John-Paul Marks: Partnerships that change and even save lives

By partnering with charities to train domestic abuse support officers, the DWP ensures vulnerable people have access to specialist help

John-Paul Marks
John-Paul Marks

Domestic abuse affects one in four women and has a devastating impact on families and children. It affects people from all walks of life, which is why we are making sure that jobcentres are giving the best possible support to those who walk through their doors.

Over recent months, we have been working closely with Women’s Aid to train 600 domestic abuse support officers so that we can have one in every jobcentre in the country. 

They will help front-line teams to spot the signs of those in abusive relationships and, crucially, know what to do next by being connected to expert partners in their local community to deliver tailored support. 

While the people who work in our jobcentres are experts in many things – from the welfare system to the labour market – we depend on our local partners too. 

Our work coaches will be able to call on experts to make sure those who need support get it quickly. As Niki Scordi, chief executive of the women’s charity Advance, says: "Training like this can help change and even save lives."

By working with specialist local domestic abuse services, jobcentres are playing a crucial part in the community response to tackling domestic abuse.

Through this recent training, we are building on the work we’ve already done to make sure the jobcentre is a safe place for women to seek help. And rather than taking a narrow view of their circumstances, we take a compassionate approach to address their immediate concerns.

They need safe places to sleep, so we are already able to draw on a host of third-party organisations locally or nationally to secure temporary accommodation. 

They need access to cash, so we make them new benefit claims to get money to them on the same day if they need it. 

And then, as they are ready, we help them rebuild their confidence and their careers.

Our strength is that our jobcentres are embedded in our communities. My local jobcentre in Peckham is right on the high street and the people who work there are neighbours of the people they support. I’m so proud of the work they – and all our teams across the country – do.

I’m especially pleased to see local organisations take up a physical presence in our jobcentres, such as Women’s Aid in Warrington jobcentre offering support by phone or in person to people who need it. 

This is a model that works. That’s why we have developed other training with Crisis, Homeless Link and Shelter so that our jobcentre front line can support people experiencing homelessness, and those at risk of becoming homeless, to get access to the right support.

We’re doing a lot to make sure our front line is empowered to do the right thing. That means building strong relationships with the most vulnerable people who walk through our doors and building effective partnerships so people get specialist, personalised support right when they need it.

Our work to identify, protect and support women in abusive relationships is one such example.

We’re incredibly grateful to our charity partners, who are being so generous with their expertise. By working with them, we are better able to help people rebuild their lives.

John-Paul Marks is director-general of Work and Health Services, Department for Work and Pensions

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