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5.13 Domestic Violence and Abuse


Contents

  Introduction
  Definition
  Impact on Children and Young People
  Action to Safeguard Children
  Roles of Agencies
  Checks with and Referrals to Children's Social Care
  Strategic Work and Partnerships
  Domestic Violence Protection Orders and the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme


Introduction

  1. Domestic violence and abuse is a complex issue which affects every one of us and reaches every corner of our society. Domestic violence and abuse is a serious crime and should be treated as such. It does not recognise class, race, religion, gender, sexuality, culture or wealth and its effects on family life are devastating.
  2. In the overwhelming majority of reported instances the abuser is male and the victim is female, although there are attacks by women on men and between two people of the same gender, whether current or ex partners or family members.


Definition

  1. The Home Office Guidance Information for Local Areas on the Change to the Definition of Domestic Violence and Abuse (2013) states that the term ‘domestic violence and abuse’ should be used. The Government definition of domestic violence and abuse has been widened to include those aged 16-17 and the wording changed to reflect coercive control. (Note that this is not a legal definition.)

    The new definition is:

    'Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality'. This can encompass, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse:
    • Psychological;
    • Physical:
    • Sexual;
    • Financial;
    • Emotional.

'Controlling behaviour is: a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.

Coercive behaviour is: an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.'

  1. The definition Domestic violence and abuse includes Forced Marriage, Honour-Based Abuse and Female Genital Mutilation, and is clear that victims are not confined to one gender or ethnic group.

    While the cross-government definition above applies to those aged 16 or above, ‘Adolescent to parent violence and abuse‘ (APVA) can involve children under 16 as well as over 16. See: Information guide: adolescent to parent violence and abuse (APVA) Home Office.

    For more details of the national plans to tackle domestic violence and abuse see: Ending Violence against Women and Girls Strategy 2016 – 2020 March 2016. This is intended to set out a life course approach to ensure that all victims - and their families - have access to the right support at the right time to help them live free from violence and abuse.


Impact on Children and Young People

  1. Prolonged and / or regular exposure to domestic violence and abuse can have a serious impact on a child's development and emotional wellbeing, despite the best efforts of the victim parent to protect the child. Domestic violence and abuse has an impact in a number of ways. It can pose a threat to an unborn child, because assaults on pregnant women frequently involve punches or kicks directed at the abdomen, risking injury to both mother and foetus. It can also lead to other possible risks, such as i.e. foetal death, low birth weight, early birth, infection etc.
  2. Older children may also suffer blows during episodes of abuse. Children are likely to be greatly distressed by witnessing the physical and emotional suffering of a parent or other family member. Both the physical assaults and psychological abuse suffered by adult victims who experience domestic violence and abuse can have a potential impact on their ability to look after their children. The negative impact of domestic violence and abuse is exacerbated when the abuse is combined with drink or drug misuse as this can increase the severity of the attacks. Children's exposure to parental conflict; even where abuse is not present, can lead to serious anxiety and distress among children, particularly when it is routed through them.
  3. Children may suffer both directly and indirectly if they live in households where there is domestic violence and abuse. Domestic violence and abuse is likely to have a damaging effect on the health and development of children, and it will often be appropriate for such children to be regarded as a Child in Need. All those working with families and children should be alert to the frequent inter-relationship between domestic violence and abuse and the abuse and neglect of children.
  4. When there is evidence of domestic violence and abuse, the implications for any children in the household should be considered, including the possibility that the children may themselves be subject to abuse or other harm. Conversely, where it is believed that a child is being abused, those involved with the child and family should be alert to the possibility of domestic violence and abuse within the family.
  5. Domestic violence and abuse is a child protection issue. In relation to the impact of domestic violence and abuse on children, the amendment made in Section 120 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 to the Children Act 1989 clarifies the meaning of "harm" in the Children Act, to make explicit that "harm" will include, for example, "impairment suffered from seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another." This is now also specifically included in the definition of Emotional Abuse.


