RELATED NATIONAL INFORMATION
Safe Lives (formerly CAADA)
FURTHER LOCAL INFORMATION
In March 2022, the definition of Domestic Abuse was updated to reflect the definition in the Domestic Abuse Act 2021.
Working Together to Safeguard Children defines Domestic Abuse as:
Domestic abuse can encompass a wide range of behaviours and may be a single incident or a pattern of incidents. Domestic abuse is not limited to physical acts of violence or threatening behaviour, and can include emotional, psychological, controlling or coercive behaviour, sexual and/or economic abuse.
Types of domestic abuse include intimate partner violence, abuse by family members, teenage relationship abuse and adolescent to parent violence. Anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, socio-economic status, sexuality or background and domestic abuse can take place inside or outside of the home.
Domestic abuse continues to be a prevalent risk factor identified through children social care assessments for children in need. Domestic abuse has a significant impact on children and young people.
Children may experience domestic abuse directly, as victims in their own right, or indirectly due to the impact the abuse has on others such as the non-abusive parent.
Under the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, children are recognised as victims of domestic abuse in their own right, if they see, hear, or experience the effects of the abuse, and are related to the perpetrator of the abuse or the victim of the abuse. Abuse directed towards the child is defined as child abuse.
Where there is domestic abuse, the wellbeing of the children in the household must be promoted and all assessments must consider the need to safeguard the children, including unborn children.
The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 says that behaviour is ‘abusive’ if it consists of any of the following:
- Physical or sexual abuse;
- Violent or threatening behaviour;
- Controlling or coercive behaviour;
- Economic abuse;
- Psychological, emotional or other abuse.
and it does not matter whether the behaviour consists of a single incident or a course of conduct. The perpetrator of the abuse and the victim of the abuse have to be aged 16 or over and are ‘personally connected’ as intimate partners, ex-partners, family members or individuals who share parental responsibility for a child. There is no requirement for the victim and perpetrator to live in the same household.
Domestic abuse in teenage relationships is just as severe and has the potential to be as life threatening as abuse in adult relationships. Victims under 16 should be treated as victims of child abuse and age appropriate consequences should be considered for perpetrators under 16. Abuse involving perpetrators and victims aged between 16 and 18 could be both child and domestic abuse.
The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 uses the term ‘victim’ but not everyone who has experienced, or is experiencing, domestic abuse chooses to describe themselves as a ‘victim’ and they may prefer another term, for example, ‘survivor’.
The statutory guidance Controlling or Coercive Behaviour in an Intimate or Family Relationship defines controlling or coercive behaviour as:
- Controlling behaviour is: a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour;
- Coercive behaviour is: an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.
Note:- The Government is updating the statutory guidance relating to the controlling or coercive behaviour offence as section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 will be amended by the Domestic Abuse Act 2021.
Other forms of abuse may be present for example:
Abuse by family members which can involve abuse by any relative or multiple relatives. Abuse within a family set-up can encompass a number of different behaviours, including but not limited to violence, coercive or controlling behaviours, and economic abuse. Abuse by family members also encompasses forced marriage, so called ‘honour’-based abuse and female genital mutilation.
Child-to-Parent Abuse which can include physical violence from a child towards a parent or other family members such as siblings and a number of different types of abusive behaviours, including damage to property, emotional abuse, and economic/financial abuse. Violence and abuse can occur together or separately. Abusive behaviours can encompass, but are not limited to, humiliating language and threats, belittling, damage to property and stealing and heightened sexualised behaviours.
Technological abuse using technology and social media as a means of controlling or coercing victims. This happens frequently both during and after relationships with abusers and is particularly common amongst younger people.
Spiritual abuse using religion and faith systems to control and subjugate a victim often characterised by a systemic pattern of coercive or controlling behaviour within a religious context. A form of spiritual abuse may include the withholding of a religious divorce, as a threat to control and intimidate victims.
The majority of domestic abuse is committed by men towards women. It can also involve men being abused by their female partners, abuse in same sex relationships, and by young people towards other family members, as well as the abuse of older people in families. It may occur across extended family relationships such as mother-in-law to daughter-in-law and there may be more than one perpetrator and more than one adult victim. The abuse occurs across all social backgrounds and independent family structures.
Where there is domestic abuse, the needs of the children are paramount and all assessments must consider the need to safeguard the children, including unborn children.
