Domestic abuse – it’s a board member issue too

As board members, we have an important role to play in supporting and leading our organisations to work with others to improve services for victims of domestic abuse across the sector. We can offer our knowledge, experience, support and networks to champion the cause at board level – and a good place to start is by encouraging our organisations to Make A Stand.

Joice Rennie, Board Member at Arches Housing in Sheffield and Vice Chair at Rykneld Homes

Joice Rennie, Board Member at Arches Housing in Sheffield and Vice Chair at Rykneld Homes

25 February 2019

An issue close to my heart

Some 31 years ago, I was writing my dissertation while studying for a degree in housing management at Sheffield Polytechnic – now Sheffield Hallam. My work, called ‘Love, Loth, Leave: the reason for Ashianna – setting up an Asian women’s refuge’, was inspired by the fact that very few black and not a single Asian woman were accessing services offered by Sheffield City Council’s homelessness services, which worked closely with Women’s Aid to support victims of domestic abuse.

I was taken back to my university days while listening to the session on domestic abuse at the recent Board Members’ Conference. Alison Inman – who launched the Make A Stand initiative last June during her time as CIH President – was speaking to Guddy Burnett, Co-Founder of the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance (DAHA) about the reasons for setting up the network, and the role we as a sector can play in addressing domestic violence.

This is a cause close to my heart. I’ve been championing services that support victims of domestic abuse throughout my career in housing – not just services for customers, but also support for staff. As Deputy Managing Director of A1 Housing Bassetlaw, I was in a position to show leadership from the top and identify and dedicate resources to ensure staff were properly trained to deal with the complex issues around domestic abuse. I was also able to offer support for partnership projects in the North Nottinghamshire area.

How housing can help to support victims of domestic abuse

My last organisation worked with Sanctuary Housing to offer a range of services to victims’ homes – from fitting properties with fireproof letterboxes, fixing additional locks and improved security alarms to installing taller garden fences. All measures to help victims of domestic abuse live safely in their own homes.

There were also designated ‘domestic abuse champions’ among our staff, who worked closely with Newark and Sherwood Homes to receive support and training as part of a North Nottinghamshire project.

Why does this matter to board members?

Since retiring recently, I’ve been keen to see how I can continue working on this important issue. As a Board Member at Arches Housing in Sheffield, and as Vice Chair at Rykneld Homes in North East Derbyshire, I want to consider what I can do to support these organisations to sign up to the Make A Stand initiative and work towards gaining DAHA accreditation.

At Rykneld Homes, the Community Sustainability Manager has the role of supporting victims of domestic abuse, and I know they are keen to see how DAHA accreditation could help them review, refine and improve their services. Despite being a smaller organisation, Archers too is considering how DAHA accreditation could benefit them.

It’s our role to encourage and support our organisations to continually strive to do better by our tenants, which is why I support Make a Stand.

You can pledge to make a stand by registering your organisation here. For more information about the Make a Stand campaign and how you can become DAHA accredited, please contact Helen Greig, External Affairs Manager.

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