Domestic Abuse

County-Based Pilots for Domestic Abuse Victims with Complex Needs

Delivered by

Reducing the Risk   Berkshire Womens Aid   smart


During the commissioning prepration the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) commissioned a Domestic Violence needs assessment report to inform the future service commissioning strategy.  A report by Karen Morton (Commissioning Domestic Abuse Services) highlighted the need for further support for Domestic Abuse victims with complex needs (e.g. mental health problems, self-harming, and substance misuse).

Taking into consideration the findings of the report, the PCC agreed to grant fund 3 x county-based Domestic Abuse pilot projects for 18 months, to support Domestic Abuse victims (both male and female) with complex and/or specialist needs.  

The service is being delivered in:-

  • Oxfordshire by Reducing the Risk  
  • Buckinghamshire by Smart 
  • Berkshire by Berkshire Women’s Aid


What is Domestic Abuse?

The cross Government definition of Domestic Abuse is:

‘any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality’. 

The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to:

  • psychological
  • physical
  • sexual
  • financial
  • emotional 

There is clear evidence to show that the majority of Domestic Abuse is perpetrated by men against women.  Violence perpetrated against women and girls has received more research and is better understood, with national and international strategies focused on DV against women.  However, this does not diminish the real impact of DV experienced by men and boys. 


What support does the service offer?

Oxfordshire pilot project

 The project has three main strands:

  • The Anchor Programme (TAP). This is a new initiative consisting of three consecutive groups running for six months each to work more effectively with victims whose fragile mental health and associated behaviours put them at additional risk.
  • A wider scoping initiative with the aim of liaising and working more closely with mental health services in Oxfordshire; identifying important ‘gateway’ services to establish referral pathways and explore more effective ways of working together. This will include links with primary care.
  • Further development of the domestic abuse champion training within mental health services to help promote greater awareness and capacity to support victims of abuse and strengthen early intervention pathways. (Reducing the Risk is also working more broadly with Health Trusts to help strengthen internal pathways and links into external services for patients vulnerable to abuse and exploitation).


Berkshire pilot project

This project is for domestic abuse victims with complex needs providing face to face support.  Referrals come from a variety of sources including self-referrals and are identified, triaged and offered tailored outreach support. This new, more structured approach to outreach enables some clients, who need more support, especially in the initial crisis stages, a more intensive outreach support service.  The object is to get the individual to a more stable point where such a high level of intervention is no longer necessary and the client can access refuge.  This approach has enabled staff to achieve a higher level of ownership of more complex cases.


Buckinghamshire pilot project

SMART run an outreach service to best meet the needs of complex clients experiencing domestic abuse with two dedicated Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs) working across Buckinghamshire. The IDVA’s case-manage complex needs clients at all risk levels, coordinating a multi-agency approach, working in close partnership with Women’s Aid, structured drug and alcohol treatment services, mental health services , MARAC’s and police across the region.

The IDVA’s work with complex clients initially to cope; through crisis management, particularly to overcome any barriers preventing access to mainstream DV services.  Specifically, the IDVA’s assess risk, ensure the client’s immediate safety, and implement a safety and risk management plan. The IDVA then works with the client to recover; stabilising or reducing substance use, and managing mental health issues, enabling them to access mainstream refuges and DV services.


Contact our Domestic Abuse and Complex Needs Services:

Berkshire Women's Aid - Berkshire


Reducing the Risk - Oxfordshire


Smart CJS - Buckinghamshire



Review of Domestic Abuse – from call to court and beyond

Domestic Abuse is a complex safeguarding issue and all multi-agency professionals have a role to play in keeping victims, their children and other affected people safe.  The interdependencies between these identified issues suggests that the end-to-end process for supporting victims of Domestic Abuse – from call to court and beyond – involving all agencies, would benefit from review, to ensure that our commissioning and processes join up and meet operational gaps whilst avoiding duplication.

Current level of support available (and needed) for victims of domestic abuse throughout the Criminal Justice process and beyond in Thames Valley, highlights a number of challenges, including but not limited to:-

  • Duplication of processes and provision across all agencies
  • Engagement by police to other agencies with LGBT and BME victims of domestic abuse
  • Elusive victims and their non-engagement with the police verses positive intervention from support services
  • The variation in support for victims with an assessed risk of ‘medium’ and ‘standard’ risk (due to variation in local commissioning), with overall support likely to diminish over time as some areas de-commission services due to financial pressures

Taking into account the issues and need for end to end review, the PCC has funded a post of Domestic Abuse Coordinator to complete this review on a fixed term basis for a period of 18 months.


Further Information

Support Service for Victims of Domestic Abuse with Complex Needs Decision Paper

Contract Management Strategy

Commissioning Domestic Abuse Services - Report to the Thames Valley PCC

Commissioning Domestic Abuse Services - Report to the Thames Valley PCC (Executive Summary)


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