No one agency can address all the needs of people affected by, or perpetrating, domestic abuse. For interventions to be effective, the agencies and partner organisations of the Leicester City and Leicestershire and Rutland Local Safeguarding Children Boards need to work effectively together.
2. Impact on the Child
Prolonged or regular exposure to domestic abuse can have a serious impact on a child's physical, emotional and educational development and well-being, despite the best efforts of the victim(s) to protect the child.
The impact is more likely to be exacerbated when the abuse takes place in families where there is substance misuse, mental ill health problems, personality disorders and any combination of these.
Domestic abuse represents immediate risk to children and escalating factor where the child is subject to other abuse. These include:
- A direct correlation between the presence of domestic abuse and child abuse, which means Practitioners should always consider the possibility of both forms of abuse where one is identified. The presence of domestic abuse increases the risk of abuse toward children, including of emotional abuse and neglect;
- Children may be at risk from physical abuse from the victimised parent in efforts to reduce the severity of punishment from the perpetrator;
- Domestic abuse is an aggravating factor in cases of child sexual abuse, with coercion and violence used as a tool to obtain and maintain compliance;
- Parents experiencing domestic abuse are at significant risk of mental health difficulties, which may impact their ability to nurture and care for children in the short term.
Domestic abuse may have a long term psychological and emotional impact in a number of ways:
- Children may be greatly distressed by witnessing (seeing or hearing) the physical and emotional suffering of a parent / carer, or witnessing the outcome of any assault including sexual violence;
- Children may be pressurised into concealing assaults, and experience the fear and anxiety of living in an environment where abuse occurs;
- The domestic abuse may impact negatively on an adult victim's parenting capacity;
- Children may be drawn into the violence and themselves become victims of Physical Abuse;
- Mental health difficulties and risk of suicide/self-harm as a young person or in later life;
- Injury or physical ill-health, including the effects of substance misuse;
- Absence from school; difficulties concentrating; poorer educational outcomes and achievements;
- Social isolation – including increased risk of homelessness;
- Behavioural issues including: risk of involvement in bullying or anti-social behaviour and Child to Parent Violence and Abuse;
- Difficulties forming or maintaining healthy relationships. This may include increased risk of Young People Experiencing Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse, either as victim or perpetrator;
- Difficulties maintaining healthy emotional or sexual boundaries. This may increase vulnerability to other abuse, including Child Sexual Exploitation.
For children living in situations of domestic abuse the effects may result in behavioural issues, absence from school, difficulties concentrating, lower school achievement, ill health, bullying, substance misuse, self-harm, running away, anti-social behaviour and physical injury. There is no definitive cycle of abuse but some children may be at greater risk of becoming a future perpetrator or victim of domestic abuse as a child or an adult.
During pregnancy domestic abuse can pose a threat to an unborn child as assaults on pregnant women often involve punches or kicks directed at the abdomen, risking injury to both the mother and the foetus.
Research has shown that unborn children are subject to physical harm and emotional distress from domestic abuse, causing damage to foetal development and increasing risk of miscarriage.
Physiological stress on a living or being in a abusive relationship will have an impact on the unborn foetus. Domestic abuse can start or escalate during pregnancy and it is associated with increased rates of miscarriage, premature birth, foetal injury and foetal death. The mother may be prevented from seeking or receiving anti-natal care or post-natal care or access to contraception or contraceptive services. In addition, if the mother is being abused this can affect her attachment to her child, more so if the pregnancy is a result of rape by her partner.
Young people can be subjected to domestic abuse perpetrated in order to force her/him
into marriage or to punish her/him for ‘bringing dishonour on the family’. This abuse may be carried out by several members of a family increasing the young person’s sense of isolation and powerlessness.
Research indicates from Smith et al (2011) that young women in the 16 to 24 age group are most at risk of being victims of domestic abuse, some of whom may be teenage mothers. Research by the University of Bristol and the NSPCC has also found that young people in the 13 to 16 age group are also vulnerable to abuse within relationships (see Barter, C. et al (2009) Partner Exploitation and Violence in Teenage Intimate Relationships).
Young people under 18 years should receive support and safeguarding in line with the Children Act 1989, the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 and the Children Act 2004.
If a young person who has disclosed domestic abuse or sexual abuse/violence -whether current or historical, first consider whether the young person is at immediate risk and in need of safeguarding
Young persons experiencing/involved in intimate partner abuse are equally protected by section 31(9) of the Children’s Act 1989, as amended by the Adoption and Children act 2002. Follow multi-agency procedures and your organisation’s standard operating procedures. Seek immediate managerial guidance and consider a safeguarding referral.
