Wigan Council has defended its ambitious new domestic abuse hub following criticism from an organisation that used to work in the borough.
Volunteers and employees at Wag, formerly Women’s Housing Action Group. claimed the visibility of help for those at risk from their partners had decreased dramatically since the town hall took the services back in-house.
The not-for-profit organisation spoke out after Leigh MP Jo Platt highlighted a concerning rise in domestic violence crimes being committed across Greater Manchester, with parts of the borough labelled a hotspot for the problem by police.
Wigan Council dramatically overhauled how it deals with the issue last year, setting up a base at the police station with officers, independent domestic abuse groups, volunteers and civil society organisations all involved.
But the council has now had to issue a response after those involved in tackling domestic abuse went public to suggest not enough was being done.
Susan Adams, volunteer manager at Wag, said: “I keep in contact with some of our old Wigan volunteers and they are saddened by what has happened.
“They say there is no advertising of services out there and no signposting of how people are supported.
“We were able to get a team of volunteers together in Wigan and I can’t tell you how many people we supported. We had people in court maybe four times a week helping with non-molestation orders, we ran a recovery programme and had a toolkit. I don’t know who does any of that now.
“The latest statistics are frightening. It’s terrible to think domestic violence is on the increase just down the road from where we are working.
“More needs to be put in and more needs to be available. Our counselling service was used all the time and the Well Women’s Centre in Leigh, which was very busy when we were there, must be inundated now.
“Some of our volunteers have been through domestic abuse themselves and have come out the other side. They are very keen to help and have a wealth of knowledge and expertise.”
Messages were also posted on social media criticising the apparent lack of local provision after the Wigan Post and our sister paper the Leigh Observer reported how Ms Platt had put pressure home secretary Amber Rudd in the House of Commons to tackle domestic violence.
The council, though, has strongly rebuffed the claims and says it is confident its recently-implemented approach is correct.
Will Blandamer, Wigan Council’s assistant director for partnership, safeguarding and reform, said: “In October last year we set up a skilled multi-agency hub that gives immediate support to victims whilst longer term getting to the root cause of the abuse to prevent it happening again.
“The team includes police officers, independent domestic abuse advisors, Citizens Advice workers and volunteers as well as victim support officers. We offer every single domestic abuse victim face-to-face support through the service.
“We know that often domestic abuse is not in isolation from other difficult issues affecting the relationship. It could be debt issues, drug and alcohol, mental health support or other matters which are the underlying causes, and that is where the new victim hub can contribute to supporting families in tackling the root causes of the abuse.
“We are investing in this service because of its importance to communities and importance to victims. We are confident this new approach will be a great success.
“The reported incidents of domestic violence and abuse have increased, but this is in part due to a change in the recording of crimes by GMP where there is a much more robust system in place than ever before.”