THE support service coping with one of the county’s biggest crime issues is going out to tender.

Herefordshire Council has drawn up new contractual specifications for the service currently provided by West Mercia Women’s Aid (WMWA) to those at risk of domestic violence.

WMWA has been reported as averaging about 2,000 calls a year with year-on-year rises. Some 30 per cent of all violent crime in the county now has a link to domestic violence and abuse.

A decision to put the service out to tender was taken earlier this month. The award of the contract lies with the council’s Director of Adult Well Being Helen Coombes.

Next month, the contract goes out to a full competitive tender process.

 A strategic review of the current service contract has been undertaken.

The review highlighted good practice across the current contract but also changes that needed to be made to secure savings and allow the entry of other  providers.

In May, the cabinet member for health & wellbeing agreed to extend the contract by five months towards an end date in March 2015.

It is recommended that the length of the new contract should be set at three years with the option of a two year extension.

The anticipated contract value over a five year period is near £2 million. Currently, the contract is with adults  to a budget of £474,000 a year  with a £32,000 contribution from children’s wellbeing.

Previous coverage of the issue by the Hereford Times has shown referrals to the service rising over the past three years.

Police statistics show a 19 per cent increase from 690 related offences in 2012-13 to 819 in 2013-14.

The county’s community safety strategy makes tackling domestic violence a priority.

Domestic violence is highlighted as an issue within half of child concern cases raised with local agencies.

The Families First programme locally has identified domestic abuse in a high proportion of the  cases it monitors.

Historically, the county has a high proportion of cases moving through monthly Multi Agency Risk Assessment (MARA) conferences with the number of repeat cases higher than the rest of the West Mercia area.

Ofsted has said domestic violence and abuse was an “area of concern” for Herefordshire.

In September 2012, when Ofsted found child protection in the county to be inadequate, domestic  violence and abuse was identified as a common factor underlying a significant number of vulnerable children cases.

An audit, commissioned by Herefordshire Council Children’s Services, was carried out in April that year to investigate the increases in the numbers of children subject to child protection planning and looked after care in the county.

That report revealed domestic violence to be a feature in the lives of more than half of the children sampled, an incidence comparatively higher that similar audits the researchers had been involved in.

The sample size was 108 children who were in touch with early intervention, child protection and looked after services.

Of the sample, domestic violence and abuse  was a factor in 53 per cent of early intervention cases, 39 per cent of looked after children cases, and 64 per cent of child protection cases.