CHANGES to the way domestic services are provided in North Devon and Torridge could leave vulnerable people without a refuge centre in the area.
Devon County Council recently made the decision to put its services out to tender and invited domestic abuse organisations to submit a bid for the contract.
North Devon Against Domestic Abuse (NDADA), a charity based in Barnstaple, submitted a bid along with the two other domestic abuse services in Devon but were unsuccessful.
The contract was won by Splitz Support Service, a charity providing services in Wiltshire, Bristol and Gloucestershire which doesn’t have a base in North Devon.
Susan Wallis, chief executive of NDADA, said she was concerned about the fact Splitz did not plan to offer a refuge centre for people in North Devon and Torridge, instead providing an “outreach service.”
“We are going to attempt to keep it going ourselves but that will be dependent on being able to raise funding,” she said.
“We are going to dip into our reserves to keep it over the interim but we need to find substantial funds.”
Prior to the changes NDADA received £109,000 annually from DCC which has now been stopped.
The charity’s bid for the contract was unsuccessful despite the fact its bid included plans to continue a refuge centre in Barnstaple.
“The stress is being put on their outreach services, which we have always provided,” said Susan. “It is our understanding that the new organisations is going to be providing outreach services in a different way to cut its costs and it will be using our experienced and skilled staff to do that.”
In a statement released by the county council, Fran Lewis, executive director of Splitz, said: “No single organisation can deal with this huge problem alone and our intention is very much to work in partnership with existing providers to achieve the safest possible outcome for everyone with experience of domestic abuse.”
But Susan remained concerned about the provision of a refuge centre.
“Their plan does not include that safe place for those vulnerable people,” she said. “These tendering processes are going to threaten more and more local grassroots services and as someone who has worked in the third sector all my life I feel very passionately about these local services and the need to protect them.
“We understand Devon County Council are under financial restraints but in the long run I don’t believe this will cut any costs.”
Councillor Andrea Davis, cabinet member for health and wellbeing said: “Domestic and sexual violence and abuse is a major public health issue and I will be bringing commissioners, providers, the voluntary sector and survivors together in a Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse Alliance later this year to build on the good work that has been done in Devon.
“The awarding of this contract underlines the council’s commitment to protecting the most vulnerable people in our society. I’m confident that Splitz will continue to support victims of domestic violence and also reduce the number of repeat referrals within the county.
“They have everything in place to provide a consistent, countywide service with highly trained advisors on hand to support victims and their families and help keep them safe from harm and further abuse.”