Transforming the Response to Domestic Abuse: HM Government Consultation

The UK Government is consulting on proposed changes to the law on domestic abuse. The consultation runs from March 8th to May 31st, 2018, and you can access the consultation documents, published by the Home Office here. As well as the full version, a shorter document can also be viewed.

The consultation covers the introduction of a new statutory definition, measures to protect and support victims, and to pursue and deter predators, and ways of improving performance and the collection and use data.

Adolescent to parent violence and abuse has been officially recognised as an aspect of domestic abuse, by the government, since 2015 with the publication of the APVA Information Guide. Somewhat disappointingly, there has however been little added to the conversation since then, and so I was pleased to be invited to a recent round table discussion on the proposals. While there are seemingly similarities between intimate partner violence and child to parent, or adolescent to parent, violence and abuse, there are sufficient differences for some to feel uncomfortable about aligning the two. Nevertheless, as is recognised in the consultation document, exposure to domestic abuse as a child can have serious consequences, with 25% of children going on to exhibit abusive behaviours once the abuser has left, and so, at the very least, it is important to look at how preventive work can be developed and improved.

Within the legislation, the new definition would continue to encompass only young people aged 16 or over, but there is a question about whether this is appropriate. Maintaining this age limit is seen as important (within the document) because of the risk of “blurring lines between what is understood as domestic abuse or child abuse and the impact on the delivery of child protection and safeguarding procedures.” (p14)

Some “excellent help” is said to be found within Children’s Social Care, but there is also recognition of inconsistencies in the response. This will come as no surprise to families experiencing violence and abuse from their children. The document discusses the need for agencies to work together better, both in terms of accessing help and in providing proper support, something which is often highlighted as essential in supporting families.

Chapter 3, on pursuing and deterring predators, opened up again for me the fundamental question about whether it is appropriate to think about child and adolescent to parent abuse within this framework. With developing understanding of both the background of children and families, and a focus on restorative, therapeutic responses, this might seem an odd call. Three things to think about:

  • there are many and varied roots and routes to CPV / APVA
  • this only applies to 16 year olds and over
  • there is discussion of out of court disposals

Data collection, as discussed in chapter 4, has long been an issue within CPV / APVA and so the focus on this is welcomed.

If the document is relevant to your personal or work life, then please do take the opportunity to respond – there is no obligation to answer every question. Whichever field is the focus of your attention, there will be additional questions that are relevant, and to which you can bring your expertise. Details of how to access the government response to the consultation, once completed, are included.


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