CAMBRIDGE City Council has become only the fifth local authority in the UK to be awarded the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance (DAHA) accreditation.
The DAHA accreditation is the national benchmark for how housing providers should respond to domestic abuse, recognising that housing providers are in a unique position to identify abuse, prevent it and provide help for people suffering its effects.
To achieve its accreditation the council has had to demonstrate how it is improving the quality of service given to those seeking housing advice, and supporting tenants, residents and council staff who may be experiencing domestic abuse.
This work has included making improvements to council policies and procedures and the way in which council staff respond to disclosures of abuse, so that residents know they will receive a safe, sensitive and timely response.
As part of the accreditation process DAHA assessors visited the council to review its procedures and how it deals with cases of domestic abuse, and to interview staff.
The assessors praised the council’s work. This included development of a Policy for Supporting Customers Affected by Domestic Abuse, and practical guidance on managing increased risks and barriers to disclosing domestic abuse faced by many who share characteristics protected by the Equality Act – particularly those with multiple disadvantages, or who are pregnant.
In addition, the council’s Personal Housing Plans, which are designed to support a person to avoid being homeless or find housing if they already are homeless, have been adapted specifically for the needs of people disclosing domestic abuse. This approach was praised as being innovative and will be incorporated in the best practice documents available to housing providers on the DAHA website.
It was also recognised that the council has an excellent track record of organising external awareness raising events around domestic abuse. These include conferences, and hosted events where survivors of abuse who have approached the council could give feedback on the response they received.
Internally, awareness has been increased with additional training for council staff, and regular networking sessions are held with local partners specialising in domestic abuse. There is also a licensing requirement for taxi drivers to attend customer awareness training in safeguarding, equality and protection.
Cllr Nicky Massey, Executive Councillor for Transport and Community Safety, said: “We are very proud to receive this accreditation from the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance, but we will not be content until domestic abuse has been completely eradicated, as no one should have to suffer in this way. The DAHA accreditation is just part of the work we are doing and will continue to do alongside our partners, to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our community.”
Cllr Richard Johnson, Executive Councillor for Housing, said: “As a council we do everything we can to tackle the scourge of domestic abuse, which has a huge impact on people’s lives and can ultimately be a cause of people’s homelessness. As Cambridge’s largest provider of housing we are in a unique position to identify and tackle domestic abuse, and to then provide all the confidential help and support that people need.”
Sharon Crosby, Development Manager at DAHA, said: “We are delighted to announce that the first local authority in East Anglia, and the fifth in the UK to be awarded the DAHA accreditation is Cambridge City Council.
“Cambridge was the first housing provider that committed to working towards achieving the demanding standards required by DAHA when this project began, and I would like to thank all staff that have been involved in implementing the improvements. We can see positive outcomes as a result of changes made, and look forward to working with other housing providers in Cambridgeshire to improve the housing sector’s response to domestic abuse.”
As well as the DAHA accreditation, the council works in a number of other ways to minimise domestic violence and to support victims locally.
It works closely with the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Partnership, which aims to reduce the harm, risks and costs associated with domestic abuse and sexual violence and to prevent these crimes occurring across Cambridgeshire.
Cambridge City Council is also a member of the Cambridge Community Safety Partnership which prioritises particular issues in the city related to crime, disorder, antisocial behaviour and more. Current priorities include safeguarding people against violence and exploitation, and responding to domestic violence, particularly against women and girls.
The council has been accredited with White Ribbon status since 2015. White Ribbon is an international campaign to end male violence against women by working with men and boys to challenge cultures that lead to harassment, abuse and violence against women.