“An alignment of the planets”

Returning to the topic of themes that emerged from the recent conference on domestic violence by children against parents, in Nottingham, I’d like to look at 2 more ideas that caught my attention.

Launching the conference, Jo Sharpen, from AVA,  described it as very timely, and indeed, throughout the day, speakers referred to a series of events that support our focus on the issue of child to parent violence at this time. The changed definition of domestic violence in England and Wales (with the publication of the Home Office Guidance to which AVA contributed), was highlighted and declared helpful in recognising that under 18s could be abusive, though bringing parent abuse within the domestic violence umbrella was also considered problematic, because of the important differences between CPV and IPV and the potential criminalisation of young people (see my earlier post for more details). March also saw the publication of the UK Government Action Plan: A call to end violence against women and girls, and the launch of the EVAWGUK policy. Though parent abuse is sadly still not specifically mentioned, it does offer opportunities to discuss the issue more widely.

I am often asked what has happened to suddenly bring parent abuse to attention, after so long a silence, but it’s not often that the other side of the story gets an airing: now is the time to act as so many opportunities and events come together.

At this time of budget constraints it may seem ridiculous to be asking for money for new projects, but not so ridiculous to embed parent abuse responses in work that is already going on, meeting previously established targets. So, for instance, positioning the new RYPP within “preventing pathways into criminality” recognises the links between family violence and wider criminal behaviour, thus making it eligible for funding. Many teams working on the Troubled Families Initiative, and its predecessors, have found evidence of parent abuse and have identified ways of supporting parents as part of this work. Simon Retford reminded us to make the most of these opportunities, as well as the growing interest in restorative justice within youth work, for the way in which they make parent abuse more visible, and also because they make funding accessible.

Another question, for me at any rate,  was about how we find or identify parents for whom the work is needed. Not such a strange question when you realise that we are still not reaching all the victims of intimate partner violence; and parents of abusive children face many of the same difficulties in acknowledging and naming their experience, and finding the courage to ask for help. Leafleting, media campaigns and awareness raising days are only part of the answer. Police and fire officers are trained to observe the environment when they enter a home, looking for signs of violence. We would hope that social workers and other home visitors are taking a similar line as part of a holistic assessment. I would like to return to this at a later date.

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