The need to work remotely during the Covid19 pandemic – and particularly during lockdown – has been challenging for practitioners and families alike. Some have managed to embrace new ways of working, even questioning the assumptions of old methods; others have struggled whether because of the vagaries of technology, skills, specific needs or the particular group of people being supported. Research into ways of working through the pandemic has already revealed much that is good and much that needs improvement, and so I was interested to read the HMIP report into the Covid19 Inspection of Youth Offending Services: A thematic review of the work of youth offending services during the COVID-19 pandemic Nov 2020
For many years now, youth offending services have strived to deliver services for families experiencing child and adolescent to parent violence (CAPV), supported by the YJB with awareness raising, promotion of training and provision and sharing of resources. Some services have run a discreet programme (RYPP, Break4Change, Who’s in Charge?). Sometimes a bundle of support has been designed in situ. This has been facilitated and supported by regular training and by practitioner meetings.
Right from the start of the report, the issue of CAPV is highlighted as being not new, but having greater significance during the restrictions. While some young people were observed to have used the time to reflect on, and make changes to their behaviour, it was noted that the “majority have struggled to cope with the effects of the restrictions, and this period has exacerbated their often-complex needs. For these children, the pandemic is an additional trauma on top of an already extensive list.” (p4) As we know, for many young people their use of violence is associated with difficulties in regulating their emotions and in responding to stress, so it was not surprising to see a rise in both frequency and severity of abuse during the lockdown period (as reported by Condry and Miles).
While some services – and indeed individual practitioners – had adapted reasonably smoothly to a virtual offer, it was recognised that it is easier to do that with some elements of the work than others. It seemed that there was less confidence about this aspect of the work, and whether practitioners were able to cope either with the increase in CAPV, or with the specific needs to support both the young person and the parent, and to keep everyone safe.
We were, however, concerned about the experience of parents who were victims of child and adolescent violence. This is an area that needs a sharper focus and more detailed planning for the protection of parental victims. The nature of this abuse and age of the perpetrators means that the arrangements for adults that would normally be part of victim safety planning and multi-agency risk assessment conferences (MARAC) don’t all apply. Victims were advised to call the police if they were under threat or being attacked, but there are specific difficulties for parents when the perpetrator is their own child. There is also a potential conflict when the YOT worker is trying to reduce the child’s challenging behaviour and support the victim at the same time. We believe that a new approach is needed to tackle this issue. (p8)
Attention is drawn in the report to the complexity of delivering this sort of service online, with problems in particular in the ability to monitor risk, and also in the response to it. Creative practice was referenced in a team who had bought a lockable toolbox for a parent to store knives in, and another where the additional capacity was given to the parenting worker, but there was concern about the level of support on offer generally, with an emphasis on parents accessing help when needed, putting them in a potentially conflictual and unsafe position – and reinforcing the supposition that it is their own responsibility to remain safe (my comment).
Finally there are some comments about the future that are worth noting. CAPV is identified as an area that needs a sharper focus, and more detailed planning in the protection of victims. Recommendations include for the Youth Justice Board to support the development of a specific approach to managing child and adolescent to parent violence that protects the victim during periods of lockdown; and PCCs should “work with partners to understand the levels of child on parent violence in their areas and ensure that help is available to support and protect parents who are victims”. (p10) I can’t complain with a recommendation along these lines!