Tackling domestic violence: Search is on for support worker project funding

Supt Sean Wright.
Supt Sean Wright.

The PSNI say they are working with Women’s Aid and a number of other agencies in a bid to secure the necessary funding to retain Lisburn’s Domestic Violence Support Worker.

The joint PSNI and Women’s aid project, which commenced in July 2014, was the first of its kind in Northern Ireland.

The initiative has been a great success in tackling the problem of domestic abuse in the Lisburn and Castlereagh area, but it is now under threat due to a shortage of funding.

The Domestic Violence Support Worker post, based in Lisburn Police Station, is currently funded by Lisburn and Castlereagh Policing and Community Safety Partnership. However, the current funding for the role is due to run out in March 2017.

Local PSNI District Commander, Superintendent Sean Wright, advised that the project has “greatly enhanced the quality of service delivery within the district on a number of levels.”

According to Supt Wright, it has meant that victims of domestic abuse have benefited from a faster referral process and easier access to emotional and practical support. And it has also contributed to a better understanding amongst officers of the particular difficulties and subtleties of domestic abuse and the many ways that abusers can influence and coerce their victims.

He advised that the collaboration between Women’s Aid and PSNI has resulted in more abusers being caught and brought before the courts.

Supt Wright revealed that there has been a 28 per cent increase in the reporting of domestic abuse incidents - something he welcomed, stressing that victims of domestic abuse should not suffer in silence.

The local project was recently evaluated by Blu Zebra on behalf of Lisburn and Castlereagh PCSP.

The evaluation recognised the importance and value of the project, which it reported had “driven change by helping build more responsive services for those who need support through the criminal justice system.”

The consultants recognised the difficulty of running a project on a year-to-year basis and recommended that longer term funding be sought – something that is presently under discussion.

Supt Wright confirmed that “police will be working hard with other agencies to seek funding for the post to continue after March 2017”, and advised that this could include looking to the private sector to find financial support for the project.

Lagan Valley MLA Brenda Hale stressed that tackling domestic abuse is a Policing Plan priority and said funding must be found to secure the long-term future of the local project.

“The support that families receive from the Domestic Violence Support Worker cannot be counted in pounds and pence and I am determined that the invaluable support provided at Lisburn Station must be held up as a model of good practice,” the DUP representative commented.