Agenda for Environment and Community Safety Overview and Scrutiny Committee ad hoc Panel - Support Services for Victims of Sexual Violence - Completed on Monday, 29th March, 2010, 1.30pm

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Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Committee Room 2, Hove Town Hall. View directions

Contact: Libby Young, Email:, tel: 01273-290450 

No. Item


Procedural Business pdf icon PDF 51 KB


    6a        Declaration of substitutes


    6.1       Substitutes are not allowed on scrutiny panels.


    6b       Declaration of interest


    6.2       There were no declarations of interest.


    6c        Declaration of party whip


    6.3       There were no declarations of party whip.


    6d       Exclusion of press and public


    6.4       In accordance with section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, it was considered whether the press and public should be excluded from the meeting during the consideration of any items contained on the agenda, having regard to the nature of the business to be transacted and the nature of the proceedings and the likelihood as to whether, if the members of the press and public were present, there would be disclosure to them of confidential or exempt information as defined in section 100l of the said Act.


    6.5       Resolved – That the press and public be not excluded from the meeting.


    6.6       It was also noted that should there be a requirement or preference for any evidence to be given in private, either at this meeting or any future meetings of the panel, then members of the panel would support witnesses in this and enter into a Part Two situation. Additionally, if there were a need for members of the panel to leave the room then there was a female deputy chair who would be able to take over the proceedings. Lastly, if there were any members of the public who wished to share their experiences of the services provided in the city but would not wish to do this in a public meeting then one-to-one sessions could be arranged at a time and location preferable to the witness.



Chairman's Communications


    7.1       The chairman welcomed all the speakers and thanked them for taking the time to come and speak to the panel and for being involved in the panel’s evidence gathering process.


    7.2       The scrutiny panel is focusing on what support services are already available in the city and whether they are operating as they should be, as well as identifying where there are gaps in the provision of local services. So far the panel has identified and taken evidence from a number of organisations which offer support services to those affected by sexual violence. After today’s meeting the panel will meet once more in public before considering what recommendations it will be making.


    7.3       It was noted that there were a number of speakers present at the meeting and that the speakers would have approximately 10 minutes to present their information to the panel, followed by some questions from members of the panel. It was agreed that the format of the meeting would be kept informal so as to enable the speakers to ask questions of each other and for all present to be able to engage in the issues being discussed. 



Evidence-Gathering Session pdf icon PDF 30 KB

    To hear evidence from:


    • Arthur Law and Michelle Pooley: LGBT, Domestic Violence and Abuse Working Group


    • Martyn Sullivan: CEO, Mankind UK


    • Lisa Dando: Director, Brighton Women’s Centre


    • Naomi Gosling: Deputy Manager, Stopover


    • Joanne Welsh: Brighton Oasis Project



    Please note the agreed Scrutiny Panel’s Terms of Reference, also attached for information.


    8          Evidence-Gathering sessions


    8.1       The panel heard evidence from a number of witnesses.


    8.2a    Lisa Dando and Jules Mercy from the Brighton Women’s Centre gave evidence to the panel.


    8.2b    The Brighton Women’s Centre offers a number of specialised and generic services to women in Brighton and Hove. The centre offers a 12 week course of one-to-one counselling as well as a 12 week course of one-to-one specialist rape and sexual assault counselling. The centre receives referrals for counselling from the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) in Crawley. Additionally, the centre offers a 12 week one-to-one course of counselling for women who have experienced domestic violence and this is offered in partnership with RISE. The women’s centre also offers women only; drop-ins, advice, guidance and signposting to other services; access to a range of training; self development courses incorporating creative, educational and employment opportunities; self-esteem courses which are offered in partnership with the Family Intervention Project; and holistic therapies. The centre also offers an Ofsted registered pre-school.

    The Brighton Women’s Centre offers support to all women irrespective of their background. It is important that women have access to women only services to ensure that those women who wouldn’t otherwise access services are able to. The centre is accessed by women who are vulnerable and disadvantaged to address issues such as accommodation, poverty, mental health and emotional well-being, physical health, low self esteem, sexual health, relationship difficulties, employment and training, domestic violence, sexual violence, and support with childcare. The women’s centre focuses on providing generic, women only services and offers these services in a holistic approach as possible. Women tend to access the centre for a specific service but often end up accessing a range of services at the centre.


