A Highbridge district councillor has welcomed news that the Avon and Somerset Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) has been successful in securing a major investment to further support victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence.

The OPCC Commissioning Team has received over £1million in funding from the Ministry of Justice for 23 Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA) roles and eight Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) roles to support victims across the force area.

Working alongside local authorities, local partners and victim services commissioned by the OPCC, the ISVAs and IDVAs will provide practical and emotional support and advocacy for victims and survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence.

A number of these new IDVAs and ISVAs will be specialist roles to ensure everyone who is a victim of domestic abuse or violence receives the support they need. Such specialisms include working with Black and Minority Ethnic victims, elderly victims, children and young people, victims in rural communities, victims of economic abuse, victims with complex needs and/or learning disabilities, male victims, LGBT+ victims and victims with mental health issues and illnesses.

Newly-elected PCC Mark Shelford says: “I am proud that the OPCC Commissioning Team were so successful in receiving this Government funding and, as a result of their hard work, we are receiving one of our largest funding achievements for victim services.

“This additional funding will make a significant difference to services and staff on the ground who continue to face an overwhelming amount of work as we come out of the pandemic and, most crucially, will help more victims and survivors of domestic and sexual abuse cope and recover.”

“I am grateful to the Government and Ministry of Justice in recognising the need to provide and bolster such important services during this challenging time and I look forward to supporting the work of the new ISVAs and IDVAs.”

Highbridge’s Cllr Janet Keen, Sedgemoor’s Portfolio holder for Housing, Health and Wellbeing, said: “In agreement with BANES’s, Cllr Romero and South Gloucester’s, Cllr Hunt,  I am extremely pleased with this grant and congratulate the Force on making this successful application.”

“However, it should be noted that the support of victims of domestic and sexual  violence would be more meaningful if the accused persons were brought before the Courts in a more timely manner. The PCC Panel has been informed previously of the excessive waiting period and this is believed to be one of the reasons why a victim might withdraws their complaint and this is a matter of grave concern and long term implications for the victims.”

Sarah O’Leary, CEO of Next Link Domestic Abuse and SAFE Link Sexual Violence support services said: “We are delighted and very grateful to receive this funding for 15 IDVAs to work across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, and eight ISVAs across Avon and Somerset.”

The additional funding will enable us to respond to an increase in adult and child victim-survivors of domestic and sexual violence and abuse from all communities who need help with their safety and support to recover.

“The covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on people who are suffering from abuse. Many victims and survivors have been trapped in their homes with a violent partner, which has increased the risk to them and they have been less able to seek help. Those who were already marginalised and isolated have been particularly affected. Our extensive experience of supporting victims has shown us that people who receive specialist support go on to build safe, fulfilling lives free from violence and our message remains that we are here to help all survivors and victims to be safe, seek justice if they choose and recover from the abuse they have experienced.”

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