Everything has changed – and nothing has changed

Well this could be true about so many things at the moment! The world we knew is far from the one we are living in at present, and yet the violence and abuse that too many families experience on a daily basis continues. The pandemic has driven a flurry of interest in child to parent violence and abuse from the media; but also people have been looking for different ways to conduct training, and so my diary has been rather taken up by Zoom events! For the last few months I have found myself reflecting in a more concerted way than usual on the progress of work around child to parent violence and abuse since 2010.

So, things that HAVE changed in the last ten years:

  • More research and literature from around the world.
  • More interest and awareness among practitioners as training spreads out.
  • The development of support programmes around the country – with an accompanying body of evidence of effective work – including on-line interventions at the moment, which have the benefit of being able to reach more people.
  • Much more awareness around the issue in the media with significant amounts of “sympathetic” coverage.

Set against things that haven’t changed … and I was struck particularly by how little overall “big picture” progress we have made by reading the conclusions and recommendations to the recent report from Rachel Condry and Caroline Miles, as well as other research at the moment:

  • Still no definition or agreed terminology.
  • Still a need for a more comprehensive safeguarding approach to families experiencing CPV.
  • Still a lack of respite or longer term support that neither criminalises the young person, nor presents the parents as the cause of the problem.
  • Still no embedded support for families, making it subject to programme closures when budget cuts strike.
  • Still no wide recognition of the link between CPV and harm outside of the home, whether criminal exploitation or gang involvement.
  • Still too much silo-working with lack of communication between agencies, and escalating risk going un-acknowledged.
  • Still no “ownership” by any specific department, which means parents are still passed between agencies and no-one takes overall responsibility for coordinating a response.

That all sounds very negative, and in my gloomier moments probably reflects my feelings. But I am also aware that it is important to celebrate what has changed, and not to minimise the huge benefit to families of even small developments that have taken place. Perhaps it is time for a different direction of work, to think and act more strategically; to start to focus efforts higher up and to look for the bigger changes that we now need to see. A massive upheaval in how everything happens may be just the right moment to look at this!

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Taking #CPV Services Online Part 2

Following on from my earlier post about the logistics of providing support for families online rather than in person, I was really pleased to be able to speak with Jane, a parent of 2 adopted children aged 4 and 6, who wanted to share her own experience of accessing help over the last few months. While she had been experiencing some difficulties prior to the spread of COVID, and she had been receiving help in relation to her older child, for her family the effects of lockdown were devastating as the behaviour of her younger child became dangerous and unmanageable as he struggled to cope with the sudden change in routine. Furthermore, the family immediately lost all access to support – formal and informal – and respite, which had previously kept them going.

Googling for sources of information and help, Jane eventually came across the Who’s in Charge? programme, and was able to speak with someone who could reassure her that she was not alone, who could listen without judging, and who was able to put her in touch with an online support programme that was about to start right then. I asked Jane what she would like to tell people about her experience of receiving support: what had been good and what not so good; what those delivering services should bear in mind for the future.

Because I needed help NOW, it was really good that I was able to access a service remotely. It meant that I didn’t need to be “in area” and I didn’t have to join a waiting list for months. There were day-time or evening options which made it so much easier too, as I didn’t then need to worry about childcare while I “attended” the programme. I’m not super confident about technology, but it was really easy to work out, and I only needed a little help.

There were about 5 people each time in our group. On Zoom it can be really tricky if there are lots of people – if someone hogs the conversation it’s hard for other people to get a word in, but with only 5 of us it worked, and the facilitators were really good in making sure everyone had a turn to speak and to be heard. That would be something very important to say though. What makes it work is the competence of the facilitators.

One of the good things for me was the possibility of turning off my camera and microphone, but still being able to hear what was going on and participate. Sometimes I was too distressed and didn’t want people to see me cry, or the kids were making a noise and so it was good that everyone else didn’t have to hear. At the same time though, the other parents were really good at reaching out if they knew someone was distressed. In a normal situation there might have been tissues, or hugs, or a cup of tea. Even without this, you still felt supported as we had all gelled as a group. I think this made it really inclusive.

