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Councils build ‘panic rooms’ for abuse victims

Cllr David Rogers, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:

“Victims of abuse often feel that they have to leave their home to escape their attacker, but why should innocent victims do so? Councils are committed to delivering the care and support needed by victims, with tackling domestic violence being one of their top priorities.

“Some women, men and children are finding themselves having to leave everything and everyone behind them at a time when they most need familiarity and support from family and friends.  The upheaval can cause all kinds of problems, not least to some children who find themselves having to move from school to school. 

“Whilst the sanctuary scheme is not appropriate for everyone and not every house is suitable to have a sanctuary room built, in extreme cases, it offers the victim somewhere to go in an emergency and seek help”.

The rooms have solid core doors, reversed to open outwards with two mortice bolts fitted to the inside of the door along with three large steel hinges and a 180 degree door viewer. An emergency telephone is also provided under the scheme – 999 only – and will be wall mounted.

Sanctuary rooms will only be built in homes where the abuser is no longer residing there. Whatever the case, councils and their partners provide ongoing risk assessmentswith safety remaining a priority throughout.

Examples of how councils are helping victims of domestic violence include:

Safe rooms are just one of the security measures taken to protect victims of abuse in Stockton-on-Tees.  The Safer Stockton Partnership’s Safe at Home Scheme has been running since 2001.

West Lancashire Borough Council together with the national charity Safe Partnerships have introduced the `Sanctuary Scheme’.  This involves installing door chains, window locks, personal safety alarms for the victim to wear, with the offer of a sanctuary room being built in the most extreme cases. 

Sevenoaks District Council helped Miss X and her three children escape violence from Mr X.  Since being charged with a number of offences against Miss X, including rape, Mr X was released on bail under the condition that he did not contact the family. Miss X’s Domestic Abuse Support Worker made a sanctuary project referral to the police who, after inspection of her property, referred the case to the council. The council negotiated with the Registered Social Landlord for them to carry out and fund the installation of a number of
protective measures for Miss X and her family to reduce their fear.

Croydon Council provides a family justice centre helping over 500 families each month.  The centre brings together people from the criminal justice system, social services, medical and mental health providers and many others.

Babergh District Council is about to begin a 12-week programme to help anyone currently affected by the impact of an abusive relationship. The `Freedom Programme’ will provide a safe and confidential environment where victims can share their experiences and gain confidence in making positive changes to their lives.

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