Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Ellis with Chief Executive of Staffordshire Womens Aid Dickie James.

Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Staffordshire, Matthew Ellis, has provided much needed funding to help Staffordshire Women’s Aid launch a new refuge in Stafford to help families who are experiencing domestic violence and abuse.

The funding of £26,000 will help to provide self-contained accommodation for up to 12 families who need emergency support. The new ‘ForWard’ refuge will feature a much needed increase in bed spaces which will enable women to be accommodated alongside their children. It will also provide spaces, including a large play room and outdoor play area, where women and children can take part in activities which will help rebuild their confidence and enable them to plan for safer, independent futures.

Mr Ellis said:

“Domestic abuse has a devastating impact on victims and can affect the whole of their lives. This development will provide accommodation and support for victims of domestic abuse when they need it most.

“This is an unusual situation and the funding shortfall is something I wanted to assist with. Helping those affected by crime is at the centre of my approach to help make Staffordshire safer and to be able to provide funds to ensure the new refuge opens in Stafford is the right thing to do.”

Councillor Jeremy Pert, Cabinet Member for Communities at Stafford Borough Council, said:

“Refuges save lives. We know that two women are killed every week as a result of domestic violence and these refuges are vital in helping prevent those deaths.
“The opening of this refuge comes against a backdrop of others across the country having to be closed because of lack of funds so we are very grateful for the support of the OPCC in helping to make this happen. The premises in Stafford is a new model than the old-style of refuge, with more space for family accommodation to cater for the children of mums who are fleeing violence in their home. This is not only about protecting women but the children too.”

DPCC Sue Arnold with Charlotte Almond and Dickie James from Staffordshire Women’s Aid
DPCC Sue Arnold with Charlotte Almond and Dickie James from Staffordshire Women’s Aid

Chief Executive of Staffordshire Women’s Aid Dickie James said:

“The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Staffordshire has demonstrated absolute commitment to meeting the needs of victims of domestic violence in the area. This generous and timely contribution to the running of the new Forward House refuge, set up for the most at risk and vulnerable victims, is just one example of this.

“The PCC has worked in partnership with Staffordshire Women’s Aid in other, innovative ways including the Domestic Abuse Champions initiative. This has enabled us to deliver training and guidance to employers and businesses across Staffordshire so that employees who are victims can seek support in their workplace. This kind of initiative, enables us to work in partnership not only in meeting the needs of victims, but in helping prevent escalation and reduce risk.

“We are delighted and grateful to have received this support, and look forward to future work with our PCC that addresses the problem of domestic violence in innovative ways, and enables victims to become survivors.”

In 2015 the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner launched a new initiative which throws a lifeline to workers who suffer abuse at home.

The workplace programme is part of ongoing efforts by Staffordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Ellis to offer better service and support for victims of domestic abuse.

The PCC has funded specialist training, delivered by Staffordshire Women’s Aid, for a nominated individual from each business that signs up.

Organisations who sign-up to the programme – at no cost to themselves – will commit to taking steps to support staff in abusive relationships and make sure victims are aware that help is available. Managers will be encouraged to spot tell-tale signs of abuse and give practical and confidential guidance to staff.

The British Crime survey found that there were an estimated 12.9 million incidents of domestic violence against women each year and 2.5 million against men. Meanwhile, such crime is estimated to cost the economy £23 billion a year – including £1.7 billion for employers alone.

Deputy PCC Sue Arnold, Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce Chief Executive Jane Gratton and Chief Superintendent Jeff Moore.
Deputy PCC Sue Arnold, Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce Chief Executive Jane Gratton and Chief Superintendent Jeff Moore.

Staffordshire Women’s Aid is an award-winning charity which has been supporting victims of domestic and sexual violence in Staffordshire since 1976. Through specialist support, the organisation empowers victims to change their lives and plan for safer, healthier and independent futures.

Businesses throughout Staffordshire who are interested in signing up to the workplace scheme should visit www.staffordshire-pcc.gov.uk/domestic-abuse
Businesses can also benefit from the Business Crime Matters initiative which aims to beat business crime and help promote economic growth by offering free, confidential advice for business victims of crime. For more details see www.staffordshire-pcc.gov.uk/business/

Additionally, the Staffordshire Victim Gateway, a UK first, was launched on 1 September 2015 to place victims back at the heart of the criminal justice system across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent and has already helped support thousands of people.

Supporting victims and witnesses is one of four key priorities in Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Ellis’ Safer, Fairer United Communities strategy for more local and effective policing in the county.