Tag Archives: PEGS

School based support for #CPV

I feel very strongly that school-based family workers are ideally placed to offer parents support, where there is child to parent violence (CPV). Let me tell you why.

Parents can feel comfortable talking to staff based in schools about a whole range of issues. For many – admittedly not all – there is familiarity with the environment and at primary level particularly there may be known faces in the playground to gravitate to. As well as regular parent evenings and conversations with teachers, parents may have met with other support staff in the past.

For many families this is the first place they would choose to seek advice about parenting issues. See this graph for instance, from the 2011 Family Lives report, When Family Life Hurts (p12), showing the sorts of places that families had initially sought help for the difficulties they were facing.

Similarly, an older survey from 2001, The Home Office Citizenship Survey: people, families and communities, found that 55% of parents were aware of schools as a source of information on bringing up children, second after healthcare, and that of parents who received help from educational establishments, 84% reported finding it helpful.

School may be the first place that difficulties are recognised or named. While some children will confine the harmful behaviours to home, others will be acting out their anger and distress within the classroom, leading to opportunities to work together with parents to try to understand what is happening and how to help everyone involved. Or a child may be refusing to get out of bed and come to school, alerting the authorities that all is not well. I spent many years from 1993 working in schools in different guises, for some of the time with the organisation School Home Support. It was not unusual to hear from parents asking for help with a child who was “out of control” or who refused to get out of bed in the morning, or where teachers asked for help to prevent a child’s exclusion; and where the more obvious suggestions had already been tried to no avail. As a consequence, it did not come as a surprise to learn that one of the first support programmes for families experiencing CPV in Britain, PEACE, had arisen in schools in the Wirral.

As an almost universal service, schools can potentially reach the most families in need of help. Increasingly practitioners of many disciplines are based there to support a family’s wellbeing as well as a child’s learning and it is possible to work with a family earlier on to help prevent problems becoming entrenched. This might mean running support groups for parents experiencing child to parent violence on site, or one to one sessions, or an awareness raising session and signposting to services. There is space to work with young people on their relationships generally, and to offer individual counselling where there are concerns. It was great to read the recent blog from PEGS. Michelle was invited to take part in a school’s virtual SEND conference for parents, at which she spoke about CPV and the types of help available, including from PEGS.

Practitioners based in schools cannot do this on their own of course, but they hold a key piece of the jigsaw and have significant knowledge of families which may stretch back generations. Working together with other professionals they can help to bring hope and safety to families affected.

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CPA by any other name…

I have always welcomed guest posts on this blog, and so it was good to be able to invite Michelle John of PEGS to contribute to our mutual learning and understanding of the issues. Michelle is the Founding Director of PEGS, and has the rare combination of a background in domestic abuse advocacy, lived experience, and the willingness and ability to speak up for her fellow parents. Michelle and her team support hundreds of parents impacted by CPA, alongside delivering impactful training for organisations such as police forces and local authorities, campaigning nationally for policy change, undertaking speaking engagements and raising awareness of the issue.

When it comes to describing abuse directed towards a parent, carer or guardian, there are so many phrases in circulation. While to some extent, what we call the abuse is secondary to the action we are taking to reduce it and support those impacted by the issue, it is important that we use words which don’t lead to misconceptions.

When I set up PEGS, myself and my team made the decision to refer to CPA or Child to Parent Abuse. At the time, this was at odds with the definition of ‘Adolescent to Parent Violence or Abuse (APVA)’ used in Home Office guidance and other professional literature. But the crux of our decision was the potential of shunning the majority of parents if we promoted that our services were for those experiencing APVA. An adolescent is a person aged 13 to 18. By contrast, you are always your parents’ child – whether you are 1 or 51. Finding organisations set up to support them, and then taking the leap of actually asking for the help they need, is incredibly difficult for all parents impacted by CPA; with that in mind, we wanted to make sure our language was as inclusive as possible so we didn’t put off anyone whose child had either not yet entered their teen years or had already reached adulthood.

The results of our first parental survey – undertaken in November 2020 – back up the general consensus that many cases of CPA start well before the teen years. More than half of our families had started experiencing abusive or violent behaviour when their child was aged 12 or below – and a significant number had children who were just 5 when the CPA began. We’re currently mid-way through our second survey so the results haven’t yet been collated, but looking at the data from the responses we have so far supports the fact that CPA really is happening within all types of families.

We know that CPA is under-reported (and historically under-researched) so it’s really important for all of us involved in campaigning, supporting and/or researching collectively eradicate this perception that the problem is limited to a handful of teenage boys being physically abusive. Both research and anecdotal evidence are beginning to build up a picture of every single type of family being impacted by CPA.

Even if their child is not tall enough or strong enough to physically overpower them, CPA takes many forms and coercion, threats, stealing and many other types of abuse are not restricted by the size or force of the person displaying the behaviours (or the person on the receiving end). 

That’s why at PEGS, we’ll continue to use the term Child to Parent Abuse and encourage others to do so, too.

Many thanks Michelle, for your insights and your support for families. We look forward to further posts from her in the future.
If you would like to contribute anything, whether from your work or experience, learning or practice, please do get in touch!

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