Domestic violence costs £27m a year

SHOCKING new figures reveal domestic violence is costing Hartlepool more than £27m a year.

It comes as it has been revealed that Hartlepool Police receive up to eight domestic violence-related calls each night and officers dealt with almost 3,000 incidents in a year.

From April 2010 to March this year, town officers dealt with 2,846 domestic violence-related incidents, with 745 recorded as crimes.

The stark figures have been revealed as various bodies, including Hartlepool Borough Council, Cleveland Police and Harbour Support Services, vow to step up efforts to tackle the problem that has been described as Hartlepool’s “hidden crime”.

Local organisations are working on the draft Domestic Violence Strategy 2012-15, which pulls together all the agencies involved in clamping down on the problem – which traditionally escalates over the festive period.

Hartlepool Mayor Stuart Drummnd was told at a community safety and planning portfolio meeting on Friday that the cost of dealing with domestic violence is £27,317,000.

But Mayor Drummond told the Hartlepool Mail the figure could be much more.

He called the strategy “one of the most important pieces of work we will be doing over the next few months”.

He said: “Without a doubt, domestic violence is one of the most challenging issues that faces Hartlepool and I guess one of the unseen real problems that goes on.”

The £27,317,000 figure has been calculated for an area the size of Hartlepool using the Violence Against Women and Girls Ready Reckoner and British Crime Survey data.

The projected figure takes into account £5,887,000 spent on physical and mental health care, £3,708,000 for Criminal Justice, £698,000 on social services and £17,025,000 on other costs including rehousing, civil, legal and employment costs, including victims’ lost wages due to time off for treatment.

Mayor Drummond said: “When people try to quantify how much it costs to the public purse in general in Hartlepool, it’s quite stark.

“There isn’t anywhere close to that actual amount to tackle it. “So it’s vital that all the partners like the police, probation, the courts and various voluntary sector organisations like Harbour try and tackle this problem. We have made great strides in the past 18 months, especially with the domestic violence court set up in Hartlepool and the independent domestic violence advocate that helps victims and supports them to give evidence.

“Everybody now is pulling in the same direction and making very best use of the scant resources we do have available.

“The cost is to everybody and it’s vital we get it right.

“But the costs are secondary in this – it’s people’s welfare that’s the main concern.”

Sally Forth, the council’s community safety manager, said: “I don’t think people realise the extent of domestic violence - it’s a hidden crime that goes on behind closed doors. “People think the main problem in Hartlepool is burglary and violence on a Friday and Saturday night, but up to eight calls a night come into Hartlepool Police about domestic violence and there are a lot of repeat offenders. “Over the last year, there were 32 incidents per 1,000 people and 27 per cent resulted in reported crime.”

Ms Forth said there had been a 3.2 per cent reduction in domestic violence, but the offence still accounts for 40 per cent of all violent crime.

Lesley Gibbon, director of Harbour, said: “It’s an absolutely major problem that can affect all walks of life.

“I really welcome the fact that Hartlepool are taking domestic violence and the new strategy to look at tackling a huge problem that affects everybody and it also affects services as well.”

KEY points of the strategy:

The latest strategy has four main objectives which will cover prevention and early intervention; support; partnership working; reducing the risk for victims and bringing perpetrators to justice.

Priorities identified include:

l Prevention, including workforce development;

l Support to female victims with children, to include a Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IVDA) service;

l Refuge and “move on” accommodation;

l Support to children in households with domestic violence;

l Support to female victims;

l A male perpetrator programme;

l Support to male victims;

l Security improvements to victims’ homes.

In addition, work has been carried out to examine and discuss why such low numbers of minority groups report domestic violence and what can be done to encourage and support more victims to report.

Other bodies involved in the strategy include Housing Hartlepool, the NHS, Victim Support and Women’s Support Network.

Anyone affected by domestic violence is urged to contact Harbour Support Services on 0845 0346055 or Cleveland Police on (01642) 302168.