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Angela Mason & Helene Reardon Bond: How the Town Hall plans to make Camden safer for women

OPINION 'We estimate 13,000 residents experience domestic violence and abuse every year'

19 November, 2021 — By Angela Mason and Helene Reardon Bond

Angela Mason, a cabinet councillor in Camden

This Monday we will be marking “White Ribbon Day” and “16 days of action” with a vigil outside the Crowndale Centre and our first full council debate on violence against women and girls.

The scale of the crisis could not be clearer. The murders of Sarah Everard, Bibaa Henry, Nicole Smallman, Sabina Nessa and too many other devastating cases have triggered a long-overdue national debate on male violence.

But the tragic fatal stabbing of Nicole Hurley in Primrose Hill, in a suspected domestic homicide, brings the challenge of ending violence right back to the question of what we are going to do in Camden.

How can we step up to prevent male violence, and challenge the misogyny and gender inequality that is at its root?

During lockdown when levels of domestic violence were rising rapidly, the Women’s Forum began its enquiry into domestic violence and abuse in Camden.

We estimate that 13,000 residents experience domestic violence and abuse every year.

Over several months we talked to council services, schools, the police, health professionals, local organisations and listened to survivors’ experiences and the impact on their lives and their children.

The forum’s recommendations will go to Cabinet in December. They include commissioning a new legal service for victims, programmes for child victims, a review of our housing policy, mandatory domestic violence abuse training for all Camden staff and the setting up of a new Violence against Women and Girls high-level board.

This will be co-chaired by someone with lived experience and bring together the council, the police and the voluntary sector who can be held accountable for a new programme of action which must take full account of the additional barriers faced by black, Asian and ethnic women and the needs of LGBTQ+ residents.

Alongside this work, Councillor Nadia Shah will lead a new community safety partnership with the police to challenge gender-based violence in the public realm and is organising regular walkabouts to understand issues of women’s safety in and around the borough.

It is not a standing start in Camden, and we heard about the work in our schools to identify and support children who witness domestic violence at first hand.

Camden Safety Net also provides crises support to domestic and sexual violence victims and survivors. HOPE, our survivors’ group, is up and running and the council approved an action plan in March that has led to a new housing and domestic abuse policy.

With the GLA, Camden is also pioneering a new programme for perpetrators backed by the Home Office.

But it is not enough and we have a long way to go.

During the 16 Days of Action we will be talking to everyone in the community with the message, “You’re Not Alone”, signposting survivors of violence and abuse to get help and support and making a special call to all our male allies (#AllMenCan).

Together let’s make Camden a safe place for all.

• Helene Reardon-Bond and Cllr Angela Mason are co-chairs of the Camden Women’s Forum.

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