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Ombudsman issues guidance to help domestic abuse survivors

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has called on councils to use its latest report to examine the services they provide to victims of domestic abuse.

As councils take on more responsibility under the new Domestic Abuse Act, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman is urging them to reflect on their own practices and procedures using the lessons contained within its report and identify whether they can improve the way they work.

Councils, notes the Ombudsman, have a key role in responding to domestic abuse, and working with other agencies, such as the police and health services, they provide appropriate support to victims of domestic abuse, for example through housing and homelessness services, children's safeguarding or to adults at risk of abuse or neglect.

In the report, the Ombudsman uses the experiences of a number of victims whose cases it has investigated to offer guidance and insight to councils, and suggest ways in which those services could have responded better.

Issues highlighted in the report include councils questioning victims' lived experiences and downplaying the impact of the trauma they have endured, failing to work with other local services to keep victims safe, and leaving people at risk for longer than necessary.

In one case, a victim's personal information was shared with her abusive former partner, causing huge stress and anxiety. In another, a pregnant mother and her four-month-old baby were assaulted by their abuser when they were not rehoused quickly enough by their local council.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:

"Navigating the myriad processes that might be involved when victims of domestic abuse first call on their local council for help can be daunting enough, even without the trauma and stress of having gone through such awful experiences.

"The key thing therefore is for councils to provide services for victims of domestic abuse as soon as they ask for help – and those services provided by authorities and partner agencies need to be seamless to avoid compounding the trauma.

"I would urge councils across England to take the report in the constructive manner in which it is intended and use it to scrutinise their systems and procedures to see whether they can make changes for the better. If this helps drive action to keep even a single person safe from abuse, then it must be worth it."

For the report, click here and then click on the link at the top right side of the page opened.