Referrals to specialist domestic abuse services for the young person experiencing abuse should always be carried out in communication with the young person to maximise opportunities for engagement. Specialist Domestic Abuse Services can also support with a MARAC referral where the Young person’s DASH identifies the young person is at high risk of immediate violence or homicide.
Where a DASH assessment identifies the young person is at high/ immediate risk of violence, a multi-agency response a referral to MARAC should be completed.
Any Practitioner who has completed Young person’s DASH should contact Children Duty and assessment where high risk has been identified. Consider whether the young person is at immediate risk and in need of safeguarding.
Children who are experiencing domestic abuse may benefit from a range of support and services; some may be suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm.
The three key imperatives of any intervention for children living with domestic abuse are:
- To protect the child/ren, including unborn child/ren;
- To empower the victim to protect themselves and their children;
- To hold the abusive partner accountable for the abuse and provide opportunities for change.
An understanding of social and cultural issues including faith and gender need to be taken into account. Racist or homophobic abuse may have been directed at the child or young person. They may be concerned about the impact of their actions and how it is viewed by the wider family or community. Children or adults with disabilities can be especially vulnerable. They may feel, and may have been encouraged to feel they are to blame for the abuse. They may not be able to move out of the way or may have difficulties in verbalising their distress.
Child/Adolescent To Parent Abuse
Domestic abuse can be experienced between family members regardless of gender or relationship. Child/adolescent to parent abuse is a common and often hidden form of family violence and abuse.
Child/adolescent to parent domestic abuse can be understood as a harmful act which is designed to gain power and control over a parent. The abuse can be physical, psychological, or financial.
Child to parent violence is an abuse of power through which the child or adolescent attempts to use coercive control and dominate others in the family and should not be confused with childhood testing of boundaries.
Parents may report the following:
- Threatening or using violence when their demands are not met. This may include damage to possessions and house fittings;
- Using psychological and emotional abuse to wear parents down - this might include attempts to degrade, humiliate or embarrass parents and other family members;
- Threatening they will leave home if you do not do what they want.
The presence of child/adolescent to parent abuse may indicate other risks including harm, trauma and dysfunction prompted by:
- Domestic abuse in the home – whether current or in the past;
- Mental health difficulties for parent or child/adolescent;
- Substance misuse issues amongst members of the household, including the adolescent;
- Children having been forced to participate in abuse by the perpetrator, whether as witnesses or having been encouraged to participate with the perpetrator;
- Negative external peer influence.
3. Perpetrators of Domestic Abuse
Accountability for the domestic abuse clearly lies with the perpetrator. In acknowledging the prevalence of domestic abuse it becomes clear that perpetrators cannot have the blanket excuse, or condemnation, of being 'sick' or 'disturbed'. Where issues of alcohol misuse, drug abuse or mental illness are contributing factors, these need to be addressed in terms of safety planning and work with the perpetrator.
Work needs to be undertaken which focuses on the power dynamics within the relationship. Anger management courses are rarely an appropriate response to domestic abuse as anger management is never the sole solution to domestic abuse. Support should also be offered simultaneously to victims to ensure that any intervention does not increase the risks to them or their children.
Perpetrators of domestic abuse are often very adept at manipulation and presenting a very different image in public or to workers. They may attempt to groom workers to switch attention to the behaviour of the victims from the behaviour and its consequences. Some may present as very amicable and caring, others as hostile and aggressive (see Working with Uncooperative and Hostile Families Procedure).
Workers need to be aware that children can be used (often intentionally) to retain control over victims and to continue the abuse. This presents the risk of further harm to the children as they are placed at the centre of the conflict.Workers should not attempt any form of informal mediation or reconciliation with the perpetrator, victim, family or community members.
Clarity about information sharing is essential and all agencies, including all refuge projects and non-statutory services, should ensure that in sharing information they do so in line with agreed local protocols (see Information Sharing Procedure).
Practitioners should consider their efforts might trigger an escalation of violence and should only raise the issue with the child or adult victim when they are safely on their own. It is essential when working with children and families to be realistic and honest about the limits of confidentiality.
In some cases a child may be in need of immediate protection and a referral will need to be made to Children's Social Care Services. See Referrals Procedure.