    The women’s centre provides a number of preventative services for vulnerable women who are in the high risk categories for sexual violence. A young women’s experience of sexual violence, as is acknowledged in the Stern Review, is often in conjunction with other factors such as previous experience of sexual abuse, mental health, learning disabilities, and isolation. These factors lead to women having low self esteem and a lack of internalised self worth which predisposes them to becoming targets for sexual violence. Vulnerable women are far more likely to be at risk of sexual violence. The women’s centre works to support women in crisis as well as those who have had historical experiences of sexual violence and will support women through court process as well as offering emotional support. The value of a generic service such as the Brighton Women’s Centre, is that women will present with a single issue, such as depression or anxiety, which they may not associate with previous experiences of sexual violence. The therapeutic interventions offered by the centre and its partners help to support women to deal with a number of related factors and issues they may have.


    The women’s centre is accessed by a large number of women who have been subjected to sexual violence, as the figures for those accessing counselling services at the centre demonstrate. In 09/10 167 clients were referred to the centre’s counselling service of which, 11% were dealing with sexual violence, 19% were dealing with childhood sexual abuse, and 26% with domestic violence. This means that 55% of referrals to the counselling services at the centre were associated with some form of physical or sexual violence. In 09/10 104 women accessed and were offered counselling of which, 11% were dealing with sexual violence, 16% with childhood sexual abuse, and 21% with domestic violence. A total of 51% of women accessing counselling at the centre had experienced some form of sexual or physical violence. Demand for services at the centre outstrips supply by 40% and there is a waiting list of 2 to 3 months for those wanting counselling services. The women’s centre leads on the Inspire Project and this project is anticipating that referrals from those who have experienced sexual and domestic violence to increase. It is already known that 44% of women offenders are dealing with sexual violence, abuse or domestic violence.


    8.2c     Members of the panel asked which organisations and agencies make referrals to the women’s centre.


    8.2d    The panel heard that the centre receives referrals from a range of organisations, agencies, and professionals including; statutory agencies such as the SARC, the Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs), GPs, Midwives, East and West Access Mental Health Teams, Royal Sussex Hospital, Police, Sussex Probation, Family Intervention Project and Social Services. The centre also receives referrals from the voluntary sector including; the Crime Reduction Initiative, Age Concern, YMCA, BHT, Brighton Unemployed Families Centre and partners from the Women’s Services Strategic Network (WSSN). The centre also makes referrals out particularly to the other women’s organisations in the city (RISE, Threshold, the Survivors’ Network, and Oasis) as well as other specific agencies depending on a client’s need. 


    8.2e    Members of the panel commented that there appeared to be an enormous amount of need within the city for the centre’s services as well as women needing referring to other services. It was asked whether there is a nucleus of clients which have to wait for a long time before they can get into the system and access services, and whether the services supplied were adequate for the needs of clients and whether there are any identified gaps or areas where the council can offer support to the women’s third sector organisations in the city. Members of the panel asked if, because of the 2 to 3 month waiting list, many women were deterred from accessing services.


    8.2f      The panel heard that capacity was a real issue both for the Brighton Women’s Centre as well as for the other women’s third sector organisations in the city. Some women do drop out because of the long waiting list and some others will access other services instead.


    8.2g    Members of the panel asked if those agencies and organisations making referrals to the centre also assisted the centre with funding.


    8.2h     The panel heard that the Brighton Women’s Centre receives some funds from the SARC for referrals. However as an organisation the centre does not receive funding from the PCT or the police and has only just recently received some funding from the council via a discretionary grant. The centre has no sustainable long-term funding.


    8.2i      Members of the panel commented that funding was a constant problem for third sector organisations; however, as the services they are now offering could be considered statutory services then they should be receiving funding to deliver these.