I realise that my children are still very young, and that there might be different issues for people with teenagers for instance. I didn’t have to worry about them overhearing, or coming in so much. However, other people in the group did have teens and they still managed to make it work. Now we are allowed out of the house it is obviously easier. It would have been different during actual lockdown.

What I would say to other parents experiencing violence and abuse from their children is, “Give it a go! Take the opportunity even if you’re not sure about it. What have you got to lose! It’s a good way to get help if you’re anxious about meeting other people and talking about your experience. We’ve kept in touch since, so the support carries on”.

For facilitators I would say, “This was a very positive experience. It was more accessible, with more options for time, and makes it easier for both parents to attend. The fact that the group was quite small was important to me, and it was crucial to have rules about who speaks when and how this is agreed. The competence of the facilitator is crucial.”

Many thanks to Jane for her honesty and willingness to talk about her experience. As well as Who’s in Charge? many other support programmes are now being offered online. Do check out my Directory page for suggestions if you need to access help.

 

 

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Lockdown brings differential impacts regarding #CPV, but the need for a strategic response is greater still

One of the remarkable things about Lockdown globally has been the speed with which researchers have been able to shed important light on the impact of the COVID pandemic, whether in terms of education, mental health, domestic abuse – and not to forget child and adolescent to parent violence – with a view to developing future policy and practice. The spectre of future resurgences, and lockdowns forces us all to reconsider how we go about supporting individuals and families in this new world-order where face to face contact may not be possible, and where we have significant catching up to do still in the delivery of services in different ways.

Today saw the publication of a fast-evidence project from Dr Rachel Condry and Dr Caroline Miles looking at the experiences of child and adolescent to parent violence in the COVID-19 pandemic, both in terms of the experience of abuse itself, and in terms of the support available. The researchers obtained personal testimony from parents and practitioners through the use of on-line surveys, and looked at police data obtained through FOI requests to support their findings. This work builds on their ground breaking research of 2013 which looked at Metropolitan police data over the course of a year. Continue reading

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Taking #CPV services online, Part 1

As we entered lockdown in March in the UK, there was significant anxiety initially that families would find it impossible to access the help they needed across many service areas, quickly followed by the development of an online offer, which has continued to evolve and improve over the ensuing months. It is clear that things will remain “different” for a long time, as we get used to living in this new world; but there is already a lot we have learned, and as always we can benefit from sharing and learning together.

In the first of what I hope will be a series of posts exploring taking services online, I bring you an interview / discussion with a team of practitioners in Bedford, using the Who’s In Charge? programme to support families experiencing violence and abuse from their children.

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CPV Lockdown Reflections #2

As we emerge out of lockdown in Britain, I have been musing about what we’ve learned in this period about the issue of child to parent violence and abuse, and about some possible answers to the kinds of questions we are always being asked: Is it getting worse, why is it getting worse – you know the ones!

Each of us has experienced lockdown in a unique way, according to our circumstances, but there are many commonalities. People have reported poor or troubled sleep, the intensity of living in close quarters with the same people and the “pressure cooker” effect as tensions build; the anguish of not being able to touch or hold people we are close to, not feeling able to comfort people in distress, increased anxiety with loss of control over our situation and lives. Many people have also experienced bereavement, financial difficulties or poverty of resources. Some have seen a huge increase in work and all that brings, while others have been left wondering about their long term employment. There have been concerns about the length of time children are spending on their screens, and about the mental health of both old and young. For some there has been the stress of supporting school work, for others the relief of fewer demands to comply with rules and expectations. There has been a notable rise in reports of domestic abuse during this period, and, alongside greater interest in the media, more people have come forward too to talk about the abuse they experience from their own children. Continue reading

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Does the Domestic Abuse Bill go far enough in addressing adolescent to parent abuse?

