Victims at risk of murder '˜being put in further danger'

HUNDREDS of abuse victims whose lives are in danger will be put at further risk when Portsmouth City Council's early intervention project is cut.

Tuesday, 12th January 2016, 6:01 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th January 2016, 9:13 am
A woman at risk of domestic abuse, as posed by actors

That’s the stark warning from domestic abuse campaigners over the loss of funding for the service, which assigns workers to each victim to help protect them from further harm.

The council has funded the EIP project for the next 12 months, but a £180,000 cut from its annual budget of £505,352 will come into force after this, cutting staff from 13 to five.

It has led to fears over the protection of more than 650 victims across the Portsmouth area.

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A survivor of a decade of domestic abuse has said she would be dead if it were not for a service that is being cut.

Speaking to The News anonymously, the woman said: ‘I don’t think I’d be alive without them.

‘I had no self-esteem, I was totally devalued – I’d turned into a robot.

‘With their help I’m back to being a regular human being who values themselves and my children therefore feel the effect of that.’

She fled to six different parts of the country, but was only able to escape her abuser with the help of the EIP sevice.

The woman, who said she suffered ‘every type of abuse’, was classed as being at high risk of significant harm or even murder.

Such cases are discussed each fortnight by police, probation and social services and are referred to the service.

In 2014/15 there were 670 victims classed as high risk in Portsmouth and 495 in April to December last year.

But with staffing due to be cut from 13 to five, there are fears those who speak up for these victims and work on their safety plans after leaving the perpetrators will not have the capacity to help them.

Simon Hayes, Hampshire police and crime commissioner, said: ‘She’s absolutely right. I’m pleased in some ways that she feels the service is working.

‘She’s giving evidence of the need for early intervention programmes.

‘There will be other women out there who will also have benefited and feel supported from the service.’

Shonagh Dillon, from domestic abuse charity Aurora New Dawn, is campaigning against the cuts.

She said: ‘It will make people high risk as well because they won’t get the early intervention that they need.

‘What we’re really concerned about is there doesn’t seem to be a clear, open and transparent plan. If survivors have got a service to go to then I’m happy – that’s all I’m campaigning for.’

In total, the EIP saw 1,423 victims in 2014/15 and has seen 1,041 between April and December last year.

Ms Dillon added: ‘The council is literally playing with people’s lives here.’

She wants councillors to vote against the plan at a meeting next month.

‘A cut to the internal team of 13 to five will have devastating impacts on victims and survivors in Portsmouth and their children,’ she added.

The call for a reverse in the funding cut is being backed by Unite, Unison, and national charity Sisters Uncut.

Alan Cox, senior Unite convenor at the city council, said: ‘To cut the people to the numbers they are would be quite a devastating thing.’

Sue Castillon, chair of Portsmouth Labour Party, added: ‘These specialised services handle this critical moment for the women with skill, discretion and caring delicacy so the relationship between the member of staff and the service user is the vital key to safety and could be the difference between life and death.’

Councillor Rob New, in charge of community safety at the council, said he wants to mitigate the funding cut.

He also wants the government to make domestic abuse services a statutory function for councils, meaning they have no option but to do it.

The Tory councillor hopes a newly-created social enterprise combining other councils’ work will provide a better service.

‘My aspiration is that we will be able to help more people,’ said Cllr New.

He added: ‘My goal is to mitigate this cut. If we keep doing business as usual there’s no money left. If we rely on the government grant it will come to an end.’