Portsmouth councillors step up effort to help abuse victims

Maria Cole
Maria Cole
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A PENSIONER who has spoken out about being the victim of domestic violence has welcomed extra steps being taken to address the problem.

Three Lib Dem councillors have signed up to a cross-party working group seeking to support people in Portsmouth who have gone through turbulent experiences.

Cllrs Darren Sanders, Sandra Stockdale and Lynne Stagg have joined forces with Tory, Ukip and Labour members who already pledged to make sure more help was available.

Maria Cole, 70, of Southsea, who told The News she was raped and abused in the 1960s, said: ‘It’s good that councillors are working together because when you become a councillor, you are not working directly for a party, but for the people of the city.

‘It’s not just your own little agenda.

‘It’s just important that women get help, the more the better.

‘It’s about helping those who are vulnerable – and this isn’t something that just happens here in the city. It’s universal.’

Miss Cole said four woman have had the courage to speak to her about their own experiences of domestic violence and problems family members have faced.

She also said she would be open to helping the new support team if she were approached.

The group, chaired by Tory cabinet member for environment and community safety, Rob New, has had two informal meetings so far and is working on how elected members can best work to provide assistance.

Cllr Sanders said: ‘There are various ways this could happen.

‘For instance, we could have councillors who go to various parts of the city holding dedicated surgeries about that, or it could be included within normal councillor surgeries.

‘We need to make sure the processes are right and the best thing we need to do is be effective and not get it wrong.

‘I think we will need to be trained to make sure we do the best thing by the people who come to us.

‘We need to give them the best outcomes. Sometimes, that may just be listening, other times it may be guiding them to the best services.’

Cllr New said: ‘The fact there is cross-party support shows it’s that important to people and not being made political.

‘I am quite realistic that this is not just a 12 month idea, but one which a two, three or four year plan.’