National Charity Chapter 1 takes responsiblity of integrated domestic abuse service in Somerset
From 1 July 2012, the national charity, Chapter 1, took responsibility for an Integrated Domestic Abuse Service (IDAS) in Somerset
The contract from Somerset County Council runs until 2016 and will deliver a county-wide service from early intervention to eventual re-settlement. Previously there were four separate providers operating in different areas.
The separate specialistservices currently offered in Somerset by Bournemouth Churches Housing Association (BCHA) will continue to run alongside the Chapter 1 service.
Chapter 1's Operations Director, Rachel Sanders, explained:'Chapter 1's service will be co-ordinated so that one team will support individual families from their first contact to eventual resettlement in a home they can call their own.
'Domestic abuse services have come of age in recent years. When the first provision was offered the focus was on refuges. These "safe and secret" places continue to play a vital role for anyone who just needs to get away. However, the communal lifestyle of a refuge where friends can't come to visit, is only a short-term solution.
'We believe it's important to give our service users a range of choices so they can decide for themselves what is best. We offer options such as places in safe houses, or the chance to move into a tenancy of their own with support on hand when it's needed. For some, the ideal will be to stay in their own home if there is a way for them to be safe there.
'Chapter 1 will have outreach workers to support people in their own homes, emergency accommodation for those who just need to go somewhere immediately, and access to tenancies through our own private sector leasing scheme* where ongoing support can be provided.'
The Chapter 1 service will have two assessment hubs, one in the east of the county and one in the west. The areas align with the way other services in Somerset are administered.
Anyone who feels unsafe in their home should call the Somerset Domestic Abuse Freefone support line on 0800 6949 999.
They will be referred to one of the hubs and assigned a member of staff who will co-ordinate the support they need using a wide range of services.
Councillor Christine Lawrence, Somerset County Council's cabinet member for community services, said: 'Helping vulnerable people is one of our key priorities and it is vital that those affected by domestic abuse are supported to rebuild their lives. This service will allow more people across the county to access the right kind of support when and where they most need it.'
Because of the sensitivity of this work, Chapter 1 does not disclose specific locations of any of their domestic abuse services. However, they can confirm that they will be taking over the majority of the properties used by previous providers, and all the staff who were eligible and wished to transfer to the new service. This has meant that most of the current staff have come to work for Chapter 1.
Rachel concluded: 'We are delighted that so many former staff have joined us as it means we will be able to build on existing expertise here in Somerset. We are starting the new service with the same amount of placesas there were before, and we will be increasing outreach capacity to work with people in their own homes. With the new structure we will be in a position to extend the level of provision should the need arise.'