Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (HPFT) is the first NHS Trust in the country to launch a domestic abuse app, which will enable staff to quickly refer victims of domestic abuse for free legal advice, in just a few simple steps.
The free to download app, WEPROTECT, will allow a clinician, who identifies someone that needs help, to make a referral to the Domestic Abuse Alliance (DAA), who will contact the victim within 24 hours. The support offered may include general legal advice, issuing a warning letter to a perpetrator, applying for an emergency court order or making an application for legal aid on behalf of the survivor.
The WEPROTECT app is already being used by frontline officers across Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Cumbria and Sussex Police Forces, and by several independent domestic violence and abuse services and charities across the UK, who support victims of domestic abuse.
Karen Taylor, Chief Executive at Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust said:
“We are excited to be the first NHS Trust in the country to launch the WEPROTECT app. We know survivors have said that accessible and affordable legal support would have really helped them, and many felt they did not get the right help at the right time[i]. We hope that, through the app, our practitioners will be able to offer vital support at the right moment which, up until now, many have not been so fortunate to receive.
“We always encourage survivors to disclose concerns to a health professional and for them to do so before the situation becomes high risk. We want to keep people safe, and the app will support us in doing this.”
A domestic abuse survivor explains how she benefited from the app.
“I was nervous at first but the support I received [from the Domestic Abuse Alliance] was excellent. The lady I spoke to, took her time to explain things to me, which really helped as I have a learning difficulty. She was listening and wanted to help rather than just take information. If I hadn’t had that support, I think the abuse would have carried on and he would have been able to keep doing what he was doing because I wouldn’t have spoken out. I’m still on edge as it’s still on my mind but it’s better now I’ve spoken to somebody about it.”
Razi Hassan, Director of Partnership and Communication, Domestic Abuse (DA) Alliance said:
“Often it is healthcare services who are the first point of contact for people suffering from domestic abuse. The roll out of the WEPROTECT victim referral service by HPFT will support staff when they are acting on disclosures of abuse by providing a vital legal lifeline for victims. All victims referred through WEPROTECT receive professional civil legal support, provided by the DA Alliance and our Legal Partner Network, ensuring that appropriate assistance and protection is actioned without delay. Since 2020, we have received almost 6,500 referrals from frontline professionals in Hertfordshire on behalf of victims seeking legal advice and protection. Over that time, more than 500 court orders have been secured to help Hertfordshire victims break the cycle of abuse. We are delighted to extend the WEPROTECT referral pathway through HPFT to help victims who disclose abuse, and need legal assistance, to feel safe again.”
An event to launch the app within HPFT included a presentation from Rachel Millar, (Practice and Partnership Geographic Lead for the East of England) from the Domestic Abuse Commissioner’s Office and an address from Mr Robert Voss CBE CStJ, Lord Lieutenant of Hertfordshire.
Nearly two million people in the UK each year, suffer some form of domestic abuse[ii], equating to approximately 114,147 women and 78,003 men in Hertfordshire experiencing domestic abuse in their lifetime[iii].