THE PSNI have recorded the highest level of domestic abuse incidents in 13 years.
Latest figures show there were 29,913 incidences of domestic abuse recorded between April 2017 and March 2018, the highest level since 2004/05.
Specialist Domestic Abuse Support Workers (DASW), working between the police and Women’s Aid, it has been said, have helped provide enhanced support for vulnerable victims.
However, there are currently only two DVSW working in Antrim, Ballymena, Carrickfergus, Larne and Newtownabbey with Women’s Aid calling for further funding to be made available to allow more specialist support workers to be rolled out to other areas.
Ulster University researchers, alongside academics from Queen’s University, interviewed DASWs, police officers and victims of domestic violence in order to establish the usefulness of this new specialist role.
Of the police officers interviewed 68 per cent said the support workers had a positive impact on their work.
Almost all officers interviewed – 96 per cent – reported that having a support worker available contributed towards helping to provide a co-ordinated response for victims and their children.
Chérie Armour, of Ulster University said the research “highlights the importance of collaborative working between the PSNI and Women’s Aid in meeting the needs of victims of domestic violence and their children.
“The DASWs act as a linchpin providing a sensitive, pro-active advocacy, support and information service to victims.”
Rosemary Magill CEO Women’s Aid welcomed the study but said the organisation lobby funders and decision makers to gain support and finance to sustain these two workers in post and the roll out of this initiative regionally in support of vulnerable victims.”
Detective Inspector Donna Harrison, from the PSNI Public Protection Branch, said the PSNI “welcome the collaborative working between the PSNI, Women’s Aid and Ulster University in reviewing the role of the Domestic Abuse Support Workers.
“In particular, we were pleased to be able to capture multiple perspectives of the role from the DASW’s themselves, from staff in Women’s Aid, victims of domestic violence and from our officers in the PSNI.
“All stakeholders have reported the benefits of these specialist roles in supporting victims of domestic violence”, she added.
Dr Susan Landon, Research Fellow from Queen’s University said their research found “no single service alone can meet all the needs of victims; rather a collaborative and co-ordinated response is required”.
A 24-hour Domestic and Sexual Violence Helpline is available to anyone who has concerns about domestic or sexual violence, now or in the past on 0808 802 1414.