EMERGENCY accommodation sought by victims of domestic abuse could be increased under new plans announced this week - after a report into cases revealed a 34 per cent increase in Barnsley since the pandemic’s start.
Rising demand for services will see the matter discussed by Barnsley Council’s ruling cabinet members on Monday due to high-risk cases rocketing by 34.3 per cent since the first lockdown.
According to a report, an increase in approaches to housing officers - citing homelessness as a causal factor - have been noted, although 69 referrals seeking accommodation at a council-run refuge between October 2020 and October 2021 had to be rejected.
In 2018/19 just six applications were made, but by 2020/21 47 had been submitted, a 683 per cent hike.
The report said: “The current offer of safe accommodation in Barnsley includes the provision of an eight bedded, purpose-built, refuge.
“The needs assessment highlighted the oversubscribed refuge as well as the limited building capacity.
“There is an absence of refuge spaces for the increasing number of men identified as experiencing abuse, and for women with older teenage sons.
“There’s also an increasing number of victims of domestic abuse who have multiple and complex needs requiring safe accommodation, and for whom the current delivery model of the refuge is not adequate and does not meet the range of need.
“It ultimately highlighted that Barnsley’s current safe accommodation delivery model is not suitable or sustainable for the increasingly diverse profile of domestic abuse victims in the borough, and that safe accommodation options for victims should be diversified to meet this need.
“It’s the recommendation of this report that we develop a portfolio of property types, to meet varying need.
“We propose to expand the offer by securing a registered housing provider and property management to purchase, on the council’s behalf, additional properties across the borough to achieve a variety of accommodation facilities.
“This will offer one and two-bedded properties.”
Approval is also being sought for the council to negotiate a change-of-use planning application of a property elsewhere - offering four units and backed by £588,000 in government accommodation support funding - which will act as a day support service.
The established refuge would then concentrate on offering a 24-hour ‘concierge-style’ service, although both would operate as female-only venues.
More cash is also being proposed for a contract delivered by the Independent Domestic Abuse Service (IDAS) team, which currently costs £651,000 per year, but will uplift by £105,000 annually over three years.
A total of 4,092 people sought IDAS’s help in 2020/21, the report added.
“It is anticipated that the delivery of the strategy, contract re-commission and proposed safe accommodation will have a positive impact on individuals,” it said.
* For more information, call the free 24-hour helpline at IDAS on 03000 110 110. If you know someone in immediate danger from domestic abuse or sexual violence, call 999.