Petition handed over calling for end to cuts to Warwickshire's Domestic Abuse Unit

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Labour’s candidate for Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner Ben Twomey has handed over a petition signed by more than 1,000 people calling for an end to cuts to the county's Domestic Abuse Unit

The unit is currently made up of nine highly trained Domestic Abuse Risk Officers, with over 70 years’ experience in police service between them. All nine are in the process of being made redundant.

The Police Commissioner is proposing to significantly raise council tax for policing for the fourth year in a row. In his letter to the Police Commissioner, Ben reminds him that this makes it difficult for local people to understand why cuts continue to fall.

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The Police Commissioner has previously said that “all of these changes do not come without risk”. Ben points out in his letter that this means increasing the risks faced by victims of domestic abuse.

Labour’s candidate for Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner Ben Twomey.Labour’s candidate for Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner Ben Twomey.
Labour’s candidate for Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner Ben Twomey.

Ben said “I and many residents have been shocked to learn of plans to make all nine of Warwickshire’s Domestic Abuse Risk Officers redundant. The petition I have submitted calls for the Police Commissioner to put a stop to this at once.

“The failure to make the public aware of these changes, let alone ask for local people’s views, is a failure to do his duty as our county’s elected representative.

“I sincerely hope the Commissioner acts on the wishes of local residents. However, if he chooses not to, I have invited him to explain his decision in a public debate between us.”

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In response Mr Seccombe has said: "Supporting victims of domestic abuse is one of my key priorities and I have made considerable additional resources available during my term of office to enable this.

Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe.Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe.
Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe.

"For example, alongside Warwickshire County Council I have co-commissioned the domestic abuse charity Refuge to provide the county’s Domestic Violence Service, which ensures tailored support is available to all victims, 365 days a year.

“Through my grants scheme I also fund a wide range of other initiatives which provide vital advice and assistance to victims, as well as schemes that work directly with perpetrators to get them to change their offending behaviour.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly led to more instances of domestic abuse and that’s why I have also distributed additional emergency funding to support services in Warwickshire, ensuring that they continue to provide a full service to victims. I am also offering further funding through my grants scheme for the year ahead, with ring-fenced awards specifically for support services for domestic abuse.

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“Tackling domestic abuse, supporting victims and bringing perpetrators to justice also remains one of Warwickshire Police’s priority concerns.

"While it is correct that the force is implementing a new operational model within its Domestic Abuse Unit, it is incorrect to suggest that the unit is being disbanded. It very much will remain in place, with police officers undertaking an enhanced role.

“Warwickshire Police is implementing reforms to ensure it has the right balance of skills, capabilities and powers across the organisation, both now and into the future.

"A new operating model has been developed by the force which will deliver additional capability to a number of roles, such as the Domestic Abuse Risk Officers, using warranted officers who can use their police powers and safeguarding responsibilities to greater effect in an enhanced role.

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“It as a direct consequence of the precept rises I have made locally, alongside the national ‘uplift’ funding from the government, that the number of police officers within Warwickshire has dramatically increased – up by more than 200 and now standing at 1,042.

"This has enabled the force to redesign the way it operates to make best use of these extra resources, ensuring they are used in significant operational roles.

“I have been reassured by the force’s leadership team that the rationale for these proposals is sound and that the reforms being made are necessary. Difficult though this process undoubtedly is for those impacted, the Chief Constable has my full support in making these changes.

“Robust support services are in place to ensure the welfare of police staff colleagues throughout but there is no escaping that this is an extremely difficult time for those who are affected by the changes. I will be monitoring very closely how the force manages the transition to the new operational model.

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“Finally, I am happy to confirm that I have had discussions both in person and in writing with government ministers on numerous occasions during my term of office, in which I have lobbied for fairer funding for rural forces like Warwickshire.

"It is a topic I have also raised with our county MPs on numerous occasions and indeed I speak on a regular basis with the Policing Minister. I will continue to make these points in the coming weeks and months.”