Significant rise in domestic violence

Domestic abuse cases have risen “significantly” with more than 500 referrals, many involving children a report has shown.

The current domestic abuse service, Compass, run by Safe Steps, covers the whole of Southend, Essex and Thurrock and is run by Essex County Council..

A report to Southend City Council’s health and wellbeing board shows there were 454 referrals for domestic abuse in 2022/23 up from 424 the previous year. Of those referrals 414 were high risk and 284 involved households with children.

In Southend, Safe Steps received a total of 462 new referrals, with a further 66 referrals seeking information, advice, and guidance only. Most of these victims were female but include 13 males.

Daniel Nelson, councillor responsible for public health and adult social care, is a white ribbon ambassador, an organisation which aims to end men’s violence against women.

He said: “I’m deeply alarmed at the increase of referrals but at least with these referral increases it means more women are feeling like they can reach out and get help.

“Whilst it’s absolutely tragic that anyone in this city is suffering from domestic abuse, which I think is one of the most sickening things a human being can go through, it is testament to the work that’s been done that more women feel comfortable to come and get the support they need to be safe in their own home and men as well.”

Cllr Nelson added: “If anyone is afraid or feel like they are in an abusive relationship, please reach out to us. There is help and support and we will get you into a safe position in your life.”

Southend Council has undertaken a domestic abuse needs assessment to draw up a domestic abuse strategy. The report to the health and wellbeing board, which will meet on Tuesday, said: “Both pieces of discovery work show that there is a high prevalence of domestic abuse across Southend, Essex and Thurrock (SET) with a significant increase having been seen in the last 18 months. Southend has the highest number of cases across the whole of SET.”

Owen Richards, Healthwatch Southend’s chief officer, said: “It’s well known that people who have experienced domestic abuse women, men and their families can suffer poorer health and wellbeing, often years after incidents.

“We are here to offer information, advice and guidance about local health and care services to anyone in Southend, supporting professionals in the public sector but also those in organisations such as Safe Steps. Our service is free and confidential.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter