Policy document

Domestic abuse policy

Published 8 July 2024

1. Purpose of this policy

1.1 Maidstone Borough Council is committed to ensuring the health, wellbeing and safety of all tenants and staff. The council has a zero- tolerance approach to domestic abuse. Anyone who is experiencing, at risk of experiencing, or has experienced domestic abuse should be able to raise this with the council, without fear of stigmatisation, whilst provided with sufficient and appropriate support.

1.2 The council recognises that domestic abuse can be experienced by anyone regardless of gender or sexuality and the response to any individual disclosing abuse will be non-judgemental and survivor focused.

1.3 The council understands the need for an intersectional approach and that certain characteristics or vulnerabilities will mean that some people are more likely to experience harm caused by domestic abuse

1.4 This policy supports the vision for the Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Strategy and adheres to the principles of Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance (DAHA’s) mission to improve the housing sector’s response to domestic abuse through policy.

1.5 The purpose of this policy is to set out how Maidstone Borough Council will respond to cases of domestic abuse, support victims and survivors of domestic abuse and hold perpetrators to account.

2. Policy scope and objectives

2.1 This policy applies to all Maidstone Borough Council tenants and residents who are experiencing, have experienced, or are at risk of experiencing domestic abuse, as well as perpetrators of domestic abuse. Any Maidstone Borough Council Staff who are experiencing domestic abuse can refer to the internal domestic abuse policy for staff and cabinet members.

2.2 This policy aims to:

  • intervene early to address domestic abuse and prevent further abuse
  • swiftly and decisively hold perpetrators to account for their actions with a focus on rehabilitation and maintaining the safety of the victim
  • fulfil and deliver the aims of the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance (DAHA) framework
  • protect and provide sufficient support for victims and survivors of domestic abuse including signposting and referrals to appropriate agencies
  • adopt a trauma informed approach

3. Legislation and regulatory framework

3.1 Maidstone Borough Council will ensure that it abides by the following legislation and guidance:

  • Housing Act 1996
  • Domestic Abuse Act 2021
  • Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014
  • Homelessness Reduction Act 2017
  • Equality and Diversity Act 2010
  • Human Rights Act 1998
  • Data Protection Act 2018
  • Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy 2021-2027

4. Definition of domestic abuse

4.1 Domestic Abuse is defined as any incident(s) of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members for anyone ages 16 and over. The abuse can be, but is not limited to:

  • psychological
  • physical
  • controlling and coercive behaviour
  • sexual
  • financial
  • honour based violence
  • emotional

The full legal definition for domestic abuse can be found on the Government Legislation website.

5. Identifying and reporting cases of domestic abuse

5.1 Any resident who may be experiencing domestic abuse can report to Maidstone Borough Council by calling 01622 602440 or using the online form.

5.2 All reports of domestic abuse will be investigated thoroughly, swiftly and safely using internal safe enquiry procedures to avoid further harm. Passwords may be set and safe methods of communication and contact times established.

5.3 Domestic abuse may come to the attention of staff through direct disclosures and by way of potential indicators such as a higher-than-average number of repairs, presenting as homeless or at risk of homelessness due to domestic abuse, anti-social behaviour complaints and noise nuisance or financial difficulties following economic abuse. Staff will use professional curiosity and will follow internal procedures if they believe someone may be at risk of abuse.

5.4 Maidstone Borough Council will raise awareness amongst staff and improve the council’s ability to identify cases of abuse and respond effectively by:

  • offering a trauma informed response first time to ensure holistic support
  • providing specific training relevant to role and level of need
  • adopting specific roles including a Housing Advice Domestic Abuse Specialist and a Domestic Abuse & Safeguarding Coordinator to have an operational and a strategic overview
  • ensuring all housing staff are familiar with the correct process for responding to victims and survivors who are at high risk of harm, including making MARAC (Multi-agency Risk Assessment Conference) referrals and referring and signposting to relevant agencies that meet the residents’ needs
  • recognising that developing a life free from abuse is a process not an event and the council will help advocate for ongoing support which will include onward referrals to appropriate agencies regardless of location
    repairs administrators reviewing repairs case notes to identify red flag cases (e.g. damage to doors/ windows and frequent lock changes), which may be potential indicators of domestic abuse as well as a pattern of financial concerns in Welfare Team, Revenues & Benefits or Council Tax departments
  • recognising that flexibility and communication is required across all departments when dealing with cases of domestic abuse

5.5 If a report of an incident of domestic abuse is received, staff should first and foremost find out if there is an immediate risk of harm to the individual. The police should be called on 999 if necessary. Where there is no immediate risk of harm, the council will contact the tenant within one working day of receiving the report to discuss the options available to the tenant while adhering to safe enquiry protocols. If contact cannot be made, Maidstone borough Council’s Safeguarding Policy will be referred to and multi-agency checks will be made.

5.6 The council supports adult autonomy and will never use victim blaming language or prevent someone from remaining in a relationship that is abusive if they have capacity to make that decision. The council also follow their safeguarding duties in relation to risk and referrals may need to be completed without individual consent to reduce the risk of further harm

5.7 The DA Act 2021 recognises that children are victims domestic abuse in their own right. In any cases that involve children, Maidstone Borough Council will adhere to the Safeguarding Policy (13.1) and will refer to children’s social services or Maidstone Early Help (Unit or Family Hubs dependent on need and risk)

6. Supporting victims and survivors of domestic abuse

6.1 Maidstone Borough Council will ensure the approach taken to support those affected by domestic abuse is sensitive to the needs of the individual’s circumstances and is victim and survivor focused, as well as ensuring a trauma informed approach is taken.

