Frequently Asked Questions

Practical issues that may be facing victims of domestic abuse.

I need help now

Domestic abuse or violence is a crime and should be reported to the Police.  If you, your children or someone you know is in immediate danger, always call 999. If it is unsafe to speak when calling 999, press 55 to access silent solution service.  The police take domestic abuse seriously and will be able to help and protect you. If you do not feel that you are in immediate danger, then please contact Merseyside Police on 101 or the 24 hour helpline 01925 220541.

Am I entitled to legal assistance?

You might be able to get legal aid if you have evidence that you or your children have been victims of domestic abuse or abuse and you can’t afford to pay legal costs.

You don’t have to get evidence before talking to a legal aid solicitor or Civil Legal Advice (CLA), but they’ll need to see it before deciding whether you can get legal aid.

What protection do legal remedies afford me?

Interim measures

The legal scope of domestic abuse protections is not limited to abuse which is physical or sexual in its nature; it also now extends to what is called ‘coercive or controlling behaviour’ – essentially psychological and emotional abuse.

The immediate steps to take in the event of domestic abuse are contacting the police and finding somewhere safe to stay if required. The police may decide to make a domestic violence protection notice (DVPN) which allows them to put in place protection in the immediate aftermath of a domestic abuse incident. These protections generally ban the alleged perpetrator of abuse, with immediate effect, from returning to a residence and from having contact with the victim The DVPN must be reviewed by a magistrate after 48 hours, who may decide to impose a domestic abuse protection order (DVPO) which extends the restrictions for 14 to 28 days.

Court orders

You should ask a solicitor about the best way to protect yourself and your family from domestic abuse. There are two main legal remedies which can be applied by the court. Non-molestation order This is a type of injunction designed to prevent your partner or ex-partner from being violent or threatening abuse, intimidating, harassing or pestering you or your children. It can be made against anyone who has demonstrated these types of behaviours and with whom you have had a close relationship – such as a spouse, civil partner, boyfriend or girlfriend, co-habitee or family member.

This type of order can apply to any sort of contact, including by telephone, email, social media.

Occupation order

This injunction aims to deal with the situation where you are living together in a shared family home with the perpetrator of domestic abuse.

The court can decide to order them to move out and stay away from the home, or apply specific restrictions such as requiring them to sleep in a different bedroom. An occupation order may be granted in addition to a non-molestation order.

I am in a universal credit family – how do I adjust my claim?

All Universal Credit claimants have to comply with some work search and availability rules unless they have circumstances that exempt them.

People who are ‘recent victims of domestic violence’ are exempt from this work conditionality for up to 13 or 26 weeks from the date that they notify the job centre about the abuse. The 26 week limit applies where the person is responsible for a child under 16.

To use this exemption:

  • The abuse must have happened within the last six months;
  • The perpetrator must not be living at the same address;
  • Evidence from a ‘person acting in an official capacity’ is needed.

Universal Credit is not usually paid for the first seven days of a claim. This period is referred to as ‘waiting days’. ‘Recent victims of domestic violence’ do not have to serve the ‘waiting days’. You can report a change of circumstances by either signing in to your Universal Credit account if you have one or calling the Universal Credit helpline if you don’t have an online account.

Universal Credit helpline Telephone: 0800 328 9344. You need to report changes to your circumstances so you keep getting the right amount each month. Your claim might be stopped or reduced if you don’t report a change of circumstances straight away.

What is target hardening, who can help me with this?

Target hardening is a term used where your property is made more secure, by enhancing security with extra locks and bolts etc and aims to reduce homelessness by enabling victims (where safe and appropriate) to stay in their own home.

Many victims do not want to flee their homes or the area where they live as their support networks are there and their children are settled. Target hardening aims to improve security by replacing locks, installing window locks and alarms and putting in measures to reduce the risk of fires. Please discuss with your IDVA or the team if you wish to consider this.

Can I go to a refuge?

