Mansfield District Council is to offer training to its entire workforce so that its staff can be more aware of the signs of domestic abuse and how to help survivors of it.
It is working towards the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance (DAHA) Accreditation and is the first council in the country in line to achieve a best practice recognition in its accreditation by using a specialist from domestic abuse charity Women's Aid to deliver the training, rather than doing it internally.
Christie Conroy, of Notts Women's Aid, is currently drawing up a learning programme tailored for every department at council and training is expected to start in about a month. Council workers will be helped to spot different signs of domestic abuse.
She said: "We want to ensure a joined up, holistic approach to tackling domestic abuse. For instance, a housing repairs team may see signs of violence in the home such as holes in a door or wall, whereas someone on reception may sense that a visitor to the council has an air of fearfulness.
"It’s about being aware of what to notice and what to do and say to someone if you suspect they could be a domestic abuse survivor, and how to hold perpetrators to account for the abuse.
"And it's about creating an environment and an approach which for council workers is the norm. There must be an expectation that help and support for survivors is something a local authority should be responsible for offering to a survivor rather than expecting them to seek it out."
The training and accreditation will highlight the fact that the council can offer a safe space for anyone who would dislike to disclose details of domestic abuse for the first time. It will also ensure that clear pathways are established with external agencies so that survivors can be effectively supported.
"Being a safe space means that anyone who chooses to disclose will be speaking to someone at the council who, first-off, believes them and is non-judgemental," said Christie. "This is about being person-centred and emphasising survivor safety, survivor voices and perpetrator accountability.
"The council will also be expected to demonstrate and act with accountability and humility and be transparent about the limitations of support, or mistakes and gaps in service provision.”
Cllr Marion Bradshaw, the council's Portfolio Holder for Housing, Community Safety and Wellbeing, said: "This is a major piece of training for all our council workers which is designed to have a positive impact for our customers and staff.
"Mansfield, unfortunately, has a higher than average level of domestic abuse and this is something we want to see reduced as part of our community safety and wellbeing agendas.
"People responsible for domestic abuse are often hidden from accountability for their actions by the fear they inflict on others, and so to tackle this, we have to break down that fear and provide the opportunity for survivors to disclose safely and in a way that empowers them.
"This approach using a DAHA framework of values - integrity, collaboration, empathy, empowerment, respect, accountability - builds on and aligns well with existing council values for both its customers and staff."
The accreditation process covers eight areas: policies and procedures; case management; risk management; inclusiveness and accessibility; perpetrator management; partnership working; training, and publicity and awareness.
The cost of meeting the standards of the accreditation are being met by funding from Nottinghamshire Council Council and the government. Once the training is complete and the standard is met, there will be regular audits to support any changes and improvements in practice.