To make sure the council continues to offer the best support possible for survivors of domestic violence and abuse in Brighton & Hove when our existing contracts end in March 2021, a fair procurement exercise was held.
Services in Brighton & Hove are provided in line with the Pan-Sussex Strategic Framework for Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse.
It is our shared priority to end domestic abuse across the county and keep people safe.
The awarding of the contracts through an open competitive procurement process is required by law. The process was managed by officers rather than councillors, as is the usual practice.
The procurement was run as part of the joint commissioning arrangements with East Sussex County Council, the Brighton & Hove CCG and the Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner (SPCC).
The re-commissioning of the services began in 2018 and the strategy for the provision of the services in Brighton & Hove was agreed by the Neighbourhoods, Inclusion, Communities & Equalities Committee in March 2019.
A report to the Tourism, Equalities, Communities & Culture Committee in January 2020 on the Community Safety Strategy included an update on the review and redesign of domestic violence and abuse support services for information only.
The tender process was due to go live in February 2020 but was delayed to avoid placing extra pressure on the services at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The current service contracts were extended and the tender process opened in November 2020.
The evaluation of the bids received considered a wide range of factors aiming to ensure the best service is provided for people who desperately need support.
The panel evaluating bids for services in Brighton & Hove was made up of officers from key Brighton & Hove City Council services, alongside members of the Brighton & Hove commissioning team and representatives from Sussex Police and the SPCC.
Design of the services
The specification for the recommission of the services in Brighton & Hove and East Sussex was informed by a series of engagement events with multiple community and third sector stakeholders, including current service providers, between January and October 2019.
The engagement identified the need for a broader focus on inclusive service provision that caters for the needs of people with all the protected characteristics.
Equalities Impact Assessments (EIAs) were carried out for the redesign of all services and identified the need for a broader focus on inclusive service provision that caters for the needs of people with all the protected characteristics.
The tender specification for community services was therefore intentionally non-gendered and inclusive to all survivors of domestic and sexual violence and abuse.
However, it did include a specific acknowledgement that the largest proportion of people needing support will be women, and women with children, and that all bids should include proportionate consideration of the impact of abuse on women and children.
The tender specification and questions were drafted in line with the Brighton & Hove Social Value Framework and the Social Value Act. The social value of the services provided was embedded throughout the questions.
The services were let in separate ‘lots’ to cover the different geographic areas and enable a wide variety of bidders with expertise in specific areas, such as stalking and sexual violence and abuse.
The contracts exclusively providing services in Brighton & Hove cover two service areas - community domestic violence and abuse outreach services and a refuge service.
Other lots cover Sussex-wide support for sexual violence and abuse services, and a new contract for services supporting survivors of stalking and harassment.
Domestic violence and abuse support services in Brighton & Hove
Following evaluation of the bids, the contract for providing the community domestic abuse outreach service was awarded to Victim Support, and the contract for providing the refuge units was awarded to Stonewater Ltd.
The co-location of support services will continue and we’re working to make sure there are no breaks in the routes to accessing services.
The Victim Support team is Sussex-based and supported by over 79 Sussex resident volunteers.
The panel agreed that Victim Support had submitted a tailored response regarding domestic abuse services in Brighton & Hove that was fully survivor-focussed.
It was clear that the organisation will take a proactive and collaborative approach to engaging stakeholders and developing the service to the needs of the service users.
The team is primarily funded within the county, but benefits from being part of a national service. Last year Victim Support Sussex handled 3,402 referrals regarding survivors of domestic violence and abuse living in Brighton & Hove.
Victim Support will be offering a 24/7 helpline and webchat service along with online support tools 1-2-1, group and peer support. The service will include a programme of education, training, and community activities to promote safe and healthy relationships and the wider support services available.
Stonewater Ltd deliver services in Brighton & Hove and across the UK. The service provides added value with move-on social housing options for refuge residents.
The panel agreed that Stonewater Ltd submitted a considered and robust offer, with excellent depth and breadth of approaches used to involve all stakeholders at all stages.
Stonewater are a reputable provider of commissioned housing and support services. They provide services nationally and deliver a number of specialist domestic abuse services embedded within their local communities.
Their domestic abuse refuges and support services are highly regarded. They have an evidenced track record of working with survivors of domestic abuse, including those with multiple complex needs.
They are also the providers of an industry leading LGBTQ+ Safe Space that provides accommodation and support for people who identify as LGBTQ+ and have experienced domestic abuse and/or hate crime.
Survivors Network have been awarded the contract to provide Sussex-wide rape and sexual violence services, with Veritas Justice awarded the Sussex-wide stalking and harassment support service contract.
Following the initial notification of awards, there was a two-week period to allow for appeals. While there was one request for information on the process for appealing the decisions, no further challenge was received within that time.
A later notice of a potential challenge through judicial review was withdrawn. There are no further legal steps that can be taken to challenge the awards in line with procurement law.
The council has to award the contracts to the bidders who achieved the highest scores.
Access to the new services
The council would like to thank our previous provider, Rise, for the support services they’ve provided over the last few years. We understand that people are really clear about the value of Rise as an organisation.
With evidence from statutory and voluntary agencies across the UK of the increased risks of domestic abuse during the pandemic, our priority is to ensure that access to these vital services remains clear and there is no break in service provision.
Council officers are also working with Rise to ensure the smooth transition of the service and access routes remain open for anyone needing advice and support.
For anyone experiencing any type of abuse, it is important to know that help remains available from police and support services.
Covid restrictions do not apply for anyone suffering from domestic abuse.
Anyone in immediate danger, should always call 999.