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Helping to Prevent Domestic Abuse

Over 100 women per year will die as a result of domestic abuse, not all will live in social housing but a proportion will. What if this potentially vulnerable sector of society could be supported as part of procurement activity?

David Hall, procurement manager for Cumbria Housing Partners, writes about how procurement for repairs and maintenance can also have a positive impact on preventing domestic abuse:

As part of the procurement tendering process, public sector procurement professionals consider how the service being procured may improve the wider economic, social and environmental well being of the relevant area, adding social value to businesses and its community and individuals.

Tenant Well-Being

Housing Associations, as Registered Providers (RP’s), have mandatory legal obligations to ensure the environment in which tenants are housed is as safe as possible. For example every RP will ensure statutory checks are undertaken for gas servicing or asbestos to ensure the physical well-being of the tenant and residents.

But homes are more than bricks and mortar; along with the structural checks, there is an increasing awareness of the signs of potential domestic abuse. Many RP’s go beyond their legal duty of care as landlords, recognising the destructive impact domestic abuse has on lives, actively looking to help prevent abuse and support those at risk by signing up to the Make a Stand campaign launched by CIH and Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance.

The cost of doing nothing

Repair costs at homes where domestic abuse occurs is on average higher than in properties where it doesn’t. Reporting the warning signs such as frequent damage to fixtures and fittings, unexplained accidental damage to the fabric of the building, alongside identification of injury to one or more of the tenants is reason to flag a potential concern and to report the issue to the relevant authorities.

Gentoo, the social housing provider for Sunderland and a founding partner of DAHA and Safe Lives, produced a report Safe at Home which identified that 13% of all repair jobs and 21% of all repair costs were potentially related to domestic abuse. Engaging with contractors who are visiting properties on a regular basis increases the chance of identifying cases of potential domestic abuse.

Safeguarding through procurement

As part of the procurement process RP’s could qualitatively score contractors on their approach to identifying safeguarding issues. Specialist legal advisors Capsticks, have created a guide with information on how this can work: Domestic Abuse Prevention – Guidance on procuring repairs and maintenance services.

Both the selection questionnaire and the qualitative questions in the tender can be used to assess previous experience and to assess suitability to introduce a collaborative monitoring approach. Contractors may not have their own internal policies on safeguarding and it could be a mandatory requirement that successful contractors must attend a safeguarding training session facilitated by the RP.

Adding Social Value

Adding social value is about more than improving the physical and economic environment for communities through investment or creating new jobs, it is about helping to improve the lives of individuals. When a contractor makes a positive commitment to safeguarding the well-being of individuals as part domestic abuse prevention it could save a life – and that adds value beyond price.

For more information about how we work collaboratively with social housing providers to provide a range of procurement support and contract management, please contact us on 01228 635520