Tag Archives: domestic violence

A response to the Government’s Tackling Domestic Abuse Plan

Somewhat delayed because of family circumstances, but I thought it would be helpful to have a look at the Government’s recently published Tackling Domestic Abuse Plan, and offer some thoughts.

Before I get started, a couple of caveats. First, the debate continues as to whether it is appropriate to consider child to parent violence and abuse under this umbrella. There are those who feel very strongly that it should be, because of the harm caused and the frequent links to the experience of intimate partner violence and abuse. (Academics such as Wilcox (2012) have made this case. PEGS literature is another case in point.) Others find the terminology and conceptualisation problematic, and shy away, preferring to focus on the age, the trauma and vulnerability of the children and young people themselves (for instance, many within the adoption community would feel this way). My sense from listening to people is that both views have merit, but that the circumstances around the harmful behaviour and family situation need to be taken into account in order to properly reflect each family’s situation.

Secondly, a reminder that the Domestic Abuse Act includes only those over the age of 16, recognising that family members as well as partners can be perpetrators of abuse. It is these clauses which bring children using harmful behaviour towards their parents into the equation. Children under 16 are not included within this legislation as those using harm, but are recognised as victims in their own right. This therefore excludes a large group of families, experiencing harmful behaviour from children as young as three or four, from this legal recognition.

The Plan is informed by the responses to the Call for Evidence (thank you to all who responded), and aligns with the updated VAWG strategy, 2021. The Government has made clear that more attention is needed to combat this “pervasive and insidious crime”, with £230 million allocated to bring about the changes outlined. There is a three-pronged focus: Prevention, Support for victims and survivors, and Holding perpetrators to account, with systemic reform which will lead to a more coordinated and informed response.

The Plan has been broadly welcomed by the leading voices in the Domestic Abuse sector, among them Respect, Safe Lives and Women’s Aid. Indeed, there is much to applaud and, if implemented fully, forthcoming action will build on work already taking place to bring about greater safety and security for all. So what does the Plan have to say about children and young people who use harmful behaviour towards their parents and carers?

First, the main section including commitments regarding child to parent abuse is on page 27:

Tackling behaviours early on is key to preventing future offending, as these learned behaviours can act as a steppingstone towards perpetrating abuse in later life. The Home Office will publish updated guidance for frontline practitioners on child-to-parent abuse (CPA) this year, working with frontline practitioners include those working in the police, health, education, and social care, to name just a few. The Home Office will also work with stakeholders to reach an agreed definition and terminology for this type of behaviour. This will underpin policy development on the response to CPA, and comprehensive guidance to support practitioners and service commissioners.

These are reiterated in the Commitments section in Annex C, and there is acknowledgement (p56) of the £25 million Home Office funding already funnelled in over the last two years, to introduce innovative approaches to addressing DA, including programmes focused on children and adolescents.

This is good news! We have been wondering what had happened to updating the guidance (first published in 2015) for some time, and so it is great to have this firm commitment to concluding the work. Furthermore, the commitment to move towards an agreed definition and terminology is one which has been asked for for as long as I have been involved in the work, most recently in the rapid literature review of 2021. Naturally the funding is very much welcomed and has already been put to good use, developing and rolling out responses across the country. I am slightly unsettled though by the framing of the response to CPA as one to prevent future offending. The experience of families is one which deserves attention very much now, recognising the harm caused now. (But fair enough, this is in the section about prevention).

To mention only these sections though would be shortsighted given what we know about child to parent violence and abuse. And so we welcome the focus on schools both in terms of delivery of the RHSE curriculum and as a place to screen for, and identify early on, children who have been victims of DA with a view to offering evidence based, effective support to child and adult survivors. (I refer back to my previous blog post here in supporting the development of work within schools as ideally placed for prevention, screening and delivery of support.) A stronger system (p58), which has a shared understanding of the issues, collaborates and coordinates responses is particularly needed with CPVA, not least in the area of agreeing what it is and how it comes about. I am excited too by the determination to recognise DA as a Safeguarding issue, with the need to work together effectively to identify and support children and young people exhibiting or victims of harmful behaviour (p65). I would suggest that the individual, interpersonal, and neighbourhood level predictors listed (p84) are as likely to be true for children and young people as they are for adults. A system that recognises these difficulties, and that works together, could be identifying those at risk much earlier on – not just for preventing adult and peer abuse in the future, but in starting to tackle CPVA before it becomes entrenched and builds to a point where children are coming within this legislation.