When a referral is made to Children's Social Care Services, there must be clarity about who in the family is aware that a referral is to be made (All professionals must confirm verbal andtelephone referrals in writing within 24 hours of being made). Any contact by Children's Social Care Services to such referrals should be discreet and should not further endanger the victim(s) and children in the family.
5. Good Practice: Recording Your Decision Making Process
It is essential to keep a clear record of your involvement with any service user who may have disclosed domestic abuse, or where abuse was suspected. Record keeping should include evidencing adherence to proactive information sharing and rationale for resulting actions.
Practitioners should also evidence proactive information sharing and adherence to multi- agency procedures.In the event of a Serious Case Review or Domestic Homicide Review, agencies are required to demonstrate defensible decision making and account for their role in the identification and management of risk.
6. Addressing Concerns that Domestic Abuse or Abuse is or may be Occurring
Practitioners in all agencies are in a position to identify or receive a disclosure from a child, victim or abuser about domestic abuse. Practitioners should be alert to the signs that a child or adult(s) may be experiencing domestic abuse, or that a partner/family member(s) may be perpetrating domestic abuse. A disclosure may be prompted during routine questioning or be unprompted. Practitioners should never assume that somebody else is addressing the issue of domestic abuse. This may be the child, adult victim, or perpetrator's first or only disclosure which enables an assessment of the risks of harm to be initiated.
Practitioners will work with many victims who are experiencing domestic abuse and have not disclosed. Practitioners should therefore, in conducting assessments, consider the need to offer children and adults the opportunity of being seen alone and ask whether they are experiencing, or have previously experienced, domestic abuse.
Concerns about domestic abuse may also be reported to a practitioner by a third party such as extended family member, neighbour or community member. Information from the public, family or community members must be taken sufficiently seriously by practitioners in statutory and voluntary agencies and responded to in accordance with these procedures.
Practitioners who are in contact with people who are threatening or abusive to them need to be mindful that these individuals may also be abusive in their personal relationships and include this in their assessment.
Behaviour which may indicate domestic abuse:
- Injuries without explanation (normally people will volunteer an explanation);
- Injuries which are minimised or concealed;
- A partner who is unwilling to allow a patient or client to be alone with Practitioners;
- A patient or client who appears passive and dominated by their partner;
- Anxiety, depression and being withdrawn, particularly if this is not usual for the patient or client.
Practitioners in contact with children and families who identify that there are, or have been domestic abuse incidents or issues, need to consider the level of domestic abuse in relation to the behaviours used, the severity, frequency and duration of the abuse. This will indicate the length of time that children may have been exposed to trauma and abuse.
The victim(s) experiencing the abuse will usually be well placed to predict the risks faced and the likelihood of further abuse but might minimise. The DASH Risk assessment is to be completed in all cases whether it is a child or adult. The DASH Identification and Risk Assessment model is a nationally recognised and approved, victim focused model, which identifies the risk to the victim as standard, medium or high. If identified through this tool as high risk of homicide or serious injury, a referral should be made to the local Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC). Risk is dynamic, can change rapidly and may increase or decrease as circumstances change.
Practitioners working in universal services have a responsibility to identify the symptoms and triggers of abuse and neglect, to share that information and work together to provide children and young people with the help they need. Practitioners need to continue to develop their knowledge and skills in this area. They should have access to training to identify and respond early to abuse and neglect, and to the latest research showing what types of interventions are the most effective.
Information to support the process of assessing risk is documented in Early Help Assessment Procedure. It involves identifying a lead professional where appropriate, and sharing information to avoid duplication of assessments. This also reduces the need for children or their families to re-tell their story to different practitioners. The Lead Professional (LP) is the person responsible for co-ordinating the actions identified in the
assessment process and being a single point of contact for children with additional needs being supported by more than one practitioner.
For information on referrals and contacts see:
- Thresholds for Access to Services for Children and Families in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Children's Social Care Procedure;
- Referrals Procedure; and
- Local Contacts.
Early Help Services can explore and assess any concerns that practitioners may have about children or young people. An Early Help Assessment can be used to consider the degree of exposure of each child in the family to the domestic abuse, the impact on them, the risks involved, and the protective factors bearing in mind the ages of the children. This should include physical and emotional impact, and the effect on parenting capacity, as well as any other risks posed by the perpetrator. Prior to beginning any assessment the practitioner should check through local multi-agency arrangements to see if any other agency has already completed an assessment and plan for the family. If not, with the consent of the family, the assessment should be completed. Where parent/carers do not consent to an Early Help Assessment should follow local procedures to discuss with / escalate to social care services.
