Lambeth was one of the first councils in the UK to develop and implement an integrated VAWG strategy and was the first to develop and deliver a service specifically addressing all forms of VAWG under one roof, the Gaia Centre.
The Violence Indicator Profiles for the English Regions in 2011 showed Lambeth ranked 329 out of 354 local authorities in recorded sexual offences (the higher the ranking, the greater the number of offences). Lambeth ranked as the highest volume borough in the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) for reported Most Serious Violence against Women and had the fifth highest volume of reported domestic violence offences out of the 15 boroughs that were most similar. Data from the National Domestic Violence helpline showed that between April and October 2011, 431 calls were made from Lambeth residents. This was the highest amount of calls from all London local authorities (5.7 per cent).
Based on an analysis of offences of domestic violence reported to Lambeth Police between January 2011 and December 2012, there were 1,683 Domestic Violence Offences in Lambeth, compared to 1,733 in 2010. This showed a slight decrease in the level of offences of 2.9 per cent (50 offences). In comparison to regional and national averages, Lambeth had a high number of sexual offences; the Violence Indicator Profiles for the English Regions (VIPER) ranked the borough as 319 out of 326 authorities in the country (326 being the highest for sexual offences) and the fourth highest in London. However, total sexual offences in Lambeth for 2011 were at their lowest level since 2008, with 519 offences. Of these, 82.6 per cent were classed as serious sexual offences. All sexual offence categories saw a decrease compared to 2010.
Violence against women is a significant issue in Lambeth. The National Domestic Violence Helpline reported that the number of calls received from women in Lambeth was the highest of all London local authorities in 2011. Existing services to reduce Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) often duplicated one another and the services did not properly meet the needs of all service users, particularly younger women and girls.
Lambeth was one of the first councils in the UK to develop an integrated VAWG strategy and was the first to develop and deliver a service specifically addressing all forms of VAWG under one roof, the Gaia Centre. Lambeth’s vision was to prevent violence by changing attitudes; providing support when violence did occur; work with partners to deliver the best outcomes for victims, and reduce the risk of repeat violence and ensure perpetrators were brought to justice.
The existing service was somewhat fragmented, consisting of various different schemes and with users unclear as to how the process worked. The services often duplicated work, wasting valuable resources. The age range covered by the existing services also was not designed to address issues relating to younger service users, particularly gang violence against young women.
The Safer Lambeth VAWG Strategy 2011-2014 was developed using innovative co-operative council principles, which included listening to the insights of women who had accessed the service, to identify what worked well and what did not. The Gaia peer mentoring scheme, which brought a more informal touch to the service, was one innovation that came out of this exercise. In-depth consultations with stakeholders, and involvement and ‘reality-checking’ through the domestic violence forum also informed the plans.
Listening to service users, partners and providers through the Lambeth VAWG Customer Insight Project told the team that they needed to do more to address all strands of VAWG and the relationship between them, to better coordinate their services and to react to a world of rapidly changing technology and attitudes.
In response to this, they developed a whole range of activities designed to ensure that Lambeth would both prevent and respond to all forms of VAWG effectively. A major component and commitment of the strategy was the re-commissioning of the Gaia Centre, bringing together all strands of their work on VAWG under one roof to provide a better, more responsive and more appropriate service for users.
The aim was to support approximately 1,200 victims per year by 2014; a 50 per cent increase on previous provision.
The objective of this initiative was to increase the Gaia Centre’s capacity, to increase the age range of service users they could support and to refocus its approach towards all strands of VAWG, rather than just domestic violence.
In order to ensure that the new Gaia Centre delivered a truly seamless VAWG service, the commissioning team brought together a range of funding streams to commission one service model.
The team then designed a single specification addressing the areas prioritised in the VAWG Strategy, taking into consideration the findings from the Lambeth VAWG Customer Insight Project. Innovations were based on users’ feedback (i.e. a single, clear VAWG service delivery model, a peer mentoring scheme and child care provision).
In recognition of the increase in concern and prevalence of VAWG affecting younger women and girls, the service specification for the Gaia Centre also contained a requirement for the new provider to deliver a young women’s advocacy scheme. The service also undertook outreach work in schools, youth settings and colleges, in partnership with the schools work commissioned by NHS Lambeth and CYPS, to address the links between serious youth violence, gangs and the exploitation of young women and girls. Young women and girls who were at risk of gender based violence, including risk from gang involvement and/or gang exploitation, would be provided with a support service at the Gaia Centre.
It was decided that, to provide essential stability during a difficult time, the existing domestic violence council staff would be seconded to the new provider for the life of the contract. Following an open tender process, Refuge was awarded the contract to run the service.
The Gaia Centre service specification includes:
- Support for victims of all eight strands of violence against women and girls
- A single referral pathway
- Children’s support worker
- A peer mentoring/support scheme staffed by volunteers
- Independent Gender Violence Advocates (high risk) and outreach service (non-high risk)
- Community engagement
- Sanctuary scheme
- Early Intervention workers – working with 13-17 year old girls experiencing, or at risk of, VAWG
- Co-location of IRIS (Identification and Referral to Improve Safety) and Independent Sexual Violence Advocate
- Supports both men and women.
Based on exit interviews, service users demonstrated the outcomes below:
- 65% decrease in fear
- 38% risk reduction
- 74% decrease in injuries
- 95% increased feelings of safety
- 91% improvement in quality of life
- 86% increased confidence in accessing help and support
- Key achievements
- High referral number with 1,431 referrals in 2015
- High number of self-referrals – average of 35% representing the number one referral method
- Continued financial support and use of varied money sources
- Continued political support
- Early Intervention service is growing with new funding for a third worker from the Clinical Commissioning Group
- The numbers of service users accessing support for VAWG strands that are not domestic and sexual violence, is increasing
- Service users are accessing support for multiple VAWG strands – between 70-90% of service users have experienced more than one type of VAWG – demonstrating the value of integrating the VAWG strands into one service.
The scheme brought together a range of funding streams from Lambeth Council Supporting People (LBL), Housing Regeneration and Environment (LBL) and Lambeth First (Strategic Partnership), with the aim of commissioning one service model. Some additional funding was also provided from Home Office grants.
Contact: Sophie Taylor
Violence Against Women and Girls Officer
E Mail: [email protected]