Barking and Dagenham to launch domestic abuse campaign

The London borough with the highest rates of domestic violence in the capital is set to launch a first of its kind campaign to “make abuse more visible” and make it easier for victims to seek help.

Last year Barking and Dagenham became the first council to set up a commission which aimed to tackle domestic violence and its root causes.

Cllr Maureen Worby said the town hall decided to take action after learning it had the highest rates of reported abuse in London and a survey of school children in the borough found more than a quarter believed in was sometimes acceptable to hit a partner.

A panel consisting of 12 national experts, including MP Jess Phillips and Shelter CEO Polly Neate, were involved in developing a long-term plan which has been led by survivors.

The panel spoke to 500 domestic violence victims and people working in abuse services to help form a report.

This week the borough reviewed the plan for the first time before it is officially launched next month.

Its recommendations include that the council lobbies partners to invest in domestic abuse training, it recruits a group of culturally diverse young ambassadors of healthy relationships and it establishes a permanent domestic abuse survivors panel.

The commission also suggested that the council launch a borough-wide “we believe you” campaign, which would encourage victims to come forward and talk about the abuse they are suffering.

Cllr Worby told Barking and Dagenham’s cabinet meeting: “We set this up to find out why in this borough domestic abuse appeared to be normalised. I’m not proud of these stats but we have the highest police reported rates in London.

“We had research done in our schools where 26 per cent of our young people, both male and female, were saying it was okay to be slapped or get a slap from your partner.

“For me that was the straw that broke the camels back. If I have a next generation who think that how am I ever going to come to grips with this.”

In 2017/18, Barking and Dagenham had the highest rates of reported domestic violence offences in London, with 12.8 offences reported per 1,000 people. Almost a third of social care assessments of children under five had domestic abuse listed as a factor

The report suggests that Barking and Dagenham’s should use it “existing online platform to start resident conversations about domestic abuse, and allow residents to feed their views into campaigns and volunteer for specific roles”.

Local groups should also be given seed funding to encourage them to “launch tailored campaign messages to raise awareness of domestic violence”, the panel said.

Cllr Worby added: “What has chimed through the report is that this report tells us what survivors think should happen, the direction they want to travel….We welcome this report and all of the recommendations in it. But how we make these recommendations a priority has got to be carefully thought out.”

Rachael Burford

Local Democracy Reporter