The professional should share information with relevant multi-agency practitioners, convene or attend a multi-agency Early Help Assessment meeting and consider what their own agency can contribute as part of any multi-agency Early Help Assessment interventions. A child in this situation will have additional needs, as defined within the Thresholds for Access to Services for Children and Families in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Children's Social Care Procedure. The child/ren and their parent / carers are likely to need family support interventions offered by more than one agency, which are co- ordinated by a lead professional. The intervention and support may also include Children's Social Care Services planning via an assessment.
Planning must also include safety planning for the child/ren and victim and consideration of referral to an appropriate resource for the perpetrator if there is an acceptance of abuse, responsibility and willingness to engage with services to address abusive behaviour.
Unborn babies and those under 12 months old are particularly vulnerable to violence. Practitioners, who become aware of any incident of domestic abuse in a family with a child under 12 months old (even if the child was not present) or in families where a woman is pregnant, should make a Referral to Children's Social Care Services. For more information see Referrals Procedure.
Where children or young people may be suffering or be at risk of suffering Significant Harm, Strategy Meeting/Discussions should be considered in all cases and it may require a Section 47 Enquiry. Intervention and support for the child/ren and the victim will require Children's Social Care Services planning via an assessment. Practitioners should make a record of their assessment and the information which underpins it and inform their line manager and contact Children's Social Care Services to make a referral. Please see Referrals Procedure.
In all cases where a referral is made for a Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) to plan an intervention; if there are children in the family a referral must be made to Children's Social Care Services.
Practitioners will undertake an assessment and if a threat to the child's safety is identified at any stage refer to Children's Social Care Services. A referral will always be made where:
- The child made the original call (usually to the Police);
- The child has been injured;
- The child has been used as a shield;
- Any incident of domestic abuse in a family with a child under 12months (even if the child was not present);
- A pregnant woman is involved;
- The victim is assessed as High Risk on a DASH assessment and there is a child in the household;
- A multi-agency risk assessment conference (MARAC) is convened and there are children in the household;
- Any other circumstances, which are judged by a professional to warrant a referral.
In addition, in situations where any persons in a household where children live display intimidating or threatening behaviour towards Practitioners the possible impact of this type of behaviour should always be considered within the assessment of risk to the children. For further information please see Referrals Procedure.
When assessing harm and the needs of children or young people living with domestic abuse, the following questions should be considered:
- Frequency and severity of the abuse, how recent and where it took place;
- Whether the child was present or has ever been present when abuse has occurred;
- The age and vulnerability of the child;
- What does the child do when the abuse is happening?
- Has the child ever intervened, or are they likely to in future?
- Has the child been physically threatened or sustained any injury?
- The child’s description of the effects upon them, their siblings, and upon their parent/carer;
- Is the child being made to participate in or witness acts of abuse against their parent/carer/other family members?
- Is the child used physically or emotionally to exert control over their parent/carer/other family members?
- Is the non-abusing parent/carer able to meet the child/ren’s immediate and longer term needs?
- Has the victim(s) and/or child/ren been locked in the house or prevented from leaving it?
- Is the abuse connected with any other factors that undermine parenting capacity (such as alcohol or substance misuse or mental health)?
- Have any weapons been used or has there ever been a threat to use a weapon?
- Is actual or threatened ill treatment of animals used to control the child/ren and or other parent / carer/other family members?
- Has physical abuse or threats been directed towards a pregnant woman and her unborn child?
Throughout the assessment process and within any services being provided the needs of the child must not become overshadowed by the focus on the adults and the range of services being provided must include support and services for the children in the family.
The assessment should include contact with a range of support services such as refuge projects and the voluntary sector.
The GP is often the first point of contact with families in which domestic abuse takes place although the Ambulance Service and Accident and Emergency Departments can also often be involved as a first point of contact.
When responding to incidents of abuse, the agency in question should always find out if there are any children in the household or any children who would normally live in the household. The Police or other agencies should exercise judgement in determining whether it is safe to leave the scene of the incident without having seen the children.