There are, naturally, things I would like to see more of. Data presented in the Plan suggests that more than twice as many people aged 16 – 74 reported experience of partner abuse than abuse by other family members (Annex B), and so it is understandable that the focus is on work with those who are partners and former partners. This is reflected too in the focus on the police and criminal justice system as the foremost source of help. Nevertheless, the data suggests a sizeable group of people (of all ages) experiencing abuse from family members including children, emphasising the importance of recognising the very specific issues for this group of people. Difficulties in reporting perpetrators who are children, and in making a break in the relationship, have been documented in many places (for instance Difficult) and may require a separate response which recognises these issues. This is true not just for those aged 16 and 17, but right through adulthood, where the peculiarity of the relationship adds stresses, and a sense of responsibility for a perpetrator who may be seen as vulnerable in their own right.

So: strong on prevention; good in parts. And commitments to furthering understanding and responses for the future. Going forward, I would like to see more about the very specific issues facing these families now, whether that be in terms of support for victims and survivors, or holding those responsible to account – and fingers crossed that there is more about this in the updated guidance! In the meantime, the battle to obtain recognition within the policies of other Departments continues, as we seek the formal recognition of the issues of child to parent violence and abuse from younger children as well.

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VAWG Strategy: Lack of Progress update for CPV

The Home Office published its latest VAWG Strategy papers this week, with the Ending Violence Against Women and Girls 2016 – 2020 Strategy Refresh, and the Ending Violence against Women and Girls Action Plan 2016 – 2020 Progress Update. Once again, I was disappointed to see that there was no mention of children’s and adolescent’s violence and abuse towards their parents, though not entirely surprised since it is has not featured as a specific issue since 2014, and only one line mention in 2016. The irony is that, at a local level, many areas are now developing their own strategic response; but by omitting this aspect of violence and abuse from central government documents – and thinking – it remains invisible, unconsidered, and unimaginable for too many people. Continue reading

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Domestic violence isn’t always between adult partners

If you’ve not come across child to parent violence before; if you don’t know anyone affected; it’s easy to misread the signs. Sadly, we have come to accept that adults can experience intimate partner violence. Folk may not all fully understand what is going on and why, but they get that it happens. So when you hear shouting and screaming noises through the wall from the neighbours, or when you see bruises, it would be natural to draw that conclusion.

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The use of NVR in residential care.

As I was reminded recently while reading a report about the use of residential care for adolescents on the edge of care, we have a rather different model of residential provision in Britain to that in other European countries, where a placement in a therapeutic establishment with highly trained and qualified staff may be the norm rather than the exception for a young person unable to stay at home. Lesser professional qualifications required, residential care as last resort – the sector in Britain has suffered from a period of neglect itself, despite the fact that some of the most troubled young people will be placed in such homes, whether for lack of alternative or as a positive choice. It is sadly to be expected that staff in residential homes will experience levels of abuse and violence from children and teenagers struggling to come to terms with trauma in similar ways to families coping in the community, perhaps to an even greater extent, yet this receives less coverage still. Continue reading

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Child to parent violence: the new topic for discussion at parties!

If you are engaged in work that is looking vulnerable to belt tightening and budget cuts it may not seem as if the situation on the ground is improving as we embark on a new year. Indeed, the notion of a “new year” can seem pretty artificial if your timescales are built around tax years or funding applications. Nevertheless, for me at least, the end of one year and the start of the new meant parties and that proved an interesting experience in a way I never would have predicted in the past.