6.2 Maidstone Borough Council recognise that housing can be a significant barrier to those wishing to access support who are experiencing domestic abuse and therefore, have a robust response in place as well as adhering to duties under Housing Law and The Domestic Abuse Act 2021

6.3 If you are homeless today and have nowhere safe to stay or are at significant risk in your home, please visit our office:

20 Church Street
ME14 1LY

Monday: 9am to 4.30pm
Tuesday: 9am to 4.30pm
Wednesday: 9am to 1pm
Thursday: 9am to 4.30pm
Friday 9am to 1pm

Please call 01622 602127 to speak to a duty officer and at all other times please call 01622 602000.

6.4 A visual journey map has been created to help navigate the housing process for those who are experiencing domestic abuse.

6.5 Supporting victims stay in their own home

In line with the 2021 Domestic Abuse Act, local authorities must plan and provide accommodation- based support for victims of domestic abuse in its area.

When a victim/survivor wish to end their joint tenancy with the perpetrator, but would like to remain in their home, the council will provide the victim/survivor with advice and guidance in relation to tenancy sustainment options. This includes:

  • Floating Support Services
  • Security Measures via the Sanctuary Scheme
  • SAFER scheme via KIDAS and Kent County Council
  • a referral to the commissioned IDVA (Independent Domestic Violence Advisors) service for safety planning and emotional support

A joint tenancy may also be ended by a court order; and in some cases, no notice is needed where Maidstone Council already have a court order in place.

6.6 Supporting victims to move into other accommodation

6.7 Where victims/survivors wish to permanently move into other accommodation, they can access support via the housing team by attending Trinity House, calling 01622 602127 or completing an assessment. More information on homelessness and risk of homelessness due to domestic abuse can be found on the Maidstone Borough Council website.

6.8 A person who is eligible for housing assistance and homeless as a result of domestic abuse automatically has a Priority need. The abuse must meet the definition in the Domestic Abuse Act 2021. Housing staff will undertake a risk assessment if required and will discuss any appropriate onward referrals.

6.9 Maidstone Borough Council will take a personalised, approach to all those who are experiencing domestic abuse and will explore the best possible support options with the applicant such as refuge provision or specialised services for those who have complex vulnerabilities such as co-occurring conditions. The applicant will always have a choice which will be recorded as part of their Personalised Housing Plan.

6.9.1 For those individuals who have no rights to recourse but who are experiencing domestic abuse, the council will recognise this as a complicating factor and a significant barrier and will therefore provide relevant information in regard to suitable external provision and possible support options such as the DDV concession.

6.9.2 A person who may be the victim of domestic abuse can be signposted to the One Stop Shop (OSS) Which operates every Tuesday morning between 09:30 and 11:30 at Trinity House, Church Street, Maidstone ME14 1LY. The OSS offers free advice, information and support from a range of agencies including safety planning from commissioned services, legal advice, housing advice and signposting to counselling and therapeutic services.

6.9.3 The National Domestic Abuse Helpline (Refuge) is a freephone, 24-hour service- 0808 2000 247

6.9.4 Kent Victim Support can be contacted on 0808 1689276 and offer help from a trained support worker who will provide emotional and/or practical support depending on the individual needs.

6.9.5 Information can be found on the Kent Integrated Domestic Abuse Support website.

6.9.6 Local support can be found within the Maidstone Digital Directory.

7. Partnership working

7.1 To ensure the best possible service, Maidstone Borough Council is committed to actively participating in strategic and operational working groups across the district as well as chairing the Maidstone Domestic Abuse Forum.

7.2 Maidstone Borough Council recognises the importance of partnership working and information sharing to reduce harm and learnings are taken from DHR’s and SAR’s to ensure a multi-agency approach is taken at all times.

7.3 Maidstone Borough Council takes responsibility for safeguarding seriously and there may be times in which information must be shared with partner agencies without consent to reduce harm.

8. Enforcement and holding perpetrators to account

8.1 Perpetrating domestic abuse will be taken extremely seriously. Maidstone Borough Council’s general approach to dealing with the perpetrator will be in accordance with DAHA’s Perpetrator Management Toolkit. The safety of victims and survivors and their children will be central to the council’s approach to holding the perpetrator to account.

8.2 Perpetrators are encouraged to access support to recognise, address and stop their abusive behaviour at the earliest opportunity. If a perpetrator refuses to engage with help and support but continues to commit abusive behaviour, the council will escalate early intervention or take legal action if this is within breach of a tenancy agreement held by Maidstone Borough Council.

8.3 For those who wish to change their behaviour, support can be accessed via The Respect Helpline confidentially on 0808 802 4040

10. Equality and diversity

10.1 As part of the Equality Act 2010, Maidstone Borough Council has a duty to ensure that different needs are met and well supported. The council is aware that anyone can experience domestic abuse irrespective of sex, ethnicity, class, religion, sexuality and disability.

10.2 In accordance with the VAWG Strategy, the council recognises the link between VAWG and forms of discrimination and inequalities, which cause additional risk factors and could have an impact on the victims’ ability to speak out and access support services.

10.3 An Equality Impact Assessment has been undertaken on this policy to ensure that all customers are treated fairly, regardless of any characteristics.

11. Monitoring and review

11.1 This policy will be reviewed every five years or sooner, if significant and relevant statuary changes occur.