A PROGRAMME aimed at rehabilitating domestic abusers is going to be trialled in St Helens.

A new report from St Helens Council has revealed that authority has commissioned Merseyside Community Rehabilitation Company to deliver the HELP programme for perpetrators from February 2020.

This was after the council recognised a gap in provision for a programme for perpetrators who are not known to the criminal justice services but who are willing to engage with support.

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The programme will last for ten weeks and will aim to engage perpetrators in healthy relationships group work interventions.

Once completed, the impact of this programme will be evaluated to inform future commissioning of programmes for perpetrators of abuse.

Cllr Jeanie Bell, cabinet member for community safety, has previously been reluctant to pursue such programmes, instead focusing the council’s resources on supporting victims of domestic abuse.

However, Cllr Bell told the safer communities overview and scrutiny panel this week that her perception of perpetrator programmes changed during the domestic abuse summit last October.

Cllr Bell said: “Perpetrator programmes are working really well in other places in the country and getting really good results.

“When we did the summit, it was actually at that point that it changed my perception on perpetrator programmes and there was a lot of evidence about how, if we are going to stop domestic abuse at the root, it can’t always just be the onus on the victim.

“We have to look at how we work with perpetrators and how we prevent.

“We haven’t run one before, but we are looking forward to trying it and trialling it and seeing how it goes.

“Essentially, anything is worth a go and if it’s working in other areas then St Helens needs to at least trial it and see what happens with that.”

Labour’s Michelle Sweeney, chairman of the panel, has previously raised concerns around the lack of support for perpetrators and said the move to trial one was “really positive”.

Cllr Sweeney said: “As a panel we agree that victims should receive the vast majority.

“However, if we don’t’ try to find preventative steps prior to criminalisation then we’re not really going to make great strides within that.

“So that is really positive to hear that you’ve took that initiative to commission that.”

Cllr Bell told councillors a “considerable amount” of consultation with partners has gone into the domestic abuse strategy, which is currently in draft form.

St Helens Star: Cllr Jeanie Bell, cabinet member for community safetyCllr Jeanie Bell, cabinet member for community safety

During the domestic abuse summit, which brought together organisations from across all sectors in the borough, delegates were asked to provide feedback on their priority areas for action.

The feedback from this was used as the foundation in the development of the new strategy.

One of the priorities that emerged from the summit is around a lack of awareness regarding coercive control.

The offence of coercive control now recognises that domestic abuse can take several forms and is not strictly limited to physical violence.

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Agencies at the summit agreed that there is a need for more awareness for both public and professionals on the issue of recognition of coercive control and the impact on victims and families.

Cllr Bell said the draft strategy is due to go back out for consultation with partners who attended the domestic abuse summit, next month.

The strategy will then go to the People’s Board before returning to the safer communities overview and scrutiny panel, with a view to going to cabinet for approval on March 25.