New partnership has six-point plan

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POLICE and probation officers have put tackling Wigan’s domestic violence problem at the top of the borough’s agenda following an organisational re-shuffle.

Although the exact figures have not been published, the authorities believe Wigan has some of the highest rates of domestic abuse and alcohol-related violence in Greater Manchester.

A meeting of Wigan Council’s Confident People scrutiny committee heard the newly-created Building Stronger Communities Partnership (BSCP) has put tackling domestic violence as its number one priority within a six-point plan for the borough.

The new partnership will bring together representatives from various authorities, including the fire service, councils and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), and will consist of two groups who will have to deliver improvements.

The partnerships will also work in co-operation with the newly-elected Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Greater Manchester, Tony Lloyd, though he will not be classed as a responsible authority on the BSCP.

The other goals on the BSCP’s six-point plan are preventing and reducing alcohol and drug-related misuse and harm, reducing overall rates of crime and disorder and protecting vulnerable victims, and reducing and preventing offending.

However, councillors expressed concerns that organisations and charities best placed to help victims of domestic violence were bearing the brunt of cuts in the economic downturn, and asked to see more obvious links between the strategic plan to reduce abuse rates and practical work happening at ground level.

Coun Janice Sharratt for Ince ward said: “The scale of domestic violence is worrying and it’s only going to get worse when the welfare reforms kick in.

“Money issues are one of the reasons domestic violence actually happens, and many of the organisations are losing their funding left, right and centre.”

Wigan Council community safety manager Paul Whitemoss responded to Coun Sharratt’s enquiry said voluntary and community organisations would have a part to play in tackling abuse, and hoped the new system of greater co-operation would enable this to happen effectively.

The committee also heard a suggestion that private sector expertise from trades who regularly deal with the victims of domestic abuse could be harnessed to help the authorities tackle the problem.

Coun Mark Aldred for Atherleigh ward said: “Locksmiths go out seeing domestic violence on a daily basis, because many of their clients are victims of abuse.

“There needs to be somewhere for them to report to, because that knowledge has never been tapped into. We look at hospital data, but we know many victims who are badly injured won’t go to hospital, and men are less likely to call incidents in than women.”