Agenda item

Director of Public Health 2023 Annual Report


Councillor Margaret Bell introduced this report, the theme of which was the impact of domestic abuse.  The theme was explored through the pathway of a fictional character, based on real life experiences, which enabled the far-reaching effects of domestic abuse to be highlighted.  The aim of the report was to raise awareness and demonstrate the need for a partnership approach.  Councillor Andy Crump seconded and reserved his right to speak.


Councillor Jerry Roodhouse welcomed the report and thanked the Director for Public Health for shining the spotlight on domestic abuse and the complexities of the subject.  He noted the report also discussed the general health of Warwickshire and expressed continued concern regarding the figures for self-harm and mental health, which he considered were persistent issues that needed to be addressed.  He looked forward to implementation of the recommendations and the positive impact that this would have.


Councillor John Holland echoed support for the report.  However, he questioned the implementation of its recommendations as he did not consider that the recommendations of the 2022 report, in particular relating to free school meals for children had been effected.  He also considered that the preventative and supportive actions were impeded by funding reductions to key service areas such as Sure Start Childrens Centres and School Nurses and a comparatively low number of police per capita of population.


Councillor Isobel Seccombe congratulated the Director of Public Health on her report and noted that the reports always generated interest.  She particularly noted challenges around the use of social media by children and young people and the link to mental health.  Responding to Councillor Holland, Councillor Seccombe explained the budget pressures of implementing free school meals, and noted that the recommendations in the report were not specific to the Council.


Councillor Jonathan Chilvers welcomed the effective narrative approach to the report and applauded the inclusion of practical advice for individuals concerned about family members or friends.  He asked Councillor Bell how she would like to see the second recommendation in the report, relating to Supporting child victims of violence and abuse, taken forward over the coming year.


Councillor Judy Falp reflected on her involvement in domestic homicide reviews and emphasised that abusive relationships were found in partnerships of all types not just husband and wife, and the number of instances of abuse, on average, it took for a victim to seek support.   She requested that the report be shared with district and borough representatives and suggested training for all council staff.


Councillor Millar echoed the comments of Councillor Holland regarding funding reductions to preventative services and what she viewed as the consequences being demonstrated in the report.  She emphasised the importance of implementing the recommendations and funding the future of children.


Councillor Jackie D'Arcy also commented on the need for funding for free school meals which had been highlighted in the 2022 report.   Turning to the 2023 report and the public health improvements and challenges, she noted the levels of alcohol admissions per 100,000 population and violence crime offences per 100,000 population which were higher in Warwickshire than the rest of England.  She questioned if this was a pattern and if the reasons for this had been explored. 


Councillor Barbara Brown remarked that the seriousness of the issues outlined in the paper was only matched by what she considered a paucity of funding for preventative services and early intervention.  She suggested that the remedial focus should be on prevention and early help and support.


Councillor Marian Humphreys considered it would be helpful for councillors to have access to awareness raising materials for use in their divisions.


Councillor Brett Beetham also noted that domestic abuse was not exclusive to husband/wife relationships and welcomed the opportunity presented to highlight the help available.


Councillor Peter Butlin reflected on the changes that had taken place in society in recent years and the impact on mental health and wellbeing. He recognised the stress that was sometimes caused by financial worries and the impact this could have on households.  He noted the work being undertaken by the council to secure high employment levels and affordable housing in the county but that work to alleviate the issues set out in the report needed to be done within budget. 


Councillor Caroline Phillips emphasised the need for partnership working, particularly with the Police.  She considered that sometimes the domestic homicides that were reported in the media could have been prevented and particularly highlighted the long-term impact of abuse on mental health and wellbeing for those growing up in abusive households. 


In seconding the recommendation, Councillor Andy Crump thanked the Director of Public Health and her team for creating the report.  He referenced recent television series which also sought to highlight the many facets of domestic abuse.   He quoted statistics from the Police that 38% of recorded incidents against the person related to domestic abuse, which demonstrated it was a significant problem.  Speaking as the Portfolio Holder for Fire & Rescue and Community Safety, which encompassed domestic abuse,  he explained some of the work that was ongoing to raise awareness and change outcomes.  He also noted the challenges faced by victims in reporting crimes and subsequently receiving appropriate support. Councillor Crump reminded Members of the work that the Council was undertaking to provide safe accommodation and support child victims, and the efforts of the Police through the creation of DART (Domestic Abuse Response Team) and further training.  Councillor Crump also shared the details for national support helplines which he urged councillors to share widely.


Councillor Margaret Bell responded to the debate noting that the report addressed a complex issue which required all partners to work together and provided a focus for that work.  She went on to :

·       Acknowledge the key role that the Police had to play; 

·       Point out that progress against the recommendations of the 2022 report was included at Chapter 3 of the 2023 report which had resulted in an investigation into, and pilot for, the provision of free school meals;

·       Note the importance of identifying child victims and providing them with appropriate support in order to break the cycle of domestic abuse; and

·       Advised on the work of the Drug and Alcohol Partnership to address the statistics set out in the report.




A vote was held. The recommendation was unanimously agreed.




That Council supports the Director of Public Health Annual Report 2023.

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