Action to Safeguard Children

  1. The Police are often the first point of contact with families in which domestic violence and abuse takes place. When responding to incidents of violence, the Police should find out whether there are any children living in the household. They should see any children present in the house to assess their immediate safety. There should be arrangements in place between the Police and Children's Social Care to enable the Police to find out whether any such children are the subject of a Child Protection Plan.
  2. The Police are already required to determine whether any court orders or injunctions are in force in respect of members of the household. The Police should make an assessment and, if they have specific concerns about the safety or welfare of a child, they should make a referral to Children's Social Care (see the Making a Referral to Children's Social Care). It is also important that there is clarity about whether the family is aware that a referral is to be made. Any response by Children's Social Care to such referrals should be discreet, in terms of making contact with victims in ways that will not further endanger them or their children. In some cases, a child may be in need of immediate protection. As indicated above, the amendment to the Children Act 1989 made in Section 120 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 clarifies the meaning of 'harm' in the Children Act, to make explicit that 'harm' includes, for example, impairment suffered from seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another.
  3. Normally, one serious or several lesser incidents of domestic violence and abuse where there is a child in the household indicate that Children's Social Care should carry out a Single Assessment of the child and family, including consulting existing records. It is important to include in assessments agreed arrangements for contact between children and the non-resident parent. Children who are experiencing domestic violence and abuse may benefit from a range of support and services, and some may need safeguarding from Significant Harm. Often, supporting a non-violent parent is likely to be the most effective way of promoting the child's welfare. The Police and other agencies have defined powers in criminal and civil law that can be used to help those who are subject to domestic violence and abuse. Health visitors and midwives can play a key role in providing support, and need access to information shared by the Police and Children's Social Care. See the Information Sharing and Confidentiality Procedure.
  4. There is an extensive range of services for women and children, delivered through refuge projects operated by Women's Aid, and Probation Service provision of Women's Safety Workers, for partners of male perpetrators of domestic violence and abuse, where they are on a domestic violence and abuse treatment programme (in custody or in the community). These services have a vital role in contributing to an inter-agency approach in child protection cases where domestic violence and abuse is an issue. There are a number of services available to everyone suffering domestic violence and abuse, links to some of these can be found in the local contacts domestic violence and abuse services, such as Blackpool Children's Independent Domestic Violence Advisers (CIDVA), Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC), Victim Support etc.
  5. In responding to situations where domestic violence and abuse may be present, considerations include:
    • Ensure the perpetrator and victim are not sitting together when being asked these questions;
    • Ask direct questions about domestic violence and abuse;
    • Check whether domestic violence and abuse has occurred whenever child abuse is suspected, and consider the impact of this at all stages of assessment, Section 47 Enquiries and intervention;
    • Identify those who are responsible for domestic violence and abuse, in order that relevant family law or criminal justice responses may be made;
    • Take into account there may be continued or increased risk of domestic violence and abuse towards the abused parent and/or child after separation, especially in connection with post-separation child contact arrangements;
    • Provide non-abusing parents with full information about their legal rights, and about the extent and limits of statutory duties and powers;
    • Help victims and children to get protection from violence, by providing relevant practical and other assistance;
    • Support non-abusing parents in making safe choices for themselves and their children;
    • Work separately with each parent where domestic violence and abuse prevents non-abusing parents from speaking freely and participating without fear of retribution. This should always be done as victims will also be at risk if they speak freely about the abuse in front of the perpetrator.


Roles of Agencies

  1. Professionals, carers or volunteers may be alerted to the possibility of domestic violence and abuse involving children in a number of different ways. The most important thing to do is not to ignore your concerns. Consult with your manager / Designated or Named Professional, Nurse / Designated Teacher. All professionals should undertake a CAADA DASH Risk Indicator Checklist with the non abusing parent when domestic violence and abuse is an issue. This should also be completed for 16 - 17 year old and vulnerable adult victims and refer to MARAC if necessary. Vulnerable Adults should also be referred to Safeguarding Adults Team. See also Information Sharing and Confidentiality Procedure.

Children's Social Care

  1. Children's Social Care has a responsibility to assist those who experience abuse through the provision of appropriate information, offering advice and support and signpost to other avenues of support. They have a statutory responsibility in respect of ensuring that children and young people are protected from harm. This responsibility is fulfilled by their undertaking an assessment of children's needs. Where there is domestic violence and abuse within a family where children are present, consideration should always be given to an assessment of the child's needs being undertaken.

Education Services

  1. Schools and Education staff have an essential role in the recognition stage of work with Early Help and Children in Need, including those in need of protection. All schools and colleges should create and maintain a safe environment for children and young people and have sound policies and procedures for managing situations where there are child welfare concerns. Staff who have day-to-day contact with children have a crucial role to play in noticing indicators of possible abuse or neglect, including the possibility of domestic violence and abuse, which can affect a child. Education department staff and schools have a duty to assist Children's Social Care by providing information where there are concerns about a child's safety or well-being.