6.2 Assessing the Needs of Children and Young People in Contact with Perpetrators of Domestic Abuse and Assessing Risk
In situations when the victim has left the perpetrator(s) taking the child/ren, Practitioners need to be alert to the ongoing potential for risk. The dynamics of domestic abuse are based on the perpetrator maintaining power and control over their partner. Challenges to that power and control, for example, by separation, increase the likelihood of escalating violence. Statistically the period following separation is the most dangerous time for serious injury and death. Practitioners in contact with children and their families in these circumstances may decide that an Early Help referral is required (for more information see Section 6.1, Assessing the Needs of Children and Young People Living with Domestic Abuse and Managing Risk).
The following should be considered:
- The previous level of physical danger to the victim and in particular the presence of the child during violent episodes;
- The previous pattern of power, control and intimidation in addition to the physical violence;
- The level of coercive or manipulative behaviour of the partner/family member(s) who were violent;
- Any threats to hurt or kill family members; threats could also extend to any victim support networks and new partner and/or abduct the child/ren;
- Any information about parental drug or alcohol misuse, or poor mental health;
- Any reported stalking or obsession by the perpetrator(s) in connection with the separated partner or the family;
- The motivation of the perpetrator(s) in seeking/ maintaining contact with the child/ren - is it a desire to promote the child’s best interest or as a means of continuing intimidation, harassment or violence to the adult victim(s);
- The child/ren’s views about contact and whether they have any worries about the contact taking place;
- Has there been a safe decision regarding the arrangements for contact including location;
- The likely or reported behaviour of the perpetrator(s) during contact and its effect on the child;
- The perpetrator(s) level of care and supervision of the child/ren in the past;
- The attitude of the perpetrator(s) to their past abuse and capacity to appreciate its effect and whether they are motivated and have the capacity to change;
- Be alert to cultural issues when dealing with victims from different communities who because they have left a partner may be ostracised by family, friends and the wider community increasing the risks to their safety. In all cases consider so called Honour Based Abuse.
6.3 Responding To Child/Adolescent To Parent Domestic Abuse
Where child/adolescent to parent abuse is disclosed, there are a number of immediate actions which should be considered. It is recommended that families are referred to the Children and Families Service, which can assess the immediate risk to all family members, which includes any siblings in the home.
Workers may identify separate safeguarding risks for adults in the family, which may prompt a specific Safeguarding Adult's Referral. Effective safeguarding is achieved when agencies share information to obtain an accurate picture of the risk and then work together to ensure that the safety of the adult at risk is prioritised. In high-risk situations it may be relevant to access the multi-agency risk assessment conference (MARAC) process.
Children and adolescents using dominant and coercive behaviours may be experiencing a range of challenges and anxieties, which left unaddressed, may impact upon the immediate safety and wellbeing of parents and children in the household. Left unchecked, behaviours may also escalate in future to intimate partner abuse, continuing the cycle of abuse.
Referral and support options should be made available for the parent, including Referral to Specialist Domestic Abuse Assistance. Parents experiencing this form of abuse may however be reluctant to seek help, fearing judgement from agencies or negative consequences for their child. Parents may also feel out of options or when they have attempted to reach out in the past, agencies may have offered unhelpful or contradictory advice.
Domestic abuse in any context can escalate swiftly, leading to immediate harm and lifelong consequences for all concerned. Practical measures must always be taken to minimise harm and manage risk.
6.4 Assessing and Managing the Risks to Victims
The Serious Crime Act 2015 created a new offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in intimate or familial relationships. Controlling or coercive behaviour does not relate to a single incident, it is a purposeful pattern of behaviour which takes place over time in order for one individual to exert power, control or coercion over another. Such behaviours might include:
- Isolating a person from their friends and family;
- Depriving them of their basic needs;
- Monitoring their time;
- Monitoring a person via online communication tools or using spyware;
- Taking control over aspects of their everyday life, such as where they can go, who they can see, what to wear and when they can sleep;
- Depriving them of access to support services, such as specialist support or medical services;
- Repeatedly putting them down such as telling them they are worthless;
- Enforcing rules and activity which humiliate, degrade or dehumanise the victim;
- Forcing the victim to take part in criminal activity such as shoplifting, neglect or abuse of children to encourage self-blame and prevent disclosure to authorities;
- Financial abuse including control of finances, such as only allowing a person a punitive allowance;
- Threats to hurt or kill;
- Threats to a child;
- Threats to reveal or publish private information (e.g. threatening to ‘out’ someone).
- Criminal damage (such as destruction of household goods);
- Preventing a person from having access to transport or from working.
