Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Putting women first in bid to halt domestic violence

On the eve of International Women's Day Geraldine O'Hare celebrates a unique partnership between the Probation Board and Women's Aid

The Probation Board for Northern Ireland (PBNI) prepares more than 9,700 reports annually and supervises more than 5,000 offenders on any given day.

At the board, we oversee 160,000 hours of unpaid work through community service. We provide a victim information scheme. We have developed victim/offender work. We have forged key partnerships to prevent re-offending and we deliver behavioural change programmes and interventions.

Programmes and interventions have a prominent role to play in the Probation Board's strategy for protecting the public from the effects of crime. All our programmes are research-based and adapted to deal with offenders in Northern Ireland.

In the last 18 months, Probation, working closely with Women's Aid, has implemented the Integrated Domestic Abuse Programme (IDAP) for use in Northern Ireland.

This is a Home Office-accredited intervention for court-mandated perpetrators of domestic abuse.

Currently in Northern Ireland, there are 141 court disposals with a domestic violence intervention requirement. The IDAP programme is developed to deal with men aged 18 or over with a history of domestic violence or abuse.

Importantly, the programme also offers safety and support services to women who have been victims of the men sentenced to the programme and their current partners, through women's safety services provided by Women's Aid.

The overall aim of the Integrated Domestic Abuse Programme is to ensure the safety of women and children who are victims of offenders placed on the programme. It works collaboratively with other agencies to manage risk and is delivered within the context of the Public Protection Arrangements Northern Ireland and Sharing to Safeguard Children procedures. Monitoring and tracking of offenders is built into all aspects of programme arrangements to promote effective risk-assessment and risk-management.

When an offender is ordered by the court to participate in this programme, they must attend 27 weekly sessions, which take place over the course of nine months.

Throughout this time, they are challenged by experienced facilitators to take responsibility for their violent and abusive behaviour and to acknowledge the impact of this on their partners and ex-partners, children and others.

The women's safety worker role is an essential part of the programme and it aims to provide known victims and current partners of men undertaking IDAP with information that enables effective safety planning and ensures the risk to the woman is not increased by the offender's participation.

They also facilitate the referral of women to appropriate local services for support, advice and assistance and meet with women throughout the programme and for six months following its completion.

Evaluation of the programme is ongoing and it is clear that it is making a difference, with offenders reporting the development of new skills to prevent reoffending.

Everything we in Probation do is about preventing victims of crime and making local communities safer. We believe that IDAP plays an important role in protecting and supporting women.

If any woman has experienced, or is experiencing, domestic violence they can ring the Freephone 24-hour national domestic violence helpline - 0800 917 1414.

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