A SANCTUARY Scheme has been launched in Kennet to help victims of domestic violence and hate crime to stay in their homes.

Throughout 2005/6, there were 6,700 domestic violence incidents reported to police in Wiltshire and Swindon - and this may be only 20 per cent of the actual figure.

The objective of the scheme, launched to coincide with National Domestic Violence Awareness Week, is to prevent homelessness caused by relationship breakdown.

Under the scheme, additional security and support will be provided to those victims who choose to stay at home, rather than being forced to relocate to other areas away from family networks, employment and schooling.

Kennet district council is working with the Wiltshire Bobby Van Trust, to secure homes against aggressors.

This means window and door locks are replaced, and additional security measures fitted where necessary.

In some cases a "safe room" is installed. This is designed for a family to run to safety from a violent partner. Councillor Paula Winchcombe, Member Champion For Community Safety, said: "Domestic violence is a crime which is often unseen, occurring behind closed doors, and is far more widespread than anyone imagines.

"The sanctuary scheme provides an opportunity for victims to retain some stability in their lives by getting the relevant help and support they need to stay in their own homes."

Councillor Janet Giles, Member Champion For Housing said: "Many sufferers of domestic violence are forced to flee the family home, which can be very traumatic for the whole family.

"This excellent initiative will help victims of domestic violence in Kennet, whether owner occupiers or private tenants, to stay in their own homes by providing extra support and security and therefore preventing homelessness."

The scheme is voluntary and available to men and women. Security is tailored to meet the needs and circumstances of individual households.

Referrals can be made by any agencies involved with victims of domestic violence.