    8.2j      The panel heard that funding problems is a continual and historic problem for the women’s centre. Women need to be able to access services which they can trust, and which feel safe, however, this can be problematic to achieve when sustainability is difficult to maintain and the centre is not always certain that it can run services for the duration of which women may wish to access them.


    8.2k     Members of the panel asked which other third sector organisations in the city the women’s centre worked with.


    8.2l      The panel heard that the women’s centre works closely with RISE. RISE works with those who have experienced domestic violence and so there is some cross over in client groups between the centre and RISE. The women’s centre is also a member of the Women’s Services Strategic Network (WSSN). As a result of the development of the WSSN and the partnership working which has resulted from it, the Network received funding to run the Inspire Project. The Inspire Project works with female offenders many of whom would have been the victim of historical violence which may have contributed to them becoming offenders. The women’s centre was approached by the Ministry of Justice to apply for the funding. As it was key to the delivery of the service that a holistic approach to implementation and design was taken and as there is a successful women’s partnership in operation in the city the WSSN made a joint application for the funding and will be delivering the services in partnership with each other. It is essential that there is a generic women’s organisation, such as the Brighton Women’s Centre, in the city which can make referrals to other specialised service providers. Many women when accessing services may not know what services they wish to access and the initial route into services may not be the most appropriate one. 


    8.2m   Members of the panel asked whether there were effective working relationships between the women’s organisations in the city and whether there were any barriers to working together. Members of the panel also asked if the women’s centre would be in favour of ring-fenced funding.


    8.2n     The panel heard that the women’s third sector organisations in the city work very well together and had worked very hard to build a partnership to enable them to work more cohesively and holistically and in an integrated manner. The grant from the Ministry of Justice given to the WSSN is a demonstration of the faith which the national government has in the sector and in the Women’s partnership in the city. The panel heard that ring-fenced funding would be a start. However, the women accessing services at the centre usually present a variety of issues which require support. For example, a women who has experienced domestic violence is likely to require not only support to overcome the trauma associated with domestic violence, but to require support to build her self confidence, help with accessing training, education and employment, housing support, and support to overcome poverty. This means that a holistic approach is required to supporting women and enabling needs to be addressed and this is best achieved through partnership working within the sector and it is the partnership which needs to be invested in, and as soon as possible.


    8.2o    Members of the panel asked if the partnership was being invested in and whether there was competition between members of the partnership for funding.


    8.2p    The panel heard that the partnership is currently struggling as it does not have sustainable funding or resources; the services are being delivered it is just the partnership is struggling to do this. The partnership has worked hard to overcome competitive barriers and is working hard to continue to overcome any problems which it faces. Whilst the women’s centre works with women across any issue, it concentrates on providing the generic services which women require and in order to do this the centre needs to be able to refer women on to specialist support services. Funding is a continual problem for the women’s centre and whilst the centre has received funding from the Ministry of Justice, until March 2011, the centre will really struggle next year. This is unfortunately a familiar problem as the centre has struggled to find funding throughout its history as an organisation.


    8.2q    Members of the panel asked if the centre had the power to change anything what would they change, would it be to receive core funding so that they do not have to compete with other organisations for access to funding and so they could concentrate on delivering services rather than biding for money.


    8.2r     The panel heard that there is a need to get beyond the situation whereby the centre has to apply for funding every year. The centre really needs 3 or 5 year pots of money. It is really difficult for service providers to effectively plan medium and long-term service provision for very vulnerable women when there is no stability in funding. If service users state particular needs then the centre needs to ensure that they have access to funding to be able to develop and set up the service, as well as get it running and deliver it. The funding from the Ministry of Justice will require the centre to develop and start effectively delivering services within a very short timeframe. Service development takes time and it takes time to put services in place and current funding cycles do not take this into account.


    The centre and the sector should be better supported by the statutory agencies in the city. The women’s third sector organisations need infrastructure support through further development of the WSSN. The WSSN want to continue to make the gains they have achieved through the partnership and require a Development Worker Post to be able to continue to do this. The Development Worker would be able to support the partnership to thrive and help to co-ordinate the organisations in the city. Currently the women’s organisations in the city need support to work in partnership as they have all taken this task on alongside their day jobs and it is hard therefore for the organisations to maintain their own management as well as work on the WSSN and invest the time to develop the partnership. In order to continue to work in partnership a Development Worker is needed to do the job of developing the partnership. The sector is faced with capacity issues and yet development and investment in the WSSN is key to achieving representation of the sector at a strategic level within the city.


