Archive for March, 2012

March 30, 2012

The Public Services – Social Value Act – Will it make any difference?

The post below is ‘honestly stolen from’ the CAF Giving Thought Blog (http://giving-thought.tumblr.com/).  Like the author, I have been meaning to write about this for a while….but I would never have been as clear, nor would I have found such a good photo!  All I would add, is that our work with our Insights service (http://www.caada.org.uk/dvservices/insights-for-domestic-abuse-services.html )and trying to measure outcomes that matter to victims, practitioners, funders and commissioners should all contribute to doing this kind of analysis better in future.  We talk at CAADA about the silver thread of data that links victims to commissioners.  So with that, I will hand over now to the CAF blogger…

“I have been thinking for a little while about doing a blog post on the new Public Services (Social Value) Act, and when I came across an article on the topic by former NAVCA CEO Kevin Curley it finally spurred me to action. Curley discusses some of the potential issues with the Bill and the way it will be implemented, and many of his thoughts echo ones I have been mulling over myself.

The Act sets out a new requirement that “public authorities to have regard to economic, social and environmental well-being in connection with public services contracts; and for connected purposes.” This has been well received by many in the civil society sector, who have been arguing for a long time that charities and social enterprises have been at a disadvantage when competing for public service contracts because they are unable to make the most of all the benefits they can offer. It is hoped that this bill could improve the situation.

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March 22, 2012

The Victims and Witnesses Consultation – ‘Getting it Right’

I attended (most) of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Victims and Witnesses yesterday where the new consultation ‘Getting it Right’ was debated.  This is a very important consultation for our sector.   The main point of contention was the use of local commissioning for victim services, in particular Violence against Women services.   There was some eloquent input from Javed Khan, CEO of Victim Support and Sheila Coates, from Rape Crisis, both of whom argued strongly that there should be national direction for the commissioning of services for victims with local implementation. They argued that the current system works well and should not be amended.  To be fair, the Minister, Crispin Blunt, confirmed that services related to homicide would be commissioned nationally, most other victim services would be commissioned locally and that the consultation document did not specify where violence against women services should sit–suggesting that there is an opportunity to influence this.

Given the focus on localism, the advent of police and crime commissioners, and in the wake of the new social value bill which puts the responsibility of local authorities to consider social value (let’s call it social impact) when commissioning, it seems that an element local commissioning is something that we are very unlikely to avoid.

It would be great to share ideas about how local commissioning can be made to work well and examples of good practice that we can showcase, as well as debating the merits of national commissioning.   If you can send over your experience from your area, it would be much appreciated. Thanks for your help.

March 8, 2012

Important Progress on Stalking

After many years of campaigning to change the law, Tricia Bernal and Carol Faruqui, both of whose daughters were killed by stalkers, are now on their way to achieving their goal.  I have met Tricia and Carol many times – they are tremendously courageous and positive – dedicated to avoiding for others, the terrible fate that befell their daughters.  They have spent many hours patiently explaining to me why this is so important. And slowly, slowly, I have caught up.  The Prime Minister announced this morning that the law will be changed to introduce a specific offence of stalking, with a potential custodial sentence of up to 5 years.

I think that there are a few reasons why this is important.  The first is about risk.  Many, many people are stalked and we are all familiar with how much easier it is to stalk someone now via email, Facebook, Twitter etc.  Of course, not every stalker is truly dangerous – although they might all be truly frightening.  But this focus on stalking will help highlight the types of stalking behaviour that are truly dangerous.  These include constant/obsessive phone calls, texts or emails; uninvited visits to home, workplace etc or loitering. It includes where someone destroys or vandalises property; pursues the victim after separation, or where the stalker threatens suicide/homicide to victim and other family members.  Other examples include where there are threats of sexual violence or involvement of others in the stalking behaviour.  Friends, family and professionals need to acknowledge the degree of risk involved in such behaviours because they are the ones that could result in a murder.

Secondly, the proposed changes to the legislation don’t limit who the stalker is and what relationship the victim has with them. Those of us working in the domestic abuse field have been heard to say: “It isn’t stalking, it is just part of the domestic abuse, part of the controlling behaviour.”  Whether we are right or wrong doesn’t matter – what is more important is that we must talk to victims and their families in language that they recognise.  Even in the most extreme controlling situations with many different forms of abuse, victims will very rarely describe themselves as suffering domestic abuse.  Stalking is language that we can all relate to – I very much hope that this helps to give people the confidence to come forward and seek help.  It is likely that a large percentage of cases will involve a current or former partner.  The current Protection from Harassment Act is the only piece of legislation in our field that recognises the impact of a course of conduct.  This is so important and it is really positive that we can build on it.

Finally, the proposed changes from the Select Committee include psychiatric assessments for stalkers.  Certainly, many of the cases I have looked at include what looks like someone with mental health problems to an untrained eye.  Combined with the stronger sentencing guidelines, these assessments appear crucial.

We have seen a huge surge in the use of restraining orders in cases of domestic abuse, and increasing use of the harassment legislation. Whoever the stalker is, let’s hope that these revisions will meet Tricia and Carol’s goals to keeping more victims safe in future.