New domestic abuse refuges could be built in Norfolk amid rising cases

A shadow of a man with a clenched fist as a woman cowers in the corner.

Demand for domestic abuse refuges in Norfolk is outstripping the number of beds available. PICTURE POSED BY MODEL. - Credit: PA

New refuges for victims of domestic abuse could be built in Norfolk amid concern demand for safe accommodation in the county is outstripping supply.

There is an estimated shortfall of 36 such beds in Norfolk - at a time recorded domestic abuse crimes in the county have increased by almost 20pc.

There were just under 11,500 recorded domestic abuse crimes in the county in 2020, with the highest rates in Norwich and Great Yarmouth.

There is an average of 26 women referred to Norfolk refuges each week, but on average there are only 13 spaces available,  so demand outstrips supply by 50pc.

And there is currently no accommodation at all for male victims of domestic abuse.

The issue was discussed at a meeting of Norfolk County Council's Conservative-controlled cabinet on Monday (December 6).

Councillors agreed a Domestic Abuse – Norfolk’s Safe Accommodation and Support Strategy, which aims to work with other organisations to tackle the problem.

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The county council has been awarded £1.8m from the government - and the district councils £30,000 each - to help support the strategy.

One of the strategy's aims is to increase the amount and flexibility of safe accommodation.

Norfolk currently has seven refuges - one in each district along with safe houses in Norwich and North Norfolk.

The strategy states that the council will work with providers, districts, housing associations and Homes England - the public body set up to encourage house building - to investigate ways to provide more accommodation.

That could be through re-purposing existing buildings, leasing buildings or building new refuges.

James Bullion, Norfolk County Council's director of adult social care, welcomed the "progressive agenda" of tackling domestic abuse.

Bill Borrett, chairman of Norfolk County Council's adult social care committee. Picture: Matthew Ush

Bill Borrett, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for adult social care. - Credit: Matthew Usher

And Bill Borrett, cabinet member for adult social care, said: "I think it is not really understood what a pervasive issue this is and how it affects many other areas of the county council.

"I really do think what is proposed is a step change in the understanding, facilities and support which will be available to people."

The strategy also includes improving engagement with domestic abuse victims and survivors and increased support for children affected.

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