Clients need to know we are here for them
IT is often assumed that domestic violence and abuse is a problem of deprived inner city areas.
Yet here we are in Devon and in this leafy, summer holiday, sunlit beach and cream tea county, there are 4,000 referrals into specialist domestic violence services annually.
We have seen three domestic violence murders in the last two years.
There is a huge misconception that domestic abuse is confined to a sector of society to which we do not belong.
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Nothing could be further from the truth.
We have recently seen one of our media icons Nigella Lawson and her husband playing out publicly an abusive relationship.
We must question, if that's what it looked like publicly, what must life have been like behind closed doors?
It is generally accepted that it takes 35 incidents of abuse before a victim reports it to the police or another agency.
We all have a responsibility to understand how difficult escaping from an abusive relationship is.
We have a responsibility to listen, guide and support without judgement.
A responsibility to stand together against abuse and violence for the sake of our daughters and sons of the next generation.
I lead a highly professional, qualified, committed and passionate team in the quest to support and advocate on behalf of around 1,000 women, men and children in North Devon every year.
Our refuge, with a capacity of eight mums and up to 19 children, is usually full.
Our outreach team and service for high risk clients and court interventions runs constantly at capacity and we contribute hugely to the safeguarding agenda for our local authority.
And yet, even in this knowledge, we were struck by the threat of a 100 per cent funding cut two years ago.
After a massive public outcry and lots of negotiation this was mitigated to a 42 per cent cut to our budget.
In October this year we will be subject to a further 15 per cent cut to our funding from the Against Domestic Violence and Abuse partnership pot.
We have survived to continue our 35-year-old organisation.
We have changed our name to better reflect the work that we do and the community that we serve and so that we don't put up barriers for male victims who are seeking support.
Funding for specialist domestic abuse services is increasingly difficult to come by in this age of austerity.
Devolution of responsibility to local authorities has had an impact, with those authorities commissioning services on the basis of cost.
This has meant that much local knowledge has been lost as large organisations and consortia move in to scoop up contracts.
These "big boys" have whole departments and teams of people writing tender bids but what they don't have, is the same passion, the same commitment as smaller local organisations who know their communities and their networks so well.
Paperwork is the enemy of our service as we continually need to evidence the work that we do.
How, for instance, do I cost on a funding bid the three hours that our refuge children's worker sat outside a closed bedroom door playing music to the little boy trying to entice him from the room he refused to leave?
That little boy wasn't being naughty, he was paralysed with fear.
In his four short years of life he had only known the inside of his house, he had never been out.
Never met or played with other children, or been to the park or the shops.
His mother had escaped with him in the middle of the night while he was asleep, he had no idea where he was.
The needs of families who spend time in our refuge are increasingly complex. The people we care for in our community have fewer and fewer support services they can access and NDADA is the only specialist domestic abuse service.
Our clients need to be helped by people who really care and care with competence.
Locally-based, skilled third sector organisations like NDADA can do that.
It is important for our community to know where they can access help when they need it and to know they can rely on the police supporting them when they have been brave enough to seek help.
The support of our court workers can make the legal processes less intimidating and the combined effort of these services working together are helping to keep our community a safe place to live.
For more information about NDADA call 01271 370079 or visit www.ndada.co.uk.