New PCSOs to be domestic abuse first responders
Jay Singh-Sohal has pledged to recruit and train more specialist PCSOs to be first responders to deal with rising issues of domestic abuse and domestic violence across the West Midlands.
It comes as grassroots community organisations dealing with the issue say police handling domestic abuse need to be better trained to handle sensitive issues as well as those within diverse communities. Currently, police officers respond to cases of domestic abuse as with any crime.
During lockdown, reported domestic abuse has increased by 41% - and this follows year-on-year increases since 2011-12. The number of Domestic Violence Protection Notices has also increased during lockdown. These may be used following a domestic incident to provide short-term protection to victims but arrests have not been made.
Despite the pressing need for more support to tackle the issue, the Labour PCC’s office cut funding to grassroots organisations providing counselling to hard to reach communities. Sikh Women’s Action Network (SWAN) was one such group that lost £20,000 of funding and was forced to lay-off three case workers, reducing support for vulnerable victims.
PCSOs already have the power to enter and search any premises, and Jay’s plan to get crime down will utilise PCSOs in often-challenging roles such as responding to cases of domestic abuse.
Jay Singh-Sohal said:
“Domestic Abuse is an issue causing much concern in the West Midlands across many communities and we need a more joined up approach locally to help support victims as well as deter abusers. Under my plan to get crime down, I will ensure the force makes use of specialist PCSOs who’ll be trained as domestic abuse first responders and with a deeper cultural understanding of how to help those in need who often do not get any support because of stigma or fear of speaking out.”
Jay will also reach out to diverse communities to recruit more women PCSOs, particularly those with foreign language skills who will be able to connect with those whose first language is not English in order to offer better support for victims.
Government investment into tackling domestic abuse is increasing, with £125m located to councils to tackle the issue and the Domestic Abuse Bill coming to Parliament soon with new powers for local authorities and national guidance for police on serial and repeat perpetrators.
Jay set out his proposals to MHCLG Minister, Eddie Hughes MP, whose responsibilities include housing matters relating to domestic abuse.
Eddie Hughes MP for Walsall North said:
“Domestic abuse threatens the lives of victims within their own homes, so it is right we’re giving victims support by providing councils with money to deliver essential services that will help them and their children. I welcome Jay’s commitment to work with councils to ensure those suffering at the hands of their abusers get the help and support they need.”
The policy was also welcomed by Suzanne Webb MP during a special community call Jay hosted with the Policing Minister Kit Malthouse MP. Suzanne is also a Parliamentary Private Secretary with responsibility for Women and Equalities.
Suzanne Webb MP for Stourbridge said:
"One thing women find very difficult is talking about this, and having someone at that moment to be able to share what's happened. This is a great initiative and something myself and many women will be grateful to see happening."
If elected PCC in May, Jay will work with council leaders across the seven boroughs to ensure more PCSOs are situated in their respective boroughs to respond swiftly to cases of domestic abuse. By linking in with councils, which are receiving more government funding to tackle the issue, victims will be better protected.