Council and charity leaders hailed the recent success of creating a benchmark for responding to domestic abuse in Mansfield but emphasised this is just the beginning of the journey.
Today (Tuesday 23 May), a launch event was held in the Civic Quarter, off Chesterfield Road South, to celebrate Mansfield District Council becoming a beacon of good practice in its response to survivors of domestic abuse.
In April, the authority achieved the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance (DAHA) Accreditation (Foundational), a UK benchmark in supporting survivors, after training its entire workforce to be more aware of the signs of abuse and how to support people.
The conference began with an introduction and welcome from the council’s Chief Executive Adam Hill, followed by Executive Mayor of Mansfield Andy Abrahams.
Mayor Abrahams said during his speech: “When you put it in a personal context, you realise how powerful this journey is, what it might uncover and how we can help create change going forward.
“We have gone on a brave journey together, this has been an example of a fantastic partnership working. Domestic abuse affects not just one person but the whole family.
“You may think, what is the importance of this? We have got the accreditation and the recognition, which is fantastic. However, I think the real benefits are that we can help rebuild someone’s mental health, wellbeing and self-esteem - and that can be life-changing.
“I think the power of this is collectively; we can help save and affect people's lives positively.
“However, today is about celebrating success, and I am proud of all our staff – everyone involved – and I look forward to our continuing learning journey.”
Senior Service Manager at Nottinghamshire Women's Aid and DAHA Accreditation Co-ordinator Christie Conroy led the management of the project at the council. She delivered learning programmes tailored for every department to help officers spot indicators of domestic abuse and respond safely and effectively.
She also discussed the process the authority followed to meet the criteria and what, as a collective effort, it had achieved by being the first in the country to achieve a best practice recognition in its accreditation by using a specialist from a domestic abuse charity to deliver the training, rather than doing it internally.
She said: "What I want to get across from today is that the motivation and the focus are never lost. Throughout this process, your passion has absolutely shone through, and the organisation is safer for staff and customers.
“Domestic abuse awareness is now embedded in everything that we do. We must constantly review practices and use our learning to improve what we do in the future.
“I want you to reflect regularly on the positive outcomes you do and how you can continue to keep changing lives - always carry that with you as you move forward.
“What we’ve done over the last 12 months is amazing and is a great starting point, but actually, where can we now go to move forward?”
The DAHA accreditation requires the council to take a proactive approach to domestic abuse, embed a believing and non-judgmental culture, and hold perpetrators accountable for the harm they cause.
It also means that the authority becomes an enabling environment empowering survivors to disclose details of domestic abuse, possibly for the first time. This can hopefully help reduce domestic abuse within the district, reduce homelessness and safeguard more survivors, including children.
The meeting heard that although in its infancy of receiving DAHA status, the council is already looking ahead to reach the next milestone, an enhanced accreditation.
The two-hour session concluded with keynote guest speaker Claire Throssell MBE, a domestic abuse survivor, Child First Campaigner and Women’s Aid Ambassador.
She emphasised the human element behind domestic abuse, and the important role the council can play in helping survivors. She added: "Individually, we’re just one person fighting this, but in a cohesive framework with legislation behind it, enough is enough. We can stop domestic abuse in its tracks.
“So I would say to you all, anything you see that doesn’t look right, doesn’t feel right, isn’t right, don’t be afraid to report it because most of the time it’s not right.
“We can give them a better future, and we can give them a safer future; it's not too late for all the women, men and children out there in Nottinghamshire, Mansfield, and further afield suffering right now.
“On behalf of survivors, I want to say thank you for all of you working towards this. You are the hand that is reaching out to people, you are the ears listening to what people are saying, and you are those eyes to see what they’re not showing you.
“Please don’t let other people feel lost and alone in the dark. Be that hand, and you can make people's lives better; that starts today.”
When visiting the Civic Centre or spotting any front-line staff throughout the district, survivors of domestic abuse can now look out for ribbons and badges worn by council staff if they wish to access support.
The council will listen to what they need and discuss choices to enable them to make informed decisions about their life. Mansfield District Council is a safe space for survivors of domestic abuse.