At the start of the month, the Government published the Statutory Guidance to the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, taking into account the results of the consultation process which took place in the latter part of last year. The guidance document is intended to “to increase awareness and inform the response to domestic abuse. It also conveys standards and promotes best practice.” The various chapters consider an understanding of domestic abuse, recognising domestic abuse, the impact on those involved, the different needs and circumstances of individuals affected, and agency responses – whether individually or as part of multi-agency groupings. While the vast majority of the document deals with abuse perpetrated by adults, it is important that there is also included the issue of young people’s harmful behaviour, whether towards their peers, or towards their parents / carers.
Laying aside the fact that some will find the inclusion of child and adolescent to parent violence and abuse (CAPVA) within a domestic abuse framework problematic (not least the assertion of the centrality of the desire to exert power and control), there is much in the majority of the guidance which translates to what we know to be important in working with families experiencing this: the low proportion of people seeking help for instance, but also the value of educational establishments and the health services for early recognition and routes for help. This is an area of work that we would particularly like to see developed further.
There is a large section on multi-agency work, including proper communication and sharing of information to keep people safe. This is to be applauded, and it would be good to see some way of including young people’s behaviour in more meaningful ways in future. Recognising the whole picture for families, and offering services specific to the needs of the individual situation is similarly something that we have been calling for, and welcome. The notion of Champions (point 306, page 97), is one that I have heard mooted by a number of people working in the CAPVA field recently. It would be interesting to think more about what this might look like in practice.
So, to the section specifically mentioning child-to-parent abuse, or CPA – the preferred name here but with acknowledgement that other terminology is also in use. This starts at point 32, on page 25, with an explanation of what is generally meant by this expression, acknowledging the shame involved and problems in asking for help; with more detail about support and intervention in Chapter 6:
Professionals should recognise the dynamics, impact, and risk when responding to cases of child-to-parent abuse. This may include, commissioning specialised local child-to-parent abuse services or embedding staff, within a multi-agency ‘front door’ referral system, who are trained to identify and respond appropriately to both the child and the parent victim. It is important that a young person using abusive behaviour against a parent or family member receives a safeguarding response, which should include referral to a Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub or local equivalent in the first instance where a parent advocate may attend, followed by referral to Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference if necessary, regardless of whether any police action is taken. (point 235, p80)
The importance of not simply addressing young people’s behaviour within services for adults has been a point raised on many occasions, and so it is good to see it included specifically here, as is the value of a trauma-informed response. There are, of course, already many specialist services developed for both young people and their parents / carers and in operation around the country, whether in stand alone organisations, or as part of wider provision under the umbrella, for instance, of Respect, or Break4Change.
Some of the final points in the guidance document are in relation to the development of standards within work with perpetrators, to ensure safety and quality. Moving forward, we hope to see the development of standards for all work with families where young people are using violence and abuse, recognising that interventions must ensure safety, rather than risk causing further harm, and that we are starting to amass a body of evidence of what works to restore healthy and harm-free relationships.
There is much here to welcome. We look forward to seeing the outworking of those recommendations highlighted, and to the long-awaited publication of the updated Home Office Guidance to APVA (Adolescent to parent violence and abuse), later this year, which will presumably contain more specific detail.