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Domestic abuse referrals on rise, meeting hears

Adult and child referrals to a domestic abuse charity have doubled and trebled respectively, a Windsor and Maidenhead council meeting heard this week.

Alison Bourne, chief executive officer at the DASH charity, was speaking at a One Borough meeting on Tuesday morning.

She added that extra staff have been taken on to cope with demand – but vowed to ‘always strive to keep our door open for anybody’.

DASH, which celebrates its 45th birthday this year, stands for ‘domestic abuse stops here’ and supports victims of the crime, whatever their gender, across Windsor, Maidenhead, South Bucks and Slough.

“When you think about domestic abuse, people tend to refer to physical violence, but it is not just that,” Alison told the meeting.

“In 2015, the Government included coercive control in the definition, and that includes sexual abuse, economic abuse, psychological abuse.

“We will help anyone experiencing any of that sort of abuse. We have never closed our doors to anyone. We will always strive to keep our door open for anybody.”

Alison told members that the pandemic has forced charities to ‘really struggle’ as they look to finance their services.

Fundraising activities and income have taken a hit following the pandemic.

"On average, our adult referrals have doubled, and our children's referrals have trebled," Alison added. "We have taken some staff on temporarily; we have jumped on all the Government funding."

The CEO said that DASH is facing ‘a bit of a cliff-edge’ on April 1, with much of the grant funding it did receive needing to be spent by the end of this month.

Councillor Samantha Rayner (Con, Eton and Castle), praised DASH’s work as being ‘vital’, adding that national events last week surrounding the death of Sarah Everard, who was walking home in South London, ‘have highlighted how much women’s support is needed’.

Later in the meeting, Cllr Rayner encouraged people to take part in a consultation to transform library services across Windsor and Maidenhead.

The Library Transformation Strategy consultation is open until Friday, April 30 and aims to gauge people’s views on how to change libraries in order to make sure they respond ‘to the changing needs’ of the community.

“Part of the strategy is to try and show people the other directions we can go in; we can be a community hub, offering economic help [and] mental health [support],” Cllr Rayner said.

“Please take part in the consultation.”

The councillor added that encouraging people to partake in book loans was still high on the council’s agenda, after a member of the public at the meeting had claimed there had been a decline in the number of young people reading books.

There was also a reminder for people to complete the 2021 Census, with the deadline to complete it set for this Sunday, March 21.

The national survey is about households in England and Wales and must be completed by law.

Those who do not fill it in could face a fine of up to £1,000.

Visit census.gov.uk to complete.

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