Tina Billingham's murder prompts calls for domestic violence victim support change
The brutal murder of grandmother Tina Billingham has led to calls for changes in how domestic violence services are funded and support victims.
A leading charity, set up to help people escape and survive abusive partners, says councils, health authorities and housing groups should change how they pay for the desperately needed support.
In the UK, two women a week are killed by their partners.
- Chances missed to save Tina Billingham from killer partner
- 'Our sadness is overwhelming': Family's tribute to murdered Tina Billingham
- Ronald Cooke jailed for life over murder of partner Tina Billingham
Sara Wood, chief executive of the Black Country Women’s Aid, has said the present system allows groups with little experience to bid and win contracts to help protect vulnerable people.
Last week, a report published by Safer Sandwell Partnership criticised the missed opportunities to save Tina Billingham from her bullying and violent partner, Ronald Cooke.
He who was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of the 54-year-old grandma in February 2017.
The Domestic Homicide Review (DHR) found that Tina suffered an abusive and violent 17-year relationship at Cooke’s hands.
Bullied, treated like a slave and often seriously assaulted, she remained silent fearing her children and other family members would also suffer if she tried to escape.
But starting in 2013 she confided to health professionals and housing officers the extent and severity of the abuse she was suffering – and even warned a nurse that she feared she would one day be killed.
But she refused to report Cooke to the police.
In February 2017, Tina was murdered after he stabbed in the chest and stomach with a ceremonial sword as she sat in a van.
Cooke then drove to her doctor’s surgery where he claimed she had stabbed herself.
In August 2017, he received a life sentence with a 24-year tariff at Wolverhampton Crown Court.
This month, the DHR found Tina had been failed by professionals she approached for help, saying: “The report highlights several missed opportunities where organisations could have done more and worked together more effectively to support Tina.”
It went onto say that since her death local agencies have made several changes including improved training to help identify abuse and coercive control.
But her brutal killing has also led to a call for a rethink on how vital support is delivered and paid for, to put victims first.
Sara Woods, the chief executive of the Black Country Women’s Aid was a member of the panel which reviewed the circumstances leading to Tina’s death.
Her organisation has over 30 years expedience of working with victims and deals with over 6,500 cases every year.
She is saying the way local authorities, health bodies and housing groups pays for services can hinder people getting help.
She explained victims like Tina often feel unable to reach out for help because of the fear of the violence they may suffer but also because of the threat to loved ones. She added: “Tina was absolutely fearful that if she did something the repercussions to others would be greater. She sacrificed her own life.“
In a forthright interview, she criticised the change in funding specialist groups who have built up decades of experience, to commissioning services – often tailored for specific target areas – which she says can often often lead to support being disjointed and operating in isolation.
She said: “Open competitive tendering doesn’t always get you the best for victims.
“It gets you the best for your pound but dosen’t always impact and transform lives.”
“Public bodies like councils, clinical commissioning groups and others put their services on an open tender portal and we currently bid for those.
“That is a process that really allows for anybody who thinks they can provide services to victims of domestic abuse to bid and deliver.
“I think the challenge, particularly with complexities of cases like Tina’s, is there are lots of agencies who think they can do the work without the understanding of theoretical and evidenced based experience about the intricacies of abuse and the sociological impact it has.”
She argues specialist groups who have the understanding of the wider causes of violence and the needs and experience of those who suffer abuse are now being told what the victims want and how it should be delivered.
She said: “I came into their work over 20 years ago and there was a very real passion at a local level of women challenging the state and making things happen .
“Now the state provides it , and it should provide funding, but it now feels so claustrophobic that the creativity has been stifled.
“The movement back in the day was influencing and shaping the service. Now we are in the position where local government is telling us what the victims need and doesn’t allow us the space to say ‘women need this now’.”
Black Country Women’s Aid helps both women and men and their children living in Sandwell, Dudley and Walsall
If you’re experiencing domestic abuse and need help, call them on 0121 552 6448 or the free 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline 0808 2000 247. In an emergency always call 999.
Women’s Aid is a charitable organisation and relies on donations which can be made through its website at blackcountrywomensaid.co.uk
Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.