Police

  1. The police are often the first point of contact with families in which domestic violence and abuse takes place. Officers attending incidents where children are present in the household are aware of the need to ensure the safety and well-being of such children and, in extreme cases, to take immediate protection measures and refer to Children's Social Care immediately. The Police will notify Children's Social Care of all incidents where there are children present in the house or children affected by the domestic violence and abuse.
  2. Specialist Domestic Violence and Abuse and Child Protection officers work together, within a Police Public Protection Unit. All incidents of domestic and child abuse, reported to the Police are referred to the Unit, where a database is maintained, enabling links to be identified and case referrals to other agencies and support groups, to be made. The Unit acts as a 'single point of contact' for any professional or member of the public who wishes to discuss any domestic or child abuse issue or concern and takes lead responsibility for referring cases to Children's Social Care.
  3. Incidents involving serious domestic violence and abuse, repeat victims and persistent offenders, are dealt with by the Unit and, where appropriate, cases involving children are investigated by both domestic violence and abuse and child protection officers. Where children are, or are normally, present in households where such incidents have occurred, these cases will be referred to Children's Social Care by the Unit.

Health Service

  1. All health care professionals must recognise that their response to individuals experiencing domestic violence and abuse is of great importance. It is essential that there is an understanding of the inter-relationship which frequently exists, between domestic violence and abuse and the abuse and neglect of children.
  2. Where professionals believe that children are at risk, procedures for Managing Individual Cases must be adhered to and a Referral made to Children's Social Care. The need to follow these procedures should be discussed with the patient / client, and their consent obtained if possible. However, the interests of the child are paramount, and initiating child protection procedures is not conditional on obtaining consent and where there is evidence of domestic violence and abuse, the implications for any children in the household should be considered, including the possibility that the children may themselves be subject to violence or harm. Conversely, where it is believed that a child is being abused, those involved with the child and family should be alert to the possibility of domestic violence and abuse within the family.

Probation Service

  1. The Probation Service is often asked to complete pre-sentence reports on offenders whose index offence is one of domestic violence and abuse or whose history contains a pattern of domestic violence and abuse. Such assessments often lead to supervision within the community on community based orders or, in some cases, on prison licence after release from custodial sentences. Nationally accredited programme's are currently being developed in addition to individual one to one packages. Such cases are routinely subject to multi-agency oversight and liaison with the police, social services and other key voluntary and statutory agencies is critical to our role.

Blackpool Children's Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (Children's IDVA)

  1. The Children's IDVA service offers specialised support to children and young people affected by domestic violence and abuse. This can be through witnessing domestic violence and abuse within the family unit, or direct experience (young people in their own relationships).
  2. There are a number of aspects to our work and we endeavour to meet the needs of the individual. Examples of the Children's IDVA support include:
    • 1:1 support - a chance for the individual to talk about their experiences in a safe environment using age appropriate resources, language and a flexible approach to meet each person's individual needs;
    • Individual and group work sessions around topics such as safety planning, confidence and self esteem building, safe and unsafe relationships, and domestic violence and abuse. This can be delivered in a range of settings such as schools, children's centres, community centres, and is tailored towards the age of the individual or group;
    • Peer support sessions - an opportunity to meet other young people who have had similar experiences, gain support from each other and reduce the feeling of isolation;
    • For children under five, the service supports the non-abusing parent in re-learning how to interact with their child/ren. This is aimed at rebuilding their relationships and establishing a positive parental role model;
    • Drop in sessions at a number of local high schools, to make our service easily accessible, to as many young people as possible;
    • Youth Forum - an opportunity for the children/young people to have their say on the issues and decisions which affect them. This is also an opportunity to meet new people and take part in activities and develop their social skills.


Checks with and Referrals to Children's Social Care

  1. As stated there is frequently an inter-relationship between domestic violence and abuse and the abuse and Neglect of children and young people. Where there is domestic violence and abuse the implication of children remaining in the household should be considered. This includes the possibility that the children themselves may be subject to violence or other harm.
  2. Each LSCB area must have a clear policy on when referrals should be made to the Children's Social Care. (See Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool and Lancashire Continuum of Need and Thresholds Guidance.) Not all Referrals regarding domestic violence and abuse within a family will be considered as Child Protection Cases. However it is likely that where incidents are serious and frequent there will need to be an assessment of the child and families circumstances to address their support needs.
  3. Where the police are called to an incident of domestic violence and abuse or where information comes to the attention of other professionals involved regarding an incident of domestic violence and abuse and where there are children present or normally present within the household, a request should be made to Children's Social Care for a check to be made to determine whether the child is the subject of a Child Protection Plan. Where the child / young person is not the subject of a Child Protection Plan this should be logged as a contact unless there are serious concerns which would warrant a formal Referral under the Making a Referral to Children's Social Care Procedure (via Inter Agency Referral Form). This may lead to an investigation led by Children's Social Care. Where the child / young person is the subject of a Child Protection Plan or where a child who is resident at the address is an open case to the Children's Social Care details of the incident should be passed to the allocated social worker.
  4. A serious incident of domestic violence and abuse which has been witnessed by a child or where children were present in the household at the time of the incident should result in a referral to Children's Social Care. Consideration should then be given to undertaking Section 47 Enquiries.
  5. Concerns in respect of children should be referred to Children's Social Care, who will ensure all enquiries contain clear, precise and accurate information. Children's Social Care, in line with the Assessment Framework will make a decision as to the response within 24 hours. As such a Strategy Discussion is likely to be necessary.
  6. Following completion of enquiries the allocated Social Worker should ensure that all professionals involved with the child / family and the parent / carers receive an outcome letter. If there are concerns regarding the outcome these should be addressed with the appropriate Social Work Team Manager.
  7. Should there remain disagreement regarding the need for a Child Protection Conference the matter should be referred to the manager.