    8.2s     It was noted that there is a gap in many of the statutory services where gender specific services should sit and that there is a link between child abuse and later victimisation as well as offending behaviour. The panel were asked to note that there is some unwanted sexual contact occurring for young people and that there are some opportunities in schools in HSE and RE classes to undertake some education and prevention work.


    8.2t      Members of the panel noted these remarks and also commented that there does not appear to be a single individual within children’s services who is responsible for tackling the sexual violence agenda. Additionally, the panel noted they may want to hear evidence from the Adoption and Fostering service as there are cases of children experiencing, or possibly experiencing, sexual abuse in this service area. It was asked as to what the impact on the women’s centre is in terms of either preventing victimisation or offending behaviour.


    8.2u     The panel heard that the women’s centre and other women’s organisations in the city needed to ensure that there was an approach to early prevention as this work is very crucial. At the women’s centre Ofsted registered preschool groups are offered for children of women accessing services so the centre becomes aware of children who visit the centre and their mother’s situation. As the centre is aware of a child’s background and home environment, abuse can sometimes be flagged up at this point in a child’s life and the centre has been involved and intervened in child protection cases and conferences as a result of identifying abusive situations. In terms of early intervention for adults, this can be problematic as a woman who presents at the centre may not identify all the reasons why they have chosen to access services, and so violence and abuse may not emerge during initial contact stages. Women rarely feel confident about talking about abuse and violence as a factor that contributes to mental health issues or low self esteem.


    8.2v     Members of the panel noted that it was indeed difficult to undertake effective prevention work in this area as it is difficult to identify and target those that would benefit from early interventions.


    8.2w    It was noted that early intervention and prevention work is crucial and needs to be done ideally from pre-birth and all the way through an individual’s lifespan. Some of the tools and systems used by social workers and specialist agencies to detect domestic violence should also be used to ask about and identify sexual violence. Frontline workers need to not be frightened to ask about sexual violence. The difficulty is the complexity of early intervention and how to demonstrate that early intervention brings about effective outcomes; organisations need to be able to show what the outcomes are, and how they are met. This requires, however, a longitudinal attitude to looking at interventions and outcomes and requires at least 3 or 5 year funding cycles and for agencies to look at how outcomes are turned around and improved.  


    8.2x     Members of the panel noted that domestic violence is often talked about but society does not feel as comfortable talking about sexual violence; likewise domestic violence programmes attract money more easily than sexual violence programmes.


    8.2y     It was noted that the difference is arguably a point of language as domestic violence often includes an element of sexual violence but that the close association between the two does mean that some forms of sexual violence are overlooked.


    8.2z     The panel heard that one of the reasons why domestic violence is spoken of and there has been a lot of work done on this issue in Brighton and Hove is that there have been a lot of under-funded organisations working hard to deliver services and to ensure that the issue of domestic violence is on the city’s agenda. The women’s centre does not want the issue of sexual violence to take as long as it took for domestic violence to be on the city’s agenda.


    8.2aa  It was noted that young people receive a lot of education about sexual health but receive very little about what healthy relationships are and what should not happen in healthy relationships. Very few young people are made aware of what they deserve and should have in a relationship. There is a need to empower young people to know about what it is they want from a relationship and to be explicit about what they don’t, and should they need to where to go to access support services and information.


    8.2bb  Members of the panel asked if the women’s centre supports women who are entering the UK who have experienced sexual violence and are HIV positive.


    8.2cc   The panel heard that the women’s centre will support these women and that the Sussex Beacon runs a service for such clients. The women’s centre works in partnership with Sussex Beacon and it is key that these partnership arrangements exist so women can be referred on to agencies that work on specific issues. A lot more support for this type of client is needed in the city. At the moment the women’s centre and its partners are providing services but it is the tip of the iceberg. There is stigma and shame attached to experiences of domestic and sexual violence and so experiences are kept hidden and women will often blame themselves for the violent experience they have had.


