A draft Domestic Abuse Strategy is set to be published for consultation by Bedford Borough Council later this month so it can update its strategies.
The publication of new national guidance means councils are to work with partners, such as police and local domestic abuse charities, to publish strategies on how they will provide support to victims who need safe accommodation.
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities updated regulations and guidance for councils includes a clear expectation that expert specialist support is provided to victims in safe accommodation.
The guidance states that B&Bs or mixed homeless hostels are not the right place for victims to recover from abuse.
Support for victims will include counselling for adults and children, advocacy with services such as GPs, social workers and welfare benefits, support with rehousing, and advice on staying safe.
Some victims will need more specialist support, for example interpreters, immigration advice, or mental ill health, drug or alcohol support.
When asked what actions Bedford Borough Council took to prepare for this updated guidance, its spokesperson said: “In line with the Domestic Abuse Act, the council has completed its Local Needs Assessment.
“This identifies gaps in the support and guides us to form a strategy to address support needs, including any further specialist support that may be required for survivors of domestic abuse and their children.
“The council works with organisations who support families living in a home with a person who exhibits harmful behaviours, and there are alternative forms of accommodation including refuges where specialist support is available, and we are looking to expand this support into our temporary accommodation offer.
“The Bedfordshire Domestic Abuse Service brings together partner agencies to provide and improve domestic abuse services across the county. There is a 24-hour national domestic abuse helpline via 0808 2000 247. If anyone is in immediate danger, they should ring 999.”
Councils will work with partners to publish strategies on how they will provide support to victims who need safe accommodation by January 2022.
The council spokesperson said, “A draft Domestic Abuse Strategy will be published for consultation later this month.”
A National Expert Steering Group will monitor the progress of authorities in implementing these changes.
“We welcome the implementation of a Domestic Abuse Strategy,” said Mike Hyden of JustUs Advocacy Agency, an organisation that works to house homeless people in Bedford, including many people affected by domestic abuse.
“We have seen an issue with the expertise of local DA organisations being overlooked by Bedford Borough Council’s housing department, leaving vulnerable people subject to further abuse, so welcome any improvements to the system.”
by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter
and Bedford Independent’s Erica Roffe