consequences of domestic abuse.

“Widespread consultation has, I hope, resulted in a robust document that reflects what will be a robust procedure by this council and intolerance of domestic abuse and those who perpetrate it.

A report to the meeting stated adoption of the policy could lead to an increased number of referrals to the council’s commissioned
domestic abuse services.

It added: “Any increased demand for service can be seen as positive because this will help to prevent future harm to victims and demand for other related services including health services.”