DEVON County Council is to create a service for domestic abuse victims with the help of nearly £1.5 million in government funding.

The county’s Integrated Domestic Abuse Service will next April begin to improve access, prevention and early intervention for people at risk or already suffering harm.

At present, the county provides contracts to charities and community organisations to support victims, but it was felt that doing this would not meet the needs of those requiring help or fulfil the council’s legal obligations.

The Domestic Abuse Act, which came into force in 2021, put a new duty on councils to provide formal domestic abuse support, and Devon receives £1.48 million a year from the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities towards funding the service.

Crucially, the legislation recognised for the first time children and young people as victims of domestic abuse, and lowered the age of “adults” in such scenarios to 16.

The council’s cabinet heard this is “of particular significance” for Devon, given that the 867 domestic abuse cases in the 2022/23 financial year included 1,081 children.

Just over two thirds of cases referred to the Devon domestic abuse community support service have children or young people under 18 in the household and more than half reported of cases coming into a safeguarding hub indicated children experiencing prolonged exposure.

Devon also has a duty to provide support for victims of domestic abuse in safe accommodation, with support from district councils.

The county’s safe accommodation was “substantially depleted” several years ago, following reductions in funding.

“There are currently 44 units in the county with 66 bed spaces,” the cabinet heard, “ which does not adequately meet demand”.

“In 2021/22 in Devon, a total of 272 households were accepted as homeless by their local authority with domestic abuse as the primary factor - mostly women with children, with at least 80 per cent of these households accommodated in mainstream temporary accommodation and, of these, at least 80 per cent housed initially within B and Bs or similar,” said Simon Kitchen, head of communities.

Bradley Gerrard