Behind the scenes for Leeds domestic abuse work

Domestic abuse and the lasting damage it causes affects people in all areas of society, backgrounds and businesses.

Thursday, 24th November 2016, 2:10 pm
Updated Tuesday, 29th November 2016, 9:27 am

That’s the message from police and council chiefs who are shining a light on the extensive work going on behind the scenes to tackle the issue.

It comes as today marks the start of a 16 Days of Action campaign - designed to raise awareness about domestic abuse.

Acting Detective Chief Inspector Dave Cowley, from West Yorkshire Police, said the force receives between 50 and 60 reports for domestic abuse and violence every day in Leeds.

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In the city, there is a dedicated investigations team - to deal with the issue - made up of seven police sergeants and more than 40 officers.

Acting Det Chf Insp Cowley said: “Protecting the vulnerable and domestic abuse is one of the key priorities for West Yorkshire Police.

“We get reports from every sector of society. It might be financial abuse, emotional, coercive controlling behaviour stalking - all these might not necessarily involve violence.”

Police have a 78 per cent conviction rate for domestic abuse at Leeds Magistrates’ Court - the highest in West Yorkshire.

But Acting Det Chf Insp Cowley urged victims to always report domestic abuse to police immediately.

The force, Leeds City Council and other organisations are now involved in daily conversations about the issue to share more information than ever before.

The council has also been re-accredited with the White Ribbon - as part of a internationally-recognised campaign to engage men in tackling violence against women.

New initiatives include the council’s Front Door Safeguarding Hub and a notification system, where schools and GPs are told about potential safeguarding issues with patients or children.

The council launched the hub last year, a multi-agency centre that deals with high-level risk domestic abuse reports.

Staff at the hub in Leeds hold a conference every morning, with representatives from around 15 organisations.

They discuss some of the more serious incidents received by police on the previous day, and create action plans to ensure response times are quick.

Louise Hackett, from the Safer Leeds organisation, said: “First thing in the morning the police collate all the high and medium-risk incidents and share them with the partners signed up to the process.

“It’s going through each incident, what we know and it ends up with a plan of action that is how you best support those ind and hwo you manage the risk and who should take a lead in the case going forward.”

Organisations involved in the conferences include social services, NHS, probation services and housing.

Children’s services staff also work at the hub and are on hand in cases involving young people.

To determine the risk level of each domestic abuse call, officers investigating fill out a Domestic Abuse Stalking and Harassment (DASH) form, with checklists.

They include weapons or violence, controlling behaviour, if children are involved and whether there is a history of abuse.

Examples of high-risk DASH scores would be badly wounding, or possibly consistently repeated harm to victims.

This year, the council has trained more than 300 GPs in the city to understand the signs of domestic violence and offer support to victims.

Ms Hackett added: “We have made domestic violence absolutely central to a lot of people’s work.

“Our aspiration as a city is that it’s going to be everybody’s business.”

And a Caring Dads initiative has also been launched, for fathers where there have been domestic abuse, for female victims, and to provide support for children and young people involved.

It gives services and support staff a chance to intervene at an early stage after abuse has occurred.

Julie Longworth, from Leeds City Council’s Children Services department, said: “Someimtes you get that window of opportunity when that realisation dawns.

“It’s that sensitive moment when you can just get that in-word at the earliest opportunity.”

As part of the 16 Days of Action, the council and Safer Leeds community partnership are urging men to pledge their support to the campaign.

There is also a toolkit for businesses and blogs will be shared online for communities.

If you are concerned about domestic abuse, visit for advice.

There is also a 24-hour helpline on 0113 2460401.

Contact police on 101 if it’s a non-emergency or 999 if you are in danger.