Strategic Work and Partnerships

  1. In October 2005, the Local Government Association, (LGA) Association of Directors of Social Services (ADSS), Women's Aid and the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) published A Vision for Services for Children and Young People affected by Domestic Violence. This is commissioning guidance for Directors of Children's Services and LSCBs and it focuses on meeting the needs of children affected by domestic violence and abuse within the planning of integrated children's services. It provides a framework to ensure that the range of different needs that children/young people experience in relation to domestic violence and abuse are identified and addressed. It uses the now familiar tiers of intervention, and links needs and services to the five outcomes. It brings together the evidence from research, with best practice in the delivery of mainstream services, but also highlights the specialist services to which children require access. The guidance assists authorities to assure themselves that they have in place the services and responses that will satisfy the Every Child Matters Outcomes Framework.
  2. A Domestic Violence and Abuse Strategic Partnership exists in all three areas, to raise awareness of domestic violence and abuse, to promote co-ordination between agencies in preventing and responding to violence, and to encourage the development of services for those who are subjected to violence or suffer its effects. There are Domestic Violence and Abuse Forums in most of the District Council Areas. They exist to raise awareness of issues and to promote the co-ordination and development of services. There should be a clear link between the Forum and the LSCB.


Domestic Violence Protection Orders and the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme

Domestic Violence Protection Orders

Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs) were implemented across England and Wales in March 2014.

They provide protection to victims by enabling the police and magistrates to put in place protection in the immediate aftermath of a domestic violence incident.

With DVPOs, a perpetrator can be banned with immediate effect from returning to a residence and from having contact with the victim for up to 28 days, allowing the victim time to consider their options and get the support they need.

Before the scheme, there was a gap in protection, because police could not charge the perpetrator for lack of evidence and so provide protection to a victim through bail conditions, and because the process of granting injunctions took time.

Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (‘Clare’s Law’)

The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS) (also known as ‘Clare’s Law’) commenced in England and Wales in March 2014. The DVDS gives members of the public a formal mechanism to make enquires about an individual who they are in a relationship with, or who is in a relationship with someone they know, where there is a concern that the individual may be violent towards their partner. This scheme adds a further dimension to the information sharing about children where there are concerns that domestic violence and abuse is impacting on the care and welfare of the children in the family.

Members of the public can make an application for a disclosure, known as the ‘right to ask’. Anybody can make an enquiry, but information will only be given to someone at risk or a person in a position to safeguard the victim. The scheme is for anyone in an intimate relationship regardless of gender.

Partner agencies can also request disclosure is made of an offender’s past history where it is believed someone is at risk of harm. This is known as ‘right to know’.

If a potentially violent individual is identified as having convictions for violent offences, or information is held about their behaviour which reasonably leads the police and other agencies to believe they pose a risk of harm to their partner, the police will consider disclosing the information. A disclosure can be made if it is legal, proportionate and necessary to do so.

For further information, see Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (GOV.UK website).

The Serious Crime Act 2015 creates a new offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in intimate or familial relationships. Controlling or coercive behaviour does not relate to a single incident, it is a purposeful pattern of behaviour which takes place over time in order for one individual to exert power, control or coercion over another. Such behaviours might include:

  • Isolating a person from their friends and family;
  • Depriving them of their basic needs;
  • Monitoring their time;
  • Monitoring a person via online communication tools or using spyware;
  • Taking control over aspects of their everyday life, such as where they can go, who they can see, what to wear and when they can sleep;
  • Depriving them of access to support services, such as specialist support or medical services;
  • Repeatedly putting them down such as telling them they are worthless;
  • Enforcing rules and activity which humiliate, degrade or dehumanise the victim;
  • Forcing the victim to take part in criminal activity such as shoplifting, neglect or abuse of children to encourage self-blame and prevent disclosure to authorities;
  • Financial abuse including control of finances, such as only allowing a person a punitive allowance;
  • Threats to hurt or kill;
  • Threats to a child;
  • Threats to reveal or publish private information (e.g. threatening to ‘out’ someone).
  • Assault;
  • Criminal damage (such as destruction of household goods);
  • Rape;
  • Preventing a person from having access to transport or from working.

End