Councillors earmark extra cash for domestic abuse survivors

More money has been earmarked to support victims of domestic abuse after councillors approved the extra funding during their annual budget debate last night (Thursday 25 February).

Members of Brighton and Hove City Council agreed to spend £95,000 in the coming year on support for mothers, children and young people affected by domestic abuse.

The money is to be given out as grant funding to community and voluntary sector organisations, with a recurring £50,000 a year budgeted as well as a one-off £45,000 in 2021-22.

The decision was made weeks after the Brighton charity RISE learnt that it had lost a £5 million seven-year council contract.

Green councillor Tom Druitt initially called for an extra one-off payment of £30,000 for the coming financial year, starting in April, and urged Labour and Conservative members to back the move.

But when the council’s three party leaders tried to reach agreement about the final details of next year’s spending plans, they came up with the £95,000 compromise.

The move built on an agreement by senior councillors earlier this month to set up a Community and Voluntary Sector Transformation Fund to support organisations move from local authority commissioning or grant funding “to more diverse and sustainable funding streams”.

Green councillor Steph Powell, who co-chairs the council’s Tourism, Equalities, Communities and Culture Committee, said that she had been outraged to hear that RISE had lost its contract.

She criticised what she described as a backlash against survivors who started a petition and social media campaign.

Councillor Powell said: “Sadly, the social media debate has turned nasty and, in some cases, survivors are being subject to unfair commentary.

“Survivors must be believed and, as members, we must work to understand what commission scoping took place and how we can ensure the best outcome for survivors from the newly commissioned providers.”

She said that a report on the independent process is expected to be presented to the Tourism, Equalities, Communities and Culture Committee at its next meeting on Thursday 11 March.

Councillor Powell said: “I’ve asked senior officers to bring a report on all the issues to that committee and I’ve emphasised the need to hold a cross-party panel which is particularly relevant as we have since learned that a cross-party members’ group – proposed in three committee papers, two in 2018 and one in 2019, by the then Labour chair – was never initiated from that point forward.

“While members’ groups have no bearing on the commissioning result, it’s vital that members voices are heard.”

Councillor Powell spoke about meeting RISE staff and survivors who had organised a petition that had attracted more than 25,000 signatures calling for support for the charity.

Conservative councillor Dee Simson said: “The Conservatives believed we had made sure the procurement process would carry the added weight of social value that we demand in Brighton and Hove when we agreed a firm recommendation at the NICE (Neighbourhoods, Inclusion, Communities and Equalities) Committee in October 2018 that made it clear members wanted a cross-party working group set up, with officers reporting to it throughout the process.

“This never happened. The then Labour administration took their eye off the ball and, as a result, the outcome came as a great shock to us all.”

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