The domestic violence commission has seen RISE lose a key contract.
Greens are committed to finding a way forward. We stand with all those who have experienced domestic abuse in our city, and we are resolute in our belief that domestic violence services are essential.
We, like others, feel passionately about the service RISE has been able to offer. They have been a lifeline for many local people – precisely why in the past we have moved to protect funding for domestic violence from cuts, and offer support to local organisations.
Green Councillors have been meeting with petitioners and RISE themselves to discuss and listen to concerns and we are grateful to so many for sharing their stories. We also recognise the toll this must be taking. The comments we have heard reaffirm our focus on the absolute necessity of trusted, domestic violence support and provision in the city.
Understanding the decision
We are committed now to getting answers for the city about the commissioning process that began in 2018. Greens took over the running of the council in July 2020 so we are asking many of the same questions about how it came to this, and about how the commission’s objectives were developed.
Councillors are prohibited through procurement law from scoring and awarding contracts. Commissioning is managed independently, using legal processes that we cannot overturn. Yet our view is that lessons can still be learned and progress can be made.
Greens have already moved to do what we can, within legal limitations, to ensure continued support and we want to push forward with other suggestions.
We worked cross-party at the Policy & Resources Committee two weeks ago to secure funding for community and voluntary sector partners who have lost out in commissioning. We also proposed new resources to enhance work on social value.
This week Greens have written an amendment to the council’s budget to provide additional funding for domestic abuse services. This includes specific focus on work with women, children and young people. This is recurrent funding, so the vital work continues in future years. It includes an additional funding top up this year, recognising the increased need.
This week we met with campaigners once again and the Rise Chief Executive. This gave us a further understanding of the issues that they are raising and helped us develop our plans to find a way forward in spite of the circumstances.
Our action plan
Following the latest news, we are
- Requesting a senior-level officer report, immediately brought to the next meeting of Tourism, Equalities, Communities and Culture Committee on 11th March, to enable councillors to explore in detail – and in a public place – the process and decision making surrounding the commission;
- Proposing a cross-party group, tasked with exploring the salient issues raised including reviewing procurement practices and how they impact the third sector; and how social value is assessed in Brighton and Hove City Council commissioning;
- Exploring how a process of review of the new contract and commission can take place, with councillor oversight built in, so that councillors can immediately understand any emerging concerns raised by survivors about the new providers;
- Seeking assurances that new providers will work to ensure a smooth transition takes place, that minimises the potential of any negative impact on those already in need of help;
- Reviewing how the council can include community voices in discussions around these issues, including through the VAWG forum;
- Progressing our amendment and work to support domestic violence services in the city;
- Ensuring a fair process for distributing the funding issued by Government to support survivors of domestic abuse and their children;
- Supporting RISE and their campaigns, including the Domestic Abuse Bill, which is currently going through the House of Lords, with support of Green Peer Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb;
- Convening work with other councillors, city MPs and others, to lobby government for both
a) sustainable funding for the voluntary and community sector, adequate funding for domestic violence services, and changes to procurement law;
b) working with Rise and others on a response to the Government’s Green Paper on this exact matter;
- Continuing to support the value of our local community and voluntary sector and providing them with support, including through the work on sustainability of the sector we have initiated;
We cannot overturn the results of a commission that followed the legal procurement process. However we would urge all parties committed to provision of services for domestic abuse to work together to help ensure positive outcomes for survivors.
We have been disappointed by false accusations and comments towards Green councillors; especially as the vast majority of decision making around this is public, and began in 2018 and again in 2019, prior to Green leadership of the council.
We have also been deeply disappointed to read negative comments on the impact of domestic violence that have been directed at campaigners – it is vital that survivors of domestic violence are believed, and their stories heard.
It is essential that anyone facing danger knows that domestic violence provision in the city, and other support services for women in crisis will continue. We encourage anyone who is in need of help to reach out.
We remain deeply committed to supporting survivors of abuse in our city and stand with campaigners in raising the importance of ensuring that vital provision continues.
Our focus is on working collaboratively with all parties to find answers, solutions, and ways forward that assert the importance of DV services and we welcome the support and input of others who share these goals. We will report back to the city on our commitments through the council’s committee process, so that they are accessible to the public.
Cllr Phélim Mac Cafferty, Leader of the Council
Cllr Hannah Clare, Deputy Leader of the Council
Cllr Sue Shanks, Deputy Leader of the Council
Cllr Steph Powell, Co-Chair of the Tourism, Communities, Equalities and Culture Committee