I am pleased to bring you this post from Neil Blacklock, Development Director at Respect, who has been following recent developments in Northumbria.
In November 2015, in Northumbria a mother was murdered by her 16-year son. The resulting Domestic Homicide Review (DHR) reported that safeguarding structures designed to identify and protect victims of domestic abuse were not attuned to pick up and respond to Adolescent to Parent Violence and Abuse (APVA) and that agencies had not fully understood the risk that her son posed.
In an effort to avoid a repeat of this tragedy, Northumbria Office of the Police and Crime Commssioner (OPCC) stepped up their support for the development of responses to APVA . For some years Gateshead Targeted Family Support and Youth Offending Service had already been running the Respect Young People’s Programme and over the past year this has been rolled out right across Northumbria, which comprises 6 Local Authorities. This type of specialist provision, no matter how good, is only a part of the total response to APVA. Being referred to a specialist service will not be warranted, effective or wanted by some families, and other parts of the system such as police, early help, CAHMS or children’s social care will be key.
Agencies in Northumbria are now coming together to develop workforce knowledge and expertise in order to create an effective multiagency response to APVA. I recently attended the first of a series of half day briefings for Northumbria staff. The aim of these was to ensure lessons from the DHR are acted upon and to create a shared understanding of APVA, right through from Police callout response to a specialist APVA programme.
The briefing I attended had a significant number of police alongside children’s services, family support and youth offending staff. There were resources being launched; a film and booklet made with the involvement of families who had experienced APVA. The police announced a new APVA flag that will enable them to identify this concern and provide families with a more appropriate and proportionate response.
What struck me most was the intent and enthusiasm for finding better ways to work across agencies on APVA. These briefings have reached around 500 people. Graeme Littlewood – the DA coordinator for South Tyneside – who’s been relentless in driving this work forward, told audiences that we have to fully recognise the risks when someone is the victim of abuse, and not see them just as a parent with a difficult child or, worse still, a child with an incompetent mother.
APVA is like other forms of abuse between people in close relationships, in that there are differing levels of harm and a complex map of individual and social factors in play, and that drive this behaviour. Therefore, a varied and proportionate range of responses is needed to create change and increase safety for the young person and their family.
One of the key insights from initial discussions with affected parents was the critical importance of the quality of the first response they receive from professionals, in both emergency or crisis or non-emergency situations. Parents spoke really passionately about wanting their victimisation taken seriously, and often felt in need of crisis intervention or emergency help, but most did not want their children prosecuted or accommodated, rather they wanted understanding and easy access to structured help and ongoing support in order to facilitate a non-violent child-parent relationship.
Moving this on, Northumbria Police have now developed an approach that will see potential APVA cases flagged on police child concerns systems, and cases subsequently discussed within Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hubs, so that the most suitable level of intervention can be agreed and put in place across a menu of Early Help, Youth Justice or Social Care services.
The briefings are being followed up with a series of one day trainings across the county to equip front line professionals to respond to families where a specialist response is not proportionate and to recognise when a specialist response is needed. Alongside this, the specialist service provision is being supported.
Respect’s aim across all our strands of work is to support whole system responses to the whole spectrum of harm, reaching the whole community. It’s not where we are currently at with responses to APVA, but it is exciting to be involved in the work in Northumbria that is taking some ground-breaking strides towards this.
Thanks Neil, and all those involved in developing this response. I look forward to bringing updates from the work in Northumbria as it progresses. Meanwhile, please do join the conversation – tell us about work going on in your area, about research, training, or plans to roll out new services where you are!