Over the years there have been a number of studies investigating the issue of child to parent violence within defined geographical regions, sometimes in response to specific incidents (Northumbria for instance) and sometimes commissioned by a particular body (this work in Lancashire for instance). In 2013 Condry and Miles published the first major work in the UK, which took as the main source the Metropolitan Police data over a 1 year period.
Each of these have shed light on our knowledge and understanding of particular aspects of this issue. However, the London VRU report, “Comprehensive needs assessment of Child/Adolescent to Parent Violence and Abuse in London”, launched last week and welcomed by the Mayor of London is the first to offer a comprehensive examination of the prevalence and characteristics of child / adolescent to parent violence and abuse (CAPVA*) within the capital, and to scope out the help available for families affected by this form of violence and abuse.
The comprehensive needs assessment was commissioned to explore the scale and nature of CAPVA in London, to ensure services and support for children, young people and families is grounded in evidence. The research findings will inform the VRU’s public health approach to violence prevention and reduction in London and, specifically, to the development of a Pan-London strategic approach to CAPVA in the coming years.
The research, authored by Prof. Iain Brennan, Natasha Burnley, Matthew Cutmore, Dr Amanda Holt, Johnny Lillis, Jo Llewellyn, Shona MacLeod, Malika Shah, Rebecca Van Zanten, and Letizia Vicentini, and which took place between December 2020 and October 2021, included a literature review, analysis of data from the MPS and the Crime Survey for England and Wales, interviews with strategic stakeholders and a number of parents / carers and young people, as well as the involvement of a Community Advisory Group. The full report is available to read here.
The research, and the response from the Mayor’s office, received significant coverage throughout the UK press, and around the world. (see for instance the Guardian report, Children and Young People Now, and ITV)
London has very far from a homogeneous population, with great disparities of wealth and circumstances across boroughs as well as within them, hindering a full understanding of the significance of some factors under investigation. Yet as in many other situations, it reflects the picture across the country in terms of the difficulties in finding help, which may be available to a family in one street and not in the next, because of boundaries and differences in training and funding.
For those already involved in work within this field, the main findings of the report will not hold surprises, and I do not intend to go over these here – please do read the report to get the full flavour. But it is to be applauded for its breadth, and for the series of recommendations (below). We also welcome the subsequent commitments made by the Mayor as part of his wider strategy to combat violence within the capital.
- Establish the variation in terminology and definitions of CAPVA used by different statutory services and VCS organisations to inform the development of statutory guidance on CAPVA.
- Promote an understanding of CAPVA both as form of domestic abuse, as well as potentially symptomatic of other child protection/safeguarding issues such as extra-familial harm as well as exposure to abuse and violence in the family home.
- Statutory guidance on CAPVA to support the development of a longitudinal dataset on the incidence of CAPVA.
- Support all services to identify CAPVA and develop more specialist expertise in understanding the dynamics of CAPVA.
- Encourage tailored responses to CAPVA which recognise the complex dynamics between parent and child and other family members.
- Raise and embed awareness and understanding of CAPVA as a form of domestic abuse distinct from intimate-partner violence.
- Facilitate greater multi-agency collaboration on CAPVA cases and consider the development of a multi-agency information sharing forum, including a review of existing forums for effectiveness & appropriateness, for professionals to discuss high-risk cases.
- Train and develop CAPVA champions in each London borough’s children’s social care / safeguarding team.
- Ensure pan-London coverage of CAPVA specific services for both parents and children/young people by establishing a central ‘helpline’.
- Commission independent evaluation which examines the existing intervention models used to respond to CAPVA across London.
The importance of developing a joined-up, multi-agency understanding and response to CAPVA cannot be stressed enough, and has been called for over many years, not least by families themselves. The possibility of funding for a central helpline, to both advise and direct families and practitioners, would also be a key win and foundational in building an effective, evidence-based service. Many of those involved in this research are themselves already key players in understanding, promoting awareness, and delivering support to families, and so this comprehensive set of recommendations carries the weight of many years of struggle as well as the specific findings of this research. They represent a logical journey towards a full and effective response to a problem which is finally emerging from the shadows, and receiving the attention it so badly deserves. There are many ready and waiting to implement the recommendations given the opportunity and funding. We look forward to seeing the words of the Mayor coming to fruition.
*Use of the term CAPVA within this report was a deliberate decision formed through consultation with the CAG.