Home-Start, a charity which supports struggling families, has replied to comments made about its work at an Uckfield Town Council meeting earlier this month.
The organisation has written to Michael Lunn, a Wealden district councillor, who spoke in a personal capacity at the council meeting, and has copied the letter to the town council, other councillors who commented on a Home-Start grant application at the meeting, and to Uckfield News which reported on the discussion.
The Uckfield News report can be seen here: HomeStart refused grant by Uckfield Town Council.
Christine Moon, chair of the board of trustees of Home-Start, has responded to Mr Lunn’s comments in the Home-Start letter saying:
“You state that Home-Start East Sussex supports “mothers who are struggling”. This is true, but we also support fathers and, indeed, parents jointly who are struggling. Our services support families, whatever their composition.
“The report implies that volunteers deliver the Freedom Programme. We certainly use trained and vetted volunteers to work one-to-one with our families in their homes as part of our home-visiting service. However, the Freedom Programme – the subject of the funding request – operates very differently.
“It is a course for groups of women who have experienced abuse and wish to move forward with their lives, putting the crises behind them. It is held at venues away from their homes and run by our professional staff – not volunteers.
“We are fully aware that courses as challenging as the Freedom Programme are not something that could be run safely by volunteers.
“The staff who run the programmes are well-qualified and your concerns on this matter, and those of Cllr Daniel Manvell (gained through a third party), are quite unfounded.
“I draw to your attention the following details of the staff:
“The CEO of Home-Start East Sussex has a range of relevant postgraduate qualifications and has undertaken “SafeLives” Service Managers Training. In addition, she is a member of the East Sussex County Council Local Safeguarding Children’s Board, the National Home-Start Federation Domestic Abuse Steering Group and the development committee for the East Sussex/Brighton & Hove joint strategy for Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence and Violence Against Women and Girls.
“The Co-ordinator of the Freedom Programme is a former probation officer with eight years’ experience working with male and female victims and perpetrators of abuse. She was a court officer and ran group-work programmes for offenders.
“She is already certified as a Professional Freedom Facilitator and is about to undertake “SafeLives” IDVA (Independent Domestic Violence Adviser) training aimed at those working with “High Risk Clients” – a higher level of risk than those with whom we work currently.
“The Assistant to the Co-ordinator is a certified Professional Freedom Facilitator and has undertaken other domestic abuse training to fit her for assisting at the weekly sessions. She is currently working towards a Diploma in Domestic Violence Studies.
“You state that the course is restricted to women and this is true at the current time. Running the groups for women who have experienced domestic abuse is a relatively recent extension of our home-visiting service and we do not yet have the resources to extend our support to men.
“It is, however, our intention to do so once we have developed the service and acquired the necessary staffing resources. The Board of Trustees has endorsed this intention formally.
“In taking the decision to work with women in the first instance, we were mindful of research in the area which shows that in the UK 44% of female homicide victims are killed by a partner while for male homicide victims the figure is 7%.
“84% of domestic abuse victims are female and 92% of perpetrators are male (Office for National Statistics). While these are telling statistics, Home-Start has no intention to exclude any genders or orientations from its work in the longer term.
“You express concern about the Freedom Programme suggesting it is premised on a feminist agenda. We share some of your concerns in this matter which is why we do not offer the programme without adjustment.
“We have adapted it to reflect a broader approach to the origins of domestic abuse and to better reflect our inclusive ethos. We agree with you that domestic abuse services need to be balanced and appropriate to the needs of the community and it is for this reason that we are operating as we are.
“Were the council to have offered a partial grant with the requirement that Home-Start extend its Freedom remit to all genders, I regret we should have been forced to refuse it because a sum of, say, £2500 would not enable the employment of an appropriate member of staff to offer such provision even for one programme and certainly not for the longer term.
“The Home-Start East Sussex website (hses.org.uk) gives full information about our work.”