    8.3a    Naomi Gosling from Stopover gave evidence to the panel.


    8.3b    Stopover is a supported housing project for young women aged 16-24. Stopover runs two housing projects. One is high support housing project which is staffed 24 hrs a day where clients can stay for a maximum of 9 months. Stopover Two provides less support and is staffed only during office hours. The stay is for up to two years. The residents at Stopover Two play an active role in managing the safety of the house. Many clients will move from the high supported housing project into the second project. The supported housing projects are female only and there is a rule against men entering at Stopover One. The projects operate on a safe house ethos, they are not refuges, and the tenants work with the project workers to ensure that the housing is kept safe. The project supports young women to develop independent living skills includingskills in managing their tenancy so they can cope on their own in the future. For the majority of young women referred to the project Stopover is their first point of call into services; whilst the threat of homelessness may be the reason they go into supported housing, issues with mental health, drug or alcohol abuse, family breakdown, domestic or sexual violence often emerge.


    The Stopover project will help young women to identify an independent living plan and the needs which they have when they move in. None of the project staff are trained counsellors so they will refer women on to other services to ensure that their needs are met. All referrals to Stopover come from the council. The project does not have the capacity for self referrals to be made. The Stopover project will refer clients to a wide range of services such as counselling services available through YAC, YPC and the Women’s Centre, the RU OK project if clients have issues with drugs or alcohol and if they are a bit older (over 18) they may be referred to Oasis. For cases of sexual abuse or violence if it has been a recent event the project will support women to contact the police and if other specific services are required then they will refer women on to other agencies such as the Survivors’ Network or the SARC or a Family Planning clinic.


    It is clear from the work that has been undertaken with young women that some ofthose who have experienced sexual violence or abuse will not know or perceive themselves to have been a victim of abuse. Very few young women understand what appropriate behaviour within a relationship is and the impact of exchanging things for sexual favours is not widely understood. It is also clear that both domestic and sexual violence is massively on the increase amongst the young women which Stopover has contact with and there is a real lack of understanding about what it is that these young women are faced with and how they may challenge it. Young women need to be educated about what the experiences that they have had are, and preventative work needs to be done amongst this client group.


    The majority of Stopover’s funding comes from the Supported People Fund. The council also gives the project a discretionary grant and the project receives funding from a church. The work that the project does is not specifically around supporting victims of sexual violence but around enabling vulnerable young women to manage a tenancy agreement. However, it would be great if the project could offer some services. Whilst it is great that there are services which Stopover can signpost their clients on to, for a lot of young women accessing the Stopover project they have built a relationship with their worker and would rather seek further support from their worker. It would be great if those with specialist skills could come to the clients so that they do not have to leave the safe environment of the Stopover project. It would perhaps be useful if Stopover could get involved in the WSSN. 


    The Stopover project is aware of an individual who had hearing difficulties who was recently raped. There were no specialist services which she could access and the way she was treated by the police was appalling; she had to trek all the way across town to give a statement, she was advised not to change her clothes and she had to wait the full dayfor an interpreter to arrive. This is just one example of how a disability can make you far more vulnerable to experiencing violence and then in the aftermath far more unlikely to receive the support that is needed.


    8.3c     Members of the panel asked what the referral criteria were for those being referred to the Stopover project.


    8.3d    The panel heard that the project is available to those young women who are in danger of being homeless or insecurely housed. Those aged 16-17 are prioritised. Clients are housed in 24 hr supported housing for only 9 months and if they develop the independent living skills required then they can be transferred onto Stopover’s other project. However this is a very short space of time for these very vulnerable young women to develop the skills they need to move on.


    8.3e    Members of the panel asked what happens to women aged over 24 and whether there was a safe project which they can gain access to, and whether any of the women who access Stopover have children.


    8.3f      The panel heard that those aged over 24 could access adult housing through BHT or the YMCA although these are mixed housing, and that the Stopover project could only house single women and there is a separate project available for young moms which Stopover can refer clients to. BHT do have an all female project which specialises in mental health, this is a very small project though.


