Programme which works with perpetrators of domestic abuse marks first successful year in South Gloucestershire

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Kirsty Stokes, senior commissioning and policy officer for Avon and Somerset Police & Crime Commissioner; Eni Abiose, Next Link; Superintendent Dickon Turner; and Zoey Pether, Drive South Gloucestershire project lead.
Kirsty Stokes, senior commissioning and policy officer for Avon and Somerset Police & Crime Commissioner; Eni Abiose, Next Link; Superintendent Dickon Turner; and Zoey Pether, Drive South Gloucestershire project lead.

A project which challenges the behaviours of people who abuse their partners or family members has marked its first year in South Gloucestershire.

Drive, a national initiative which aims to prevent abusive behaviour and protect victims, launched in South Gloucestershire in July 2021. The project sees specially trained domestic violence and abuse advisors work to support survivors of abuse while also working with high-risk perpetrators to challenge behaviour, disrupt abuse and support them to change.

Drive has seen promising results elsewhere in the country, with physical abuse reducing by 82 per cent, sexual abuse by 88 per cent, harassment and stalking behaviours by 75 per cent and jealous and controlling behaviours dropping by 73 per cent amongst perpetrators involved in the programme.

In the past year in South Gloucestershire, 87 referrals have been accepted onto the Drive programme, of which 55 perpetrators are on record as being serial perpetrators, having abused previous partners. Of these 87 cases that saw interventions, a total of 92 victims and 165 children and young people were involved.

Councillor Rachael Hunt, cabinet member responsible for communities and local place at South Gloucestershire Council and Chair of the South Gloucestershire Partnership Against Domestic Abuse Strategic, said: “In South Gloucestershire, we do not tolerate domestic violence and abuse.

“As a council, we work tirelessly to prevent and reduce domestic abuse. Part of that work means we need to go above and beyond and implement new strategies and programmes such as Drive to challenge perpetrators’ behaviour and ultimately, change.

“This work has already seen an impressive number of preventions of cases of abuse but while abuse is still happening in South Gloucestershire, we must continue to do all we can to stop it completely.”

Zoey Pether, Drive Project Lead, said: “Without the Drive programme we don’t move forward in reducing and preventing domestic abuse. Tackling at the source is so important. It’s how we will stop the behaviour and make change.”

The programme also involves partner agencies, such as the police and South Gloucestershire’s commissioned domestic abuse support service Next Link.

Superintendent Dickon Turner, from Avon and Somerset Police, said: “The Drive project is an excellent offender-focused scheme which aims to challenge abusive behaviour and protect victims.

“It has resulted in less offending, less victims and less demand for police and other agencies. Avon and Somerset Police are committed to working with our partners to tackle domestic abuse and identify perpetrators at the earliest possible opportunity.”

Mark Shelford, Police & Crime Commissioner for Avon and Somerset, said: “A massive well done to all those involved in delivering Drive in South Gloucestershire over the last year. I am proud that my office and I have been able to support this programme, which vitally challenges the perpetrator.

“Alongside continuing to work with those with lived experiences of domestic abuse and ensure they can access support, we must continue to put the responsibility back onto the offender. By working with perpetrators, we can make long-term changes for survivors and their families, and prevent future victims.”

To mark the first 12 months of the Drive project in South Gloucestershire, a conference was held at the BAWA club in Filton at the end of July where partner agencies came together to hear about the success of the scheme.

A variety of speakers discussed the programme and presented evidence of its effectiveness using intervention and prevention. The conference also heard from advisors who have worked with victims of domestic abuse and their perpetrators.

Jayne Whittlestone, Senior Services Manager for Next Link, said: “We are delighted to be a key partner in the Drive programme making sure that the victim’s voice, safety and wellbeing is central in any intervention to reduce domestic abuse.

“We see daily the profound impact that domestic abuse has on adult and child victims and our commitment to working in partnership to eradicate domestic abuse is unwavering.

“The event showed directly the impact we are collectively having to keep survivors safe and supported whilst holding perpetrators to account for their actions and behaviour.”

For more information on the Drive project visit www.driveproject.org.uk

If you need help from domestic violence or abuse, call Next Link on 0800 4700 280 or visit www.nextlinkhousing.co.uk for further options on getting help. If you are in immediate danger, call 999.