A DOMESTIC abuse support service in St Helens will see an influx of new staff after referrals almost doubled in the last three years.

It is estimated there are 4,800 victims of domestic abuse in St Helens every year.

The latest crime data from Merseyside Police has shown that levels of domestic abuse have risen in each of the last four years.

St Helens Council says this increase is reflected in the demand pressures on its domestic abuse support service, Safe2Speak, which is provided by Helena Partnerships.

Since the start of 2018-19, Safe2Speak has received more than 670 referrals requesting support from those experiencing domestic abuse.

Of these, 432 referrals relate to requests for support from the Independent Domestic Violence Advocacy (IDVA) Service, which supports high risk victims of domestic abuse.

Additionally, 242 referrals have been requests for support from the domestic abuse outreach service, which supports those who have been assessed at medium or low risk.

The council says that at the end of Quarter 2 of 2018-19, the IDVA service was supporting 145 applicants.

This is compared to the same period in 2015-16 when there were 80 open referrals.

Despite the rise to date there has been no staffing increase to the IDVA provision.

In response to the rising demand pressures, a delegated decision has been taken by the council to increase the staffing capacity to the end of 2019-20.

The council says this will ensure caseloads remain manageable and that it is able to provide an effective support service.

The decision notice said: “The posts will be funded from the Community Investment Fund initially for 12 months.

“This will allow partner organisations and the council scope to review the long-term demand for the posts and explore options for continued funding by the wider Safer Communities Partnership during this 12-month period.

“The postholders will be employed by Helena Partnerships who will undertake recruitment to the posts.”