A refuge is a safe place at a confidential address. A risk assessment and referral form will be completed by refuge staff and this information will then be screened to determine if there is an appropriate vacancy at St Helens refuge for you.

Alternatively, the refuge staff can assist to source refuge vacancies out of borough by checking the national refuge vacancy database.

Refuge staff will work with you to make sure you get the support and advice you need to move on. You will receive emotional and practical support as well as access to benefits/finances, local schools, legal advice, GPs etc.

Your children will be supported by a Children’s Worker who will arrange play activities and one to one support for your child.

Where can I turn to for emotional help?

Your IDVA or Domestic Abuse Outreach Worker can offer you emotional support. Safe2Speak also run a weekly group on a Monday afternoon, 12:30 -2:30 pm at Torus Central building, formerly Helena Central. Contact the service for more information.

Chrysalis for Change are a women’s mental health charity who provide a range of support services. These include a Professional Counselling service, Supported Drop-in, Confidence & Assertion Courses, Stress Management Course, Domestic Abuse Support Service and a CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy)-led Positive Me Programme.  In order to access any services women must attend an initial First Contact appointment.

The Freedom Programme is delivered by the local authority to victims of domestic abuse. The programme examines the roles played by attitudes and beliefs on the actions of abusive men and the responses of women victims and survivors.

The aim is to help women who have experienced domestic violence to make sense of and understand what has happened to them. Referrals need to be made by a professional.

Think Wellbeing- Think Well Being aims to promote and preserve good mental health and to assist those experiencing mental distress to regain their full potential. The aim is to support people aged 18+ who are experiencing mental health difficulties in St. Helens Borough so they achieve their full potential and play an active part in community life. They aim to help people living in St. Helens regardless of their cultural, religious and lifestyle needs.

The services are non-judgemental and offer opportunities to develop self-esteem and confidence by encouraging and supporting involvement. Tel: 01744 647089 Wellbeing Enterprise provides a range of community based activities for everyone who would like to improve their levels of wellbeing.

Services Provided

Social prescribing: a range of activities are provided for people who would like to learn new skills, meet friends and find out about some top tips to improve wellbeing.

Group interventions for clients experiencing mild to moderate mental health problems – these interventions make use of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques

Training Programmes are run throughout the year and cover a broad range of topics

How to Access the Service

People can refer themselves to the Wellbeing Enterprises or be referred to by their GP/Health Practitioner.

Tel: 01928 589799

Footsteps offers a confidential listening, information and support service for anyone affected by someone else’s use of drugs and /or alcohol.  The service is provided by professional staff and trained volunteers, many of whom have experienced substance use in their own family.

Services Provided

Face-to-face support in the form of drop-in sessions, one-to-one appointments and home visits.

Telephone support from 9am to 10pm, Monday to Friday.

Support groups held on a weekly basis providing an opportunity for clients to share experiences with one another.

Monthly drop-in sessions to talk in confidence about someone else’s substance misuse, held at the Millennium Centre.

How to Access the Service: For more information about face-to-face support, group support and training courses please contact the St Helens branch on 01744 808 212.

CGL – Change Grow Live is St Helens Integrated Recovery Service, which is a free and confidential drug and alcohol service for adults in St Helens. The team can help you to make and sustain the changes you need to make to reduce and, ultimately, stop your drug and/or alcohol use.

They offer a range of opportunities from workshops, brief interventions, structured groups and one-to-one sessions. This is complimented by clinical services such as alcohol detoxification, harm reduction advice, blood borne virus testing (including HIV and Hep C), naloxone training and referral to other services.

Tel: 01744 410752

Is there emotional support for my children locally?

If you are admitted to St Helen’s refuge your child will have access to a Children’s Worker who can provide one to one support for your child.

You can always speak to your child’s health visitor or nursery/school teacher to let them know what is going on so they can offer extra support to your child if needed.

You could access one of the local Children’s Centres which offer friendly, fun places, for you and your child to meet new friends and take part in activities. Staff can also support you through pregnancy and help get little ones ready for school. Contact Telephone: 01744 671788 for more information.

