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Perpetrators of Domestic Violence can now Receive Support to Change Their Behaviour

31st March 2015

A brand-new multi-agency partnership has been launched to support perpetrators of domestic violence to change their behaviour, helping to make women victims and their children feel safer.

The BIG project is a partnership between North East Charities Barnardo’s, Impact Family Services, Wearside Women In Need and north east social enterprise Gentoo Group. The project has been funded by the Police Innovation Fund via Northumbria Police Crime Commissioner (PCC) Vera Baird.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird said: “Tackling domestic violence is a priority and working with perpetrators through an intervention scheme like this is key to the work we do in supporting victims. While helping victims to pathways of safety is vital, this is only part of the picture and perpetrators too need help to break the cycle of abuse.”

“Taking the step to seek help through a programme like this is huge but can be life changing and ultimately lifesaving. Domestic abuse is a terrible legacy for families and we must protect the victims and any children to ensure this crime is tackled and we are going to implement this through education.”

Detective Superintendent Lisa Orchard said: “It’s extremely important that victims are given the help and support they need. However, we do recognise the importance of support also being offered to perpetrators so that their behaviour can be addressed and ultimately changed.

“Giving perpetrators the opportunity to talk about the devastating impact their behaviour can have has been proven to help them change and put a stop to any repeat or future incidents.

“We will continue to offer help to victims and want them to know police and support agencies are here to help them take the first step to changing their lives and protecting their children from any further harm.”

The BIG Project was formed as there was a lack of voluntary perpetrator programmes places in Sunderland.  Very often men only get help to change once they have entered the criminal justice system (been arrested and appeared in court).

Research has shown that perpetrator programmes do make a difference. The recently published Project Mirabal Report found many men, women and children’s lives are improved following a domestic violence perpetrator programme. The researchers state that overall they are optimistic about the ability of programmes to play an important part in the quest to end domestic violence.

The BIG Project has developed a programme that focuses on early intervention, helping men change their behaviour at the earliest opportunity rather than post arrest. The programme uses cognitive behavioural and pre-social concepts and is for men over-18 who perpetrate domestic abuse and want to change their behaviour.

Experienced staff from Impact Family Services and children’s charity Barnardo’s will facilitate the 26-week programme. Men will start with a one-to-one assessment, which will assess their suitability and motivation, as well as start the process of engagement and trust, disclosure and examination of abusive behaviours which are essential before effective work begins.  As well as attending 4 motivational sessions they will undertake seven core modules.

Karen Sibbald, Children’s Service Manager, Barnardo’s said: “As a partner in the BIG Project we are very pleased to be part of a coordinated community response to domestic abuse within Sunderland. We are extremely confident that together we can make a difference to the lives of victims and children by engaging and supporting men to take responsibility for their abusive behaviour, helping them to implement those positive changes.”

Hazel Hedley, Chief Executive, Impact Family Services said:Impact Family Services are delighted to bring this programme to Sunderland, based on the successful model we operate in South Tyneside in partnership with Barnardo’s.  The BIG Project offers the opportunity to work with both Wearside Women in Need and Gentoo to offer a holistic service to families who are/have experienced domestic violence.”

Support for women whose partner or ex-partner is attending the programme will be provided by Wearside Women in Need.

In recognition of the importance of men staying engaged with the programme to make important changes in their abusive behaviour, Gentoo will provide wrap around support for it’s customers to ensure they are given the best opportunity.

Michelle Meldrum, Managing Director, Gentoo Operations said: “As a housing provider we are ideally placed to spot the signs of domestic violence and we have specialist staff that support victims. In supporting perpetrators to change their abusive behaviour we can help protect victims. We see this programme as helping to keep women and children safer and are thrilled to be part of a partnership that will improve lives – now and in the future.”

For further information on the BIG Project:


Telephone: 0191 567 8282

To read the full Mirabal Report visit

For support for domestic violence and abuse and any other crime, call Wearside Women In Need on 0800 066 5555. Should you find yourself in immediate danger you should call 999.

Support is also available via:

Wearside Women in Need – 0800 066 5555

Mankind – 01823 334244 (males)

Broken Rainbow – 0800 999 5428 (LGBT)