Commission aims to drive down domestic abuse in Barking and Dagenham

The UK’s first commission aimed at driving down violence in the borough with the highest number of domestic abuse offences in London has been launched with the support of MP Jess Phillips.

City Hall hope the work started by Barking and Dagenham Council’s Domestic Abuse Commission this week will lead to a “blueprint” for future policy in the capital.

The commission will explore how to prevent abuse as well as better ways to support victims. It was launched after a survey of 2,500 secondary school children in the borough revealed 26 per cent believed it was acceptable to hit your partner, and 32 per cent thought it sometimes fair to use threatening language.

Ms Phillips, who is also chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Domestic Violence and Abuse, said : “I remember working with a group of young girls in the Midlands who told me about going to the park and boys would line up and basically sexually assault them and they didn’t think there was something wrong with that.

“We spent decades campaigning for compulsory sex and relationship education in schools. But the reality is we we won’t see the difference of that rollout for ten years. It can’t just be an education video one week when 26 per cent of kids are saying it’s ok to hit your partner. It should matter as much as the core education system.

“That is why this commission is so important. Finding ways to change attitudes of young boys and girls is important.”

Barking and Dagenham has the highest number of reported domestic violence offences in London, with 12.8 per 1,000 people in 2017/18.

The 12 member commission, chaired by Shelter chief executive Polly Neate, will speak to charities, young people, victims and experts before making a series of recommendations, which will aim to create a long-term change in community attitude towards violence in the home.

Barking and Dagenham has already implemented some UK first domestic violence policies, including giving council workers who allege abuse 10 days immediate paid leave and partnering with charity Refuge to provide specialist services for victims.

Sophie Linden, City Hall’s deputy mayor for policing and crime, said: “Domestic violence is something a lot of people have been affected by in some way. We want this commission to deliver and become a blueprint for London.”

Rachael Burford

Local Democracy Reporter