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With the rich mix of a relationship storyline in The Archers that has been looking like coercive control since day one, and a storyline about child to parent violence in Coronation Street, it is suddenly OK to talk about domestic violence at parties! So I had the rather surreal experience of sitting with glass in hand talking about Helen’s relationship with Rob as if it was real (which of course it is if you’re an Archers fan), followed by listening to two groups of friends discussing their own experiences of abuse from pre-teen children and steps they were taking to address the issue. Perhaps it’s the parties I go to, and I’ll grant you it doesn’t sound very exciting! You have to picture the decorations, the food, imagine the music; these were conversations in little huddles competing with the noise. But the fact that they were happening was a moving experience and one that must be in part due to the immense media coverage over the last year that has brought these two issues to greater public consciousness.

So I look forward to 2016 with brave new hopes and expectations: that the public consciousness of child to parent violence will continue to grow, that our understanding of the issues involved will be refined, and of course that the development of services to support families will continue to grow – and also, that it will become more and more OK to talk about it at parties.

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Domestic Abuse: Responding to the #WholeFamily

I was privileged to be asked to speak at the DVCN conference, organised by Standing Together, this Tuesday in London, opening up the issue of child to parent violence to an audience very familiar with the issue itself, but not necessarily aware of the range of circumstances in which children and young people might exhibit abusive behaviour, or the types of help available. It felt particularly apt to be talking about the Mapping Project, when an analysis of the findings so far has shown that domestic abuse agencies are the most likely to be offering support programmes to families. Indeed a number of the conference delegates were from agencies offering specialist work, or from parts of the country where work is already established. This represents quite a movement from a previous focus on adult perpetrators, which had the effect of making the issue of violence from children even more invisible. Continue reading

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Where are the specialist services?

Readers of this blog will be familiar with my dream of mapping specialist services around the country for those experiencing child to parent violence (here). With a small amount of funding secured this undertaking finally began for real in May of this year, working half a day a week. What is being found is telling in a number of ways.

  • As expected there is little specialist provision over all.
  • Discovering services that are new to me has been difficult. How much more difficult must it be for parents?
  • Working out who to approach. In some areas a service is run by a domestic violence organisation, in others through youth offending and some are independent. A single point of contact for referrals / requests is thus absolutely essential.
  • Sometimes services are not open to all families. For example, some are only for young people already engaged with the youth offending team.
  • Practitioners in local services may not always be familiar with services other organisations are running.
  • There is a lot of adaptation of tried and tested programmes to fit local situations (or perhaps the skill set or inclination of the practitioners?)
  • Funding issues – there is sometimes a degree of uncertainty as to how long the programme will continue.

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Adolescent to parent abuse as a form of DV?

Two recent things of interest from Amanda Holt:

A journal article looking at similarities and differences between adolescent to parent and intimate partner violence; and a seminar addressing this issue at Oxford Brookes University last month. You can hear Amanda and see the slides from this presentation here.

 

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RCPV: The final conference

Brighton last week saw the final conference for the Responding to Child to Parent Violence Project, the second largest funded project from the Daphne111 programme, and one I have grown to feel very close to. It was something I blogged about in my very first post here, and the team have been very gracious in allowing me to ‘hang out’ with them over the last three years. The closing of a project might seem a sad occasion, but it felt more like a celebration, as each of the partner countries (England, Ireland, Spain, Sweden and Bulgaria) and programmes presented their achievements and aspirations – and indeed the growth and development of understanding and resources will continue as well as the friendships forged through work together. Continue reading

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Improving the response to family violence

News in Britain this week of the appointment of Seema Malhotra as shadow minister to tackle violence against women and girls, is presented as demonstrating a growing commitment in this country to combatting both domestic violence and related issues. At the same time, we have seen the launch of the No More Deaths campaign to put family violence at the top of the state election agenda in Victoria, Australia, where it is recognised that women and families have been failed over and over again by prevailing attitudes and culture, themselves embedded in official responses. (also here) Continue reading

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