Butterflies is an ambitious and growing social enterprise, specialising in providing age appropriate therapeutic support. The children’s service, ‘Butterflies’, offers 1:1 and group therapy service for children and young people disadvantaged through poor mental health and emotional well-being and commonly presenting with anxiety, anger, rebellion, grief and depression issues as a result of:

  • pre-bereavement (parent/family member diagnosed with a life limiting illness)
  • bereavement (including sudden death, murder, manslaughter, suicide)
  • family breakdown (including fostering and adoption breakdown)
  • loss (including divorce, separation and domestic abuse)

Tel: 0151 488 6648

CYPS Children and Young People Services – Call the Contact Centre on (01744) 676 600 or you can contact outside of office hours via the Emergency Duty Team on 0345 050 0148.

What is a MARAC?

A MARAC, or multi-agency risk assessment conference, is a meeting where information is shared on the highest risk domestic abuse cases between representatives of local police, probation, health, child protection, housing practitioners, Independent Domestic Abuse Advisers (IDVAs) and other specialists from the statutory and voluntary sectors.

After sharing all relevant information about a victim, representatives discuss options for increasing safety for the victim and turn these options into a co-ordinated action plan. The primary focus of the MARAC is to safeguard the adult victim.

If you have an IDVA, they will present your wishes and feelings at this meeting in relation to your situation.

What is Claire’s Law & how to I apply?

Clare’s Law is a scheme allowing Police to disclose to individuals, details of their partners’ abusive past. Every request under Clare’s Law is thoroughly checked by a panel made up of police, probation services and other agencies to ensure information is only passed on where it is lawful, proportionate and necessary.

Trained police officers and advisers are then on hand to support victims through the difficult and sometimes dangerous transitional period. Clare’s Law, or the Domestic Abuse Disclosure Scheme, has two functions:

  • ‘Right to ask’ – this enables someone to ask the police about a partner’s previous history of domestic abuse or violent acts.
  • ‘Right to know’ – police can proactively disclose information in prescribed circumstances.

Once an application is made, police and partner agencies will carry out a range of checks. If these reveal a record of abusive offences, or suggest a risk of abuse or abuse, the police will consider sharing this information.

The aim is to help people to make a more informed decision on whether to continue a relationship and provide help and support when making that choice. If they decide to make a disclosure, this will usually be made to the person at risk.

This is unless, in the circumstances, someone else is better placed to use the information to protect them from abuse. There may be occasions when the police will not let you know whether a disclosure has or has not been made. Any disclosure will be made in person – none of the disclosure is made in writing and you will not be given any documentation.

To make an application you can submit an online form via Merseyside Police website, detailing your request, reason and provide a safe means of contacting you.  You will need to give your name, address and date of birth. Alternatively, please contact the Police on 101.

What is an IDVA?

The main purpose of independent domestic abuse advisors (IDVA) is to address the safety of victims at high risk of harm from intimate partners, ex-partners or family members to secure their safety and the safety of their children. Serving as a victim’s primary point of contact, IDVAs normally work with their clients from the point of crisis to assess the level of risk.

They also discuss the range of suitable options leading to the creation of a workable safety plan. They are proactive in implementing the plans, which address immediate safety, including practical steps to protect victims and their children, as well as longer-term solutions.

These plans will include actions from the Multi-agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) as well as sanctions and remedies available through other organisations. IDVAs support and work over the short to medium term to put victims on the path to long term safety. IDVAs receive specialist accredited training and hold a nationally recognised qualification. Since they work with the highest risk cases, IDVAs are most effective as part of an IDVA service and within a multi-agency framework.

The IDVA’s role in all multi-agency settings is to keep the client’s perspective and safety at the centre of proceedings. Studies have shown that when high risk clients engage with an IDVA, there are clear and measurable improvements in safety, including a reduction in the escalation and severity of abuse and a reduction or even cessation in repeat incidents of abuse.

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