Domestic Abuse: Responding to the #WholeFamily

I was privileged to be asked to speak at the DVCN conference, organised by Standing Together, this Tuesday in London, opening up the issue of child to parent violence to an audience very familiar with the issue itself, but not necessarily aware of the range of circumstances in which children and young people might exhibit abusive behaviour, or the types of help available. It felt particularly apt to be talking about the Mapping Project, when an analysis of the findings so far has shown that domestic abuse agencies are the most likely to be offering support programmes to families. Indeed a number of the conference delegates were from agencies offering specialist work, or from parts of the country where work is already established. This represents quite a movement from a previous focus on adult perpetrators, which had the effect of making the issue of violence from children even more invisible.

The focus of the conference was #WholeFamily. Again, it does not seem so long since we were stuck on locating “the problem” either in the young person’s “problematic behaviour”, or in the adult’s “poor parenting practice”. To be in a room full of professionals recognising that this issue needs to be understood and addressed as one of family dynamics, seeking to restore healthy and appropriate parent-child relationships, was both refreshing and invigorating! Colette Morgan of the Building Respectful Families project in Oxford then went on to talk about her work in setting up the programme – including the important area of costings.

The later morning session looked at wider perspectives in commissioning perpetrator work, with some really important points made:

  • The value of a proactive intervention to stop the problem early on.
  • The importance of working with the whole family in order to truly keep people safe.
  • The need to address multiple difficulties in people’s lives, not simply the domestic abuse.
  • Recognition of protective actions that many people take.
  • The need to be specific rather than using general terms when talking about abuse and violence.
  • The need to offer training and advice in good practice – not just criticism of poor practice.
  • The value of showing savings in money in order to persuade people to take a programme on.

While all these were raised in terms of work with adults, all are highly relevant in the work with young people’s abuse and violence too.

The afternoon session (which sadly I missed) included contributions about the Troubled Families Programme and about the VAWG Strategy Refresh. Check out #wholefamily on twitter for more comments about the day!

Support for families experiencing child to parent violence and abuse is located in a range of different agencies around the country, and it is clear that, in this respect, there is no “natural home” for a support service. Rather, practitioners have responded to the issue as they have come across it in their work, wherever they are based, bringing their own training and experience to bear in a way that enriches the approach and work of everyone.


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