The in-house legal team at Barking & Dagenham Council has provided a grant to set up a service providing free, independent and confidential advice to residents who are experiencing or are affected by domestic violence, and will work jointly with Citizens Advice on delivery of the scheme.
The initiative, called DV FLAG East, is said to be the first of its kind in the country. It will be overseen by a steering group of agencies committed to tackling domestic abuse locally and will provide a more joined up approach for residents, the council said.
The service will be provided by accredited and experienced family solicitor firms and officers from the council’s legal practice including Fiona Taylor, Director of Law Governance and Human Resources who will chair the steering group.
The initiative is championed by a judge from the East London Family Court.
Cllr Darren Rodwell, Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, said: “As a council we are committed to developing a more joined up approach to meeting the needs of residents affected by domestic abuse, and this is just another support for our residents.
“Other support services include refuge accommodation, advocacy and support for about 400 residents every year, a treatment programme for children and their mothers and counselling. In addition, we offer an education programme in schools and an ‘caring dads’ initiative.
“We are proud to have a policy that allows council staff 10 days’ special leave for those enduring abuse to seek support and for perpetrators to seek help and support to change.”
The council said that 40% of victims of domestic abuse were unable to access legal aid, and some people affected by domestic violence who needed help and advice believed legal aid was not available to them.
Cllr Maureen Worby, Cabinet Member for Social Care and Health Integration at Barking and Dagenham, said: “Domestic violence impacts on a large number of our residents and as a council we are determined to do everything in our power to address the problem head on.
“Once again this ground-breaking initiative shows our commitment to reducing instances of domestic abuse in the borough which will continue with the launch of our Domestic Violence Commission in the autumn.”
Pip Salvador-Jones, Chief Officer Citizens Advice Barking & Dagenham said: “The importance of DV Flag East service is that it’s local - local family solicitors are advising local people on domestic abuse issues every day, they know our local community and how the local police and court systems work. National and London schemes can’t do this.
“Domestic violence can also be psychological, emotional or financial. The service can talk through this with residents and identify legal options available to them. Crucially, the project can also link residents to other forms of support. The service is open to anyone experiencing domestic abuse. What people tell us, and the advice given is completely confidential and independent.”
Victims of domestic abuse can contact the service directly or they can be referred by the police, social workers or other professionals.
Further information is available on the website www.dvflageast.org.uk/