    8.3g    Members of the panel asked if there was specialist housing available for very young women who have experienced domestic violence or sexual violence and yet are still very dependent on their partners. There is a concern that this service is not available to young women who will need support for a long time.


    8.3h     The panel heard that there is not enough supported housing for young women and young mothers in the city. There used to be a peer mentoring project which undertook outreach work to young women. However the funding for the project was dropped and so Stopover has had to stop the project. The YMCA does offer some projects of this nature. The women’s centre is currently working with Stopover to provide a mentoring project which also offers support on education, employment and housing options. The trouble is that for many young women who gain access to safe housing it can take time for them to identify their own support needs and develop the confidence needed to go out and access external services; it can be much more effective to bring services to them instead.


    8.3i      Members of the panel asked if rough sleepers accessed the Stopover project


    8.3j      The panel heard that no rough sleepers had accessed the project in the last 4 years and that Stopover tended to receive referrals from the council who had been contacted by young women who were ‘sofa surfing’ rather than actually street homeless. 


    8.3k     It was noted that the BHT have a supported house for women who also have mental health issues. It is a valuable service for those who have had to deal with sexual violence as a young person, or for those young women who are unsure of their sexuality, or for those who may have complexities in their lives which may or not be directly due to sexual violence. There are a number of ‘sofa surfers’ in the city, and there are both young men and women in the city doing this. The city does have female rough sleepers who appear at varying times and often disappear quite quickly as they become either ‘sofa surfers’ or ‘bed down’ with others. These women are particularly vulnerable towards being sexually exploited and towards exchanging sexual favours for somewhere to sleep.


    8.3l      It was noted that there are some faith organisations within the city which will not fund projects helping vulnerable members of the LGBT community and that this may impact on projects supporting those who have become victims of sexual exploitation or sexual violence. 


    8.3m   It was noted that it was very useful to be invited to attend today’s meeting so that information could be given to the panel about what work was going on in the city to support victims of sexual violence and to both be able to raise awareness about ongoing work as well as highlight issues in the sector.


    8.4a    Martyn Sullivan, CEO of Mankind, was invited to give evidence.


    8.4b    Mankind offers services to men who have experienced sexual violence either in their childhood or as an adult. The services offered consist mainly of one-to-one counselling services. In the past Mankind has offered group counselling services however the funding for this is no longer available and whilst more is being sought for the time being this service has been dropped. The benefit of offering both one-to-one counselling as well as group meetings is that it gives a client the opportunity to explore their experience in private as well as in a group context where their experience becomes ‘normalised’ as they meet others who have also experienced sexual violence. Mankind works with men who have experienced sexual violence to offer them therapeutic outcomes which sit outside the female/feminist construct and approach. As a result Mankind is working in a way which has not been researched and is as a result developing an approach and services as it progresses. Mankind offers victims of sexual violence an opportunity to regain a sense of masculinity, which is often lost as a result of the experience they have had, a sense of their self and their self within society.  Mankind offers clients either a male or female counsellor to work with however this is potentially problematic as one third of Mankind’s clients are abused or violated by a woman. Mankind’s other main client group is the families and partners of those who have experienced sexual violence. Male survivors do not exist in isolation and a wide support network is very important to encouraging recovery from an event. Mankind offers one-to-one counselling with partners and family and hope to, as this client group grows, offer group counselling as well.


    In 2008/09 Mankind had a 55% increase in the number of men accessing their services, probably as a result of advertising and a campaign about their services which was run in the local newspapers. Mankind recently redesigned their website and they now receive the majority of referrals online. Taking out the first stage of human contact works well for men who want to access services; they can fill out an online form and this is easier for them to do then picking up a phone. The next stage is that Mankind will contact them to arrange an appointment. This referral process has increased the number of men who have followed through from contacting the service  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.


Date of Next Meeting

    10am – noon, 15 April 2010 in Committee Room 2, Hove Town Hall


    9.1       10 am – 12.00, 15 April in Committee Room 2, Hove Town Hall



Any other Business


    10.1    There was none.


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