Last week, on International Women’s Day, the Government published their revised VAWG strategy, Ending Violence against Women and Girls, to run from 2016 to 2020. Much trumpeted by the government, the strategy was also met with approval by crucial organisations such as Women’s Aid and Safe Lives.
With the input of £80 million, a focus on early intervention and prevention services, improvements in commissioning services with a National Statement of Expectations, and addressing the behaviour of perpetrators, it seems a little churlish to be writing anything negative. Nevertheless, we must remember that this comes against a background of savage cuts to services over the course of this government, which has seen closures in refuges across the country, with the loss of support for women which must be made good before any real gains can be claimed. Sarah Champion, Labour MP for Rotherham and shadow minister for preventing abuse and domestic violence writes in the Huffington Post that warm words are simply not enough.
For those of us working in the field of adolescent to parent violence and abuse, there was a further disappointment in that there is scant reference to this aspect of violence, despite the recognition which was granted in the 2014 Action Plan. While there is a naming of online abuse, FGM, forced marriage, honour based violence, human trafficking, gangs and sexual exploitation in both the main text and the Action Plan, there is only passing reference to adolescent to parent violence and abuse (APVA) on page 37 of the report:
Effective multi-agency responses are also critical in managing adolescent to parent violence. We published an information guide to support police, youth justice, health, education, social care, safeguarding and housing service providers and practitioners to respond to and prevent adolescent to parent violence and will ensure this is promoted across England and Wales.
There is no link to the Information Guide given, and the change in the name attributed to this type of abuse potentially makes searches more difficult. The report on the progress of the previous Action Plan recognises the work in producing the guidance, dissemination of which has begun, but there is as yet little sign of any further commitment to addressing this, and certainly no drive to improve the data collection on prevalence. It would seem that it does not yet warrant inclusion within the ranks of “emerging issues”.
Despite all of this I remain a little hopeful. If we continue to campaign and press for recognition there is room for inclusion in many of the Action points:
37) Launch a VAWG service transformation fund to support innovation in local practice and improved local approaches to multi-agency working.
There is already significant interest in developing knowledge about children’s and adolescent violence and abuse towards their parents at local level forums. We will be competing for funding with other more recognised needs and services, but if we can pursue a recognition of the complex nature, routes and roots of adolescent to parent violence and abuse, then we can still achieve an understanding that in tackling this we are supporting the wider ongoing eradication of violence to women and girls.
In finishing I would like to echo the words with which Diana Barran completed her report: “If we want to keep more families safe we should push ahead while not forgetting the vital gains which have got us this far”.