A support service for victims of domestic and sexual violence looks likely to have its contract extended for just two more months after concerns were raised by Brighton and Hove councillors.
The contract for The Portal, which offers a single point of contact for victims across Brighton and Hove and East Sussex, is currently due to end in September next year.
A Brighton and Hove City Council committee is being asked to keep funding the contract until the end of November next year so that a new service, including a refuge for victims in Brighton and Hove, can be commissioned.
The moves come after the council’s Neighbourhoods, Inclusion, Communities and Equalities Committee was told that in the six months from the start of October last year The Portal received 3,502 referrals.
- 934 domestic violence and abuse referrals involving Brighton and Hove residents (30 per cent of domestic violence and abuse referrals)
- 200 sexual violence referrals involving Brighton and Hove residents (42 per cent)
In Brighton and Hove it was estimated that in the past year
- 7,639 women and girls aged 16 to 59 and 3,868 men and boys experienced domestic violence and abuse
- 2,515 women and girls and 677 men and boys were sexually assaulted
A report to the committee also said that in Brighton and Hove
- There were 4,703 domestic violence incidents and crimes reported to Sussex Police in 2016-17 and 821 sexual offences
- From 2013-14 to 2016-17 there was a 28 per cent increase in incidents of domestic violence and a 115 per cent increase in sexual assaults
The thousands of victims referred to The Portal are offered support under the £1.4 million-a-year contract which is funded by Brighton and Hove City Council, East Sussex County Council and the Office of the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner.
The Portal contract is provided by a partnership led by Rise, along with the Survivors’ Network – the charity visited by Prince Harry and Meghan today – and CGL (Change Grow Live).
The initial three-year contract was due to be renewed for a further five years from September but concerns were raised by Conservative and Green members of the Neighbourhoods, Inclusion, Communities and Equalities Committee in July.
Instead the contract was extended for six months until the end of next September and an in-depth report was ordered.
The concerns raised included a lack of detailed information about how it worked and a lack of control and oversight.
The new report is due to be discussed by the committee next Monday (8 October) – and officers have recommended extending the contract only until November 2019 rather than the five years originally proposed.
In the new report officers still recommend that councillors give executive director for neighbourhoods, communities and housing Larissa Reed the authority to work with the council’s partners to commission a new service.
A cross-party group of councillors is proposed to oversee the commissioning process.
When the committee discussed the contract in July, Green councillor Pete West said that he was concerned about rushing into committing to the joint project for a further five years.
Councillor West asked for more information as he was “not comfortable” supporting the commission with the information that he had.
Conservative councillor Robert Nemeth said that there were four reasons why the council should work alone rather than with others to commission the new service.
These were lack of control for Brighton and Hove overseeing the service going forward, disruption to charities having to tender again, uncertainty about where any unspent money would go and a lost opportunity to experiment.
Councillor Nemeth said after the meeting: “What is most important was I felt there was a lack of control as far as Brighton and Hove City Council had in overseeing the service going forward.
“There is a lack of control in signing up to a much bigger version and we cannot be nimble.
“I think all public services should be nimble as they move and adapt.”
In the past financial year the council spent £670,000 on The Portal and has earmarked the same sum for 2019-20, making up almost half the budget for the service.
The committee is due to meet at 4pm on Monday (8 October) at Hove Town Hall. The meeting is open to the public.