Designate Domestic Abuse Commissioner for England and Wales, Nicole Jacobs, joined Respect's accredited members' forum to find out more about our work and what we think her office’s next steps should be.
“It’s really important for our office to get to know you directly, to have opportunities to hear from you directly, because it will influence our thinking,” Nicole said.
So, what exactly is a ‘designate’ Domestic Abuse Commissioner? Nicole was appointed to the role about a year ago. When the Domestic Abuse Bill passes and becomes law, she will be the official Domestic Abuse Commissioner. Nicole is not attached to any political parties or agendas, instead her role is directly tied into the Domestic Abuse Bill itself.
As Domestic Abuse Commissioner, her job is to drive change for how domestic abuse is handled in England and Wales. To Nicole, that means looking at the whole family, including the perpetrator, as well as intervention and support for perpetrators to change.
Nicole explains, that means thinking about a range of services, from early intervention and prevention, to crisis intervention. In order to really think about the range of available services while addressing the confusion of what ‘good’ domestic abuse service practices look like, a large part of her office’s early work has been mapping out specialist services.
“I'd be really interested to know where you feel the biggest gaps are and where the biggest issues are, in terms of challenges,” Nicole said. “What services are out there offering opportunities for people to change?”
Nicole’s office spotlights the importance of our accredited members’ contributions to the sector by using some of their existing work to help build service maps and establish what good practices look like.
“You all could tell me much more than I could possibly know about variation in services and the concerns you may have about non-accredited services,” Nicole continues.
Beyond mapping services, Nicole hopes to create a framework which considers the role of housing, health, mental health, and what ‘good’ practices look like within those areas. While also considering what those practices might look like within the criminal justice and family court system.
Once passed, The Domestic Abuse Bill will give Nicole’s office the power to request information from public bodies, who will then be required to respond with the requested details within a specific number of days.
“It doesn't necessarily mean that we would always get our way, but it means we can highlight issues and be specific about recommendations, and the government has to respond,” Nicole said.
While the Domestic Abuse Commissioner only has power over non-devolved issues in Wales, such as the justice system, there is the possibility for some joint work in areas such as service mapping and practices. However, the future of domestic abuse sector planning is still very much in the hands of the Welsh people.
“What are the strands of work and the ways we work together that ought to be happening to really help support those of you who are doing more direct frontline specialist services?” Nicole asked.
Currently, Nicole is running a series of workshops with funders to review where the gaps in the system are and what other funders are learning. She explains that it’s important to be aware of what services exist and which ones do not.
“I think there's a real appetite for much greater ambition and a much greater level of coordination to get us where we need to be,” Nicole said.
In the case of future funds, Nicole wants to know how sector workers think they should be shaped – should they be specifically targeted, or should they be open? She hopes our accredited members can help her find the answers to these questions.
“I think it's a bit about learning from you all and making sure that we're really helping to bolster that ambition,” Nicole said.
Nicole and her team hope to join future Respected Accredited Member meetings. To find out more about Respect Accredited Members and their work, go here.