Safe Steps domestic abuse support

Zoe Hill, from A Better Start Southend, writes about the commissioning of ‘Safe Steps’ to deliver the Early Years Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (EY IDVA) service in 2021 after a ‘surge’ in domestic abuse incidents during the pandemic.

Domestic abuse in Southend

Zoe Hill

Whilst domestic abuse is a national issue, Southend has consistently had the highest volume of incidents reported to Essex Police for eight consecutive years. It has also been reported that there is a higher chance of abuse starting or escalating during pregnancy. There is an estimated four to nine in every one-hundred pregnant women being abused during their pregnancy or soon after the birth, according to Safe Lives. Therefore, now more than ever, it is vital that professionals working in Early Years and parents across Southend with young children get the guidance and support they need to deal with domestic abuse.

The service supports and advocates for parents with children under 4 years of age who are experiencing and disclosing domestic abuse, by conducting risk assessments, making referrals, providing immediate support for those in crisis and risk reducing actions. The service also provides sector wide training to professionals in Early Years, to support in raising awareness of domestic abuse, to aid earlier identification and intervention, and to ensure that ‘it is everyone’s business.’

Safe Steps works in affiliation with ‘YourFamily’ and Southend Family Centres to support families across Southend. This partnership aims to reach all professionals working with parents with young children, guiding them on how to spot the signs, to understand the impact it has on parents and children, and where to get help.

The service aims to deliver on the following outcomes as part of its intervention:

  • Parents/Carers receive early access to domestic abuse services.
  • Parents/Carers have increased opportunities for safe disclosures.
  • Parents/Carers are immediately supported to flee their home.
  • Reduced impact of Parents/Carers and children’s social and emotional wellbeing issues.
  • Parents/Carers access recovery programmes and / or therapy.
  • An upskilled workforce.

A client testimonial:

“Thank you so much for all you are doing to support me and my family. I really do appreciate it. The resources you have given me have really helped me recognise the behaviours I don't want to be around and as the days go on, I am gaining the old me, before the abusive relationship. Speaking with you and having your support has definitely built my confidence massively in myself and my abilities as a single parent and now I am looking forward to a much brighter future.”

The Reclaim the Night march

As part of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence, which took place between 25th November and 10th December, Safe Steps teamed up with Southend City Council to host a safety event and Reclaim the Night march on Southend High Street on 6th December. The event included a marketplace for local organisations to showcase how they support men and women in the community to feel safe and be safe. It was a great opportunity to raise awareness of the need to end violence against women and girls. Although the march was for women only, men were invited to sign the White Ribbon Promise to pledge their support to help end violence towards women and girls. Representatives from the ABSS and YourFamily team were present and were able to discuss the EY IDVA project with members of the community and other organisations. The event attracted local press and radio interest and received positive feedback from attendees.

About A Better Start

A Better Start is a ten-year (2015-2025), £215 million programme set-up by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK.

Five A Better Start partnerships based in Blackpool, Bradford, Lambeth, Nottingham and Southend are supporting families to give their babies and very young children the best possible start in life. Working with local parents, the A Better Start partnerships are developing and testing ways to improve their children’s diet and nutrition, social and emotional development, and speech, language and communication.

The work of the programme is grounded in scientific evidence and research. A Better Start is place-based and enabling systems change. It aims to improve the way that organisations work together and with families to shift attitudes and spending towards preventing problems that can start in early life. It is one of five major programmes set up by The National Lottery Community Fund to test and learn from new approaches to designing services which aim to make people’s lives healthier and happier

The National Children’s Bureau is coordinating an ambitious programme of shared learning for A Better Start, disseminating the partnerships’ experiences in creating innovative services far and wide, so that others working in early childhood development or place-based systems change can benefit.

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Visit the A Better Start website to find out more.