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Support for victims of abuse faces £1m cut by Devon County Council

By This is Devon  |  Posted: January 21, 2011

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VICTIMS of domestic violence could be left without a vital support service after Devon County Council proposed to cut all of its funding.

Adva (Addressing domestic violence and abuse) could now face the axe if plans to withdraw £1million of its budget go ahead.

And around 50 jobs could be lost.

The organisation, which is a partnership agency between Devon County Council, police and women's refuge services has been praised as being the best of its kind in the country.

Councillor Jill Owen, county councillor for Priory and St Leonard's in Exeter, who chairs Adva, told the Echo: "We knew Adva would have to have a cut because the settlement from central Government has been so awful but we did not expect to be annihilated."

Cllr Owen has said she will lobby the county council hard to get it to change its mind about the proposed cuts which she says could mean the loss of 50 jobs.

She said: "Adva is a partnership but the bulk of the money has always come from the county council. It has been described as the best in the country in tackling these issues by a previous attorney general.

"It is very good at helping very vulnerable people and now the county council is saying because it can't get any money out of its partners it is not prepared to give any commitment."

Chris Pearson, manager of SAFE (Stop Abuse for Everyone), formerly Women's Aid, said: "We assumed there might be some cut to the service but no one ever thought they would cut it 100 per cent – it's devastating.

"It puts an end to Adva and to every bit of outreach provision across Devon, including the independent domestic abuse advisors and those who help victims go through the courts, the repair work we do, the family work and the work we do with perpetrators.

"Apart from there being refuges, everything else will be wiped out – it puts us back by about 20 or 30 years. There is going to be a huge impact on the victims we would have been able to work with. Everyone is in a state of shock."

Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw also condemned the proposed cut.

He said: "Women and young girls who are victims of domestic violence are among the most vulnerable in our community.

"It was one of only two services commissioned by the county council that won a special "green flag" commendation for its impressive results," he said.

"I am absolutely dismayed by this decision which completely blows apart claims by the Government and county council to be trying to protect the weak and vulnerable from their cuts."

A county council spokesman added: "Our proposals this year include funding to women's refuges of nearly half a million pounds to secure vital places for victims fleeing domestic violence.

"Adva is a partnership organisation and Devon County Council has been by far the main funder of its activity to raise awareness of domestic violence in Devon, going way beyond our statutory duties in this area.

"Safeguarding and harm reduction will be a key focus in our new structure, whether for vulnerable children, older people or victims of domestic violence."

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    Valentines Vixens, Crownhill Fort  |  February 07 2011, 2:56PM

    Valentines Vixens will be holding a charity auction to raise money for the plymouth womens refuge on saturday 12th february, for more information please visit www.crownhillfort.co.uk/valentines.htm

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    Rosie Bracher, North Devon  |  January 22 2011, 5:25PM

    I can do no better than copy you in to my email to the Chief Exec and Chair of DCC Cabinet. I hope your readers will email them to john.hart@devon.gov.uk and phil.norrey@devon.gov.uk I am particularly concernd to note the possible funding implications for Women's Aid. Regards Rosie Bracher Solicitor Dear Mr Hart and Mr Norrey I understand from many concerned emails that friends and contacts from other agencies have sent me that Devon County Council are planning to cut the budget of ADVA by 100% at a time when the government has said that Domestic Violence is a priority area. The ADVA has been in place since 2002. In 2001 I resigned as chair of the local North Devon Domestic Violence Forum after spending many years involved with the Forum. As chair amongst other things I visited Cardiff to see the pioneering work the Forum was doing there and with Wendy Slate from Housing Advice locally co writing the Domestic Violence advice booklet still in use now throughout North Devon. I was well aware that DV forums (set up by County Councils as required by Government) were being led by often well meaning solicitors, or others in similar roles with no real power to change any of the ways in which the police or local authority and government agencies had traditionally responded to Domestic Violence and by Women¿s Aid who were extremely well motivated, knowledgeable and able but without the buy in the County Council and Police and others who could change the entire culture of their organizations the situation was hopeless. I had been asked to take the chair on by the outgoing police chair no doubt because I was passionate and articulate about the issues but increasingly I felt I had been passed the buck and frustrated by the absence of the people who should have been attending. I and others were reading about the success of the Deluth work and other Domestic Violence programmes from Canada etc and pockets of excellence in England and beginning to make contact and try to ensure we were not reinventing the wheel but borrowing from what others had tried and found successful. But how could such forums hope to change the way victims of DV were treated at every agency they called in to for help, whether that was the police, the housing authority, the DSS, their GP, or other service agency we knew that the attrition rate for reporting DV and following through complaints was massive because of the poor way that such victims were handled and expected to repeat their history to each agency. A working together engender for this had to come from those organizations and the people at the top of those organizations cascading it down and enforcing changes in policy and attitude. In 2001 (I believe) I and other Chairs were invited to County Hall in Exeter where we unanimously gave this feed back and called for ownership by DCC of the programme, a programme that County Councils had been tasked to manage by the establishment of forums but which had led to well meaning but powerless forums unable to focus any agency or resources. Thank fully we are a million miles away from those days, days when as any solicitor practicing DV work would tell you the track record of the police and housing, the DSS and others was fairly appalling. Let¿s not go back to those days, it was only 10 years ago that real changes started to happen, it takes far longer than that to ingrain change and change attitudes for good. Domestic violence against women and children, and to a lesser extent men is still endemic in society. I don¿t have time to finesse this email. The government is hell bent on taking legal aid away from family law and whilst we are told domestic violence will be protected, I have little faith in that, I have endless more consultations to fight on that score but please do take the time to consider the feedback from those who have worked on the ground with victims of domestic violence. I started out in 1989 as