Sanctuary rooms for domestic violence victims

By on 07/03/2011 in News

Housing officers from Birmingham City Council have spoken at a national conference hosted by West Midlands Police to discuss how the council is helping better support victims of serious domestic abuse by promoting the use of 'sanctuary rooms'.

The sanctuary scheme is a complete support package for the victims of domestic violence and can include, for high risk cases, the provision of a sanctuary room in victims' homes.

The rooms are similar to the American style 'panic rooms' which can be fitted with protective materials, such as steel reinforced walls, panic alarms and other measures, including easily lockable doors to prevent access from the outside.

The rooms are designed to provide an escape for victims who may be under the threat of attack by their partners.

The conference was held on 3 March to share best practice nationally, as the West Midlands has been identified as implementing particularly effective strategies and schemes for supporting victims of serious domestic abuse.

The sanctuary room project was conceived and developed by Birmingham City Council's housing officers, in partnership with West Midlands Police crime prevention officers.

Terry Webb, a retired police officer who now works as a development officer specialising in designing out crime for Birmingham City Council, said: “We are really privileged to be holding this conference and proud to have been recognised as leading nationally in our strategy for supporting victims of domestic abuse.

“Today we had some productive discussion around the improvement of support to victims and the promotion of a model which we feel works really well.

“Sanctuary rooms mean victims can stay in their homes with the reassurance that if a violent partner was to try and break in, they have a safe secure place from which to contact the police.”

Dawn Goodenough, Policy and Development officer, added: “The scheme was designed to support victims who may have been at risk of losing their homes due to serious abuse. For victims who found it impractical or difficult to leave their homes, the sanctuary room scheme allowed them to stay, with a room in the house which was safe and secure.”

Councillor John Lines, Cabinet Member for Housing said: “This just goes to show how working in partnership with other agencies can help those most vulnerable in Birmingham. It's important that a consistent and effective level of support for our victims is maintained and I'm delighted this scheme has attracted national recognition.”

The scheme has won a highly prestigious 'Secured by Design' Innovation Award. Birmingham City Council and West Midlands Police were singled out for the award for their holistic approach to supporting victims of domestic abuse.

Support included working alongside Birmingham and Solihull Women's Aid (BSWAID) to provide specialist support; West Midlands Police Public Protection to safeguard women and investigate and manage offenders; while crime prevention officers provided support in fortifying homes against intrusion and local housing authorities assisted with housing needs when necessary.

The conference was held at the Tally Ho! Training Centre on Pershore Road and included delegates and speakers from police forces from across the country.

Ends

For further information contact Belinder Kaur Lidher on 0121 303 6969

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