Parent abuse: Do the math. The cost of not intervening

“Mental disorders cost the economy more than £100bn a year” …. “2 million more adults and 100,000 more children will need treatment in 2030” … “a reduction in the number of people across the UK developing mental disorders appears to us to be the only way that mental health services will adequately cope with demand in 20-30 years’ time”. Soundbites from a recent piece in the Guardian, reflecting anxiety within the NHS as a whole that the money just won’t stretch far enough; and similar discussions abound whether with regard to physical health, education, criminal justice, social care …. The list goes on. So how to fund something new, such as services for families experiencing child to parent violence, at this time of budgetary constraints and cuts, might seem to be a question too far.

Independent projects have so far proved highly successful in attracting grants from the Big Lottery as well as other funders – projects such as the Rosalie Ryrie Foundation, PAARS, Hertfordshire PPP; and the Respect YPP benefited from a injection of funds to run the pilots in the north east of England. If you’re engaged in this sector, you can feel as if more than half your time is taken up in filing reports and applying for funds from the next round, but this work has been highly successful not least in demonstrating need and positive outcomes.

It is less easy within mainstream services where the focus might have to be on piggy-backing on existing provision or on how interventions can themselves save money.

Two areas for potential growth at the moment are  Youth Justice and the Troubled Families initiative, both arenas where the issue of parent abuse first started to make itself known in Britain. The Youth Justice Service was well represented at the recent conference in Oxford and it is exciting to see the commitment there to take things forward in some form.

Another field where I would personally like to see growth would be within Children’s Services. It doesn’t take much effort to find that parents feel poorly served here at the moment. Message boards and websites contain posting after posting documenting the despair and anger of parents who have not received the level of care and understanding they had hoped for. With a focus on child protection, high thresholds and little time available for early intervention work, it needs imaginative leadership to work this into the mix. First and foremost though there still needs to be a greater understanding of the reality of life for families affected – a shift in the way of thinking.

After the suggestion was made at last week’s conference in Oxford, there is no doubt someone somewhere doing the sums right now in terms of costing and savings from intervening where parent abuse is taking place. The effects cut right across mental health, physical medicine, criminal justice, education, social care, it might take a while! While you’re waiting for that, here’s something to read – an encouraging SCIE report commissioned by Action for Children, from January this year, which looked at Early Intervention and decision-making in local authority Children’s Services, what is needed to direct the focus of funding and work much earlier.

When we are starting to talk about children as young as 7 and 8 years old being involved in perpetrating appalling abuse against their parents, it is surely time to move in this direction.

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