Exploratory Study of Council Policy and Practice and Local Support Services in the Area of Domestic Violence within Hammersmith and Fulham
This is the report of an eight-month study of the services available to women who experience domestic violence in the Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. By way of a literature review, and questionnaires and interviews completed by workers in both the statutory and voluntary sectors and women who have experienced domestic violence themselves, this research sought to:
- uncover the current policy and practice of agencies dealing with the issue of domestic violence both in the statutory and voluntary sector – including their service provision, recognition, perceptions, skills, referral practices and training needs;
- chart the inter-relationships between these statutory and voluntary agencies;
- investigate the help-seeking strategies of women who are experiencing/have experienced domestic violence;
- make recommendations for improved service delivery in this area in the future.
- From the questionnaire data 39% of the total sample of women had experienced physical or verbal threats from a male partner.
- 40% of women told someone when the violence towards them first started, although for most of these women it took a much longer time (in some cases between 5 and 12 contacts) for them to find the support they needed.
- In the majority of cases women coped with the violence without any support, many did not know of the resources and services that are available to them.
- Three groups were identified that a considerable number of women would not approach for help: the police; family and friends and social services.
- When women were asked what services they wanted and needed in the Borough, three main themes predominated: an accessible but confidential support and advice service; agency and law enforcement practice which focused on removing abusive men from the household; and self-help groups and refuges.
- With regard to statutory housing agencies in the Borough, no single pattern of response to women who experience violence emerged – there were examples of good and bad practice in all housing services.
- Whilst there is evidence of good practice and highly innovative work in the Borough’s social services department, there are also a number of causes for concern, including a tendency to see domestic violence and responses to it in a generalised, over-simplistic way which ignores or misunderstands the specific experiences, needs and concerns of particular groups of women.
- There are a number of community groups in the Borough providing support, and in particular emotional support, to women experiencing violence, however, their knowledge of legal and housing issues in this area is weak.
- With regard to the perpetrators of violence, law enforcement within the Borough remained relatively ineffective and there was very little evidence of legal and/or social consequences for violent men.
- In terms of inter-agency liaison and co-operation, some fruitful links were detected within the Borough, but on the whole it was found that a lack of awareness persisted about the work ongoing and what other agencies and groups could and could not offer.
Grant Holder: CWASU
Sponsor: Hammersmith and Fulham Council Community and Police Committee