Coinciding with the third reading of the Domestic Abuse Bill in Parliament, Caroline Miles and Rachel Condry argue that, as it stands,  it represents a missed opportunity in the development of understanding of and provision for families experiencing adolescent to parent violence. (published July 6th 2020)

Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-2021: Does the inclusion of ‘relatives’ go far enough in addressing the issue of adolescent to parent violence?

 

  • The Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-2021 covers violence and abuse from children (aged 16 and over) towards their parents but stops short of identifying violence from children towards parents as a specific subtype of domestic abuse.
  • The omission risks adult to parent violence remaining an invisible phenomenon that is not readily identified, recorded or counted, and also misses an opportunity to develop a national policy response.
  • The Bill creates an offence covering 16-18 year old perpetrators but no guidance as to what police powers should be used to deal with domestic violence and abuse by children, especially when perpetrated towards parents.
  • There needs to be a coherent and strategic police response to adult to parent violence, which addresses the needs of parents but also recognises the safeguarding needs of adolescents.

Read the full blog on the University of Manchester website here.

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Behavioural Science and Child to Parent Violence

I am pleased to publish this blog from Eleanor Haworth of Adoption UK, about her interest in Behavioural Science and what we can take from this to aid our understanding of child to parent violence and abuse. You will also find it published on the Adoption UK website. 

I am a great fan of behavioural science. I love the idea of using gentle linguistic and behavioural nudges to move us all forward, rather than the world being governed by big, bureaucratic, behemoth systems. You might question what connection this could possible have to the issue of child to parent violence. You would not be alone in suggesting that I am making an outlandish connection, this is sort of my stock in trade. However, I am begging your indulgence and asking you to bear with me on this one. I promise there is a connection, really. Behavioural science is clever and complicated and I am sure that it is beyond my humble powers to explain. However, the key elements that I think are essential to a discussion of child to parent violence are fascinating. Continue reading

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#CPV Resources for Practitioners

The Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare in Victoria has taken a strong interest in the issue of child / adolescent to parent violence and abuse, recognising gaps in knowledge and understanding through their work on Family Violence. “Funded by Family Safety Victoria (FSV) and in consultation with Domestic Violence Victoria (DV Vic), the Centre is leading this state-wide initiative aimed at identifying, translating and embedding the best available research and practice expertise to build the evidence base in relation to adolescents who use violence in the home.” The project aligns with recommendations in the Royal Commission into Family Violence and Roadmap for Reform: Strong Families, Safe Children, about bridging knowledge gaps and providing appropriate supportive interventions which recognise that young people can simultaneously cause harm and require care and support themselves. Continue reading

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Lockdown reflections

It’s been a few weeks since I posted anything here (though I’ve been busy on other pages) but I thought I would treat you today to some ramblings and reflections. Like many people I am sure, over the last 3 months I have experienced both periods of intense, pressured work to tight deadlines, and days of feeling bereft of direction and purpose. Conferences, training events and report launches have been cancelled, and it is too easy to forget the hours of work and preparation that will have gone in to them by all involved. For some families, lockdown has brought a relief as stresses have been removed, and more harmonious relationships are formed and developed. For others the pressure cooker environment has increased fear and risk. Practitioners have been forced in to new ways of working – at short notice and without always having the kit or the skills – and yet some of those ways have paid dividends as they have learned to communicate with young people electronically – on their own “territory” – for a change. Being in Lockdown has intensified the sense of importance of what we do, but also the despair that things take so long to accomplish. Continue reading

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Violence to grandparents in kinship care roles

The show must go on as they say, and so the launch of findings from a research project investigating violence towards grandparents took place this week with all the requisite fanfare – but online rather than as originally envisaged! Perhaps it is a metaphor for the situation experienced by the 27 grandparents interviewed for this study by Dr Amanda Holt and Dr Jenny Birchall, in that their life had taken a sudden and often dramatic change of course with the arrival of the grandchildren they were caring for. Continue reading

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