Supporters of domestic abuse service fear changes could put women at risk

Sheffield Domestic Abuse Forum's base Knowle House at Norfolk Park.
Sheffield Domestic Abuse Forum's base Knowle House at Norfolk Park.
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THE boss of a support service for battered women in Sheffield has voiced fears over plan to hand it to a housing association for ex-offenders.

Supporters of the Domestic Abuse Floating Support Service fear victims could end up living next door to their attackers if Action Housing and Support takes over.

They also say specialist services developed since it was established in the 1970s would be lost.

The service, based at Knowle House on Norfolk Park Road, is part of Sheffield Domestic Abuse Forum. It helps women find a new home, advises on their rights, helps them apply for benefits, supports them in court and divorce proceedings and helps find new schools for their children. At any one time it has 52 clients who are monitored for up to two years.

But supporters are furious Sheffield Council is set to hand the contract to Action Housing claiming the mix of victims and offenders could prove fatal.

The authority chose Action Housing and Support after the contract went out to tender. The service appealed and a final decision is due today.

Manager Jane McClean said: “I think lives could potentially be lost. Our clients are very concerned for their safety, some have known ex-partners who have been clients of AHS.

“There’s the risk they could literally bump into each other. Our service is not just about rehousing women, it’s about understanding the complexities of domestic abuse. You have to have a good grasp of the risks, you to have professional experience of working in this field.”

The support service was paid £245,000 each year by the council. When the contract went out to tender it submitted a bid costed at £181,500 per year - and still lost.

Action Housing and Support is set to take over on August 22.

Managing director Steve Owen said: “We are not naive, we understand the requirements of risk management and placement.

“We do have significant experience supporting victims of domestic abuse, both male and female.

“We are pleased to have secured the contract through a fair and transparent process and we are committed to giving quality support to the people who need it.”