All agencies should use DASH to identify risk to victims of Domestic Violence and Abuse, stalking, harassment and so called Honour Based Violence. In households where there are children and assessments for the victim is high a referral will be made to Children’s Social Care Services and also MARAC (NB: that other qualifying criteria may also apply for MARAC. Please see Resources for Marac Meetings for more information).
There are many risk assessment models and 'tools' available for persons experiencing domestic abuse. Leicestershire Police, specialist domestic abuse agencies and some other agencies use the Domestic Abuse and Harassment and Honour Based Abuse (DASH) Identification and Risk Assessment Model. This is a victim focus model which identifies the
risk to the victim as Standard, Medium or High. In households where there are children and the assessment for the victim is High Risk a referral will be made to Children's Social Care Services. In very high risk cases the victim(s) should also be referred to the MARAC.
Considerations in assessments where domestic abuse is suspected include:
- Asking direct questions about domestic abuse;
- Checking whether domestic abuse has occurred whenever child abuse is suspected and considering the impact of this at all stages of assessment, enquiries and intervention;
- Identifying those who are responsible for domestic abuse, in order that relevant family law or criminal justice responses may be made;
- Providing victims with full information about their legal rights, and about the extent and limits of statutory duties and powers;
- Helping victims and children to get protection from abuse, by providing relevant practical and other assistance;
- Supporting non-abusing parents/carers in making safe choices for themselves and their children;
- Taking into account that there may be continued or increased risk of domestic abuse towards the abused parent/carer and/or child after separation especially in connection with post-separation child contact arrangements;
- Working separately with each parent/carer where domestic abuse prevents the victim from speaking freely and participating without fear of retribution;
- Working with parents/carers to help them understand the impact of the domestic abuseon their children.
7. Referral to Children’s Social Care
Whenever a professional becomes concerned that a child is, or may be, suffering or likely to suffer significant harm, a referral must be made to Children’s Social Care Services in accordance with the Referrals Procedure.
One serious or several seemingly lesser incidents of domestic abuse where there is a child in the household means that Children’s Social Care Services should carry out an Assessment of the child and family, including consulting existing records.
Children’s Social Care Services may assess the child/ren to be child/ren in need, and offer services under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989. However, child protection intervention
(i.e. under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989) may be necessary if the threshold of Significant Harm is reached. Children’s Social Care Services will convene a multi-agency meeting following the appropriate level of assessment and initiate safety planning for the child/ren and victim.
8. Managing Risks in Child Protection Conferences
Where a Child Protection Conference is held, the Conference Chair, in consultation with the Practitioners, must assess the risks carefully in relation to the participation of the violent or oppressive persons, the non-violent persons and the child/ren. See Initial Child Protection Conferences Procedure.
It is not only issues of safety at the Conference itself but any travel arrangements before and after as well as the contents and addresses (including schools) on the minutes of the meeting which may pose a risk if disclosed.
A careful approach to the disclosure of information should be adopted with the records of all meetings, i.e. Core Group, Planning meetings, etc.All arrangements to contact family members that are made as part of any plan for the child, must be carefully assessed bearing in mind the safety of the children and the non-abusing parent/carer. The referrals should be appropriate concerning interventions and ensure that preparatory work is allocated where it is necessary to ensure that best possible outcome can be achieved.
9. Safety of Practitioners Working with Domestic Abuse
Professional should speak with their manager and follow their own agency’s guidance for staff safety.
Care must be taken to assess any potential risks to Practitioners, carers, foster carers or other staff who are involved in providing services to a family where domestic abuse is, or has occurred. This includes support services offered to a victim(s) or child following separation.
If someone intends to visit or collect the child’s belongings from the family home where the abusive persons reside or have access, it should never be the case that one person does so on their own. A risk assessment should be undertaken and the assistance of the Police may be required. Managers should ensure good supervision takes place with practitioners and
also offer clinical supervision with appropriately trained Practitioners, trained in the impact of working with domestic abuse and risk management.
10. Domestic Violence Protection Orders and the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme
10.1 Domestic Violence Protection Orders
Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs) were implemented across England and Wales from 8 March 2014.
They provide protection to victims by enabling the Police and magistrates to put in place protection in the immediate aftermath of a domestic abuse incident.
With DVPOs, a perpetrator can be banned with immediate effect from returning to a residence and from having contact with the victim for up to 28 days, allowing the victim time to consider their options and get the support they need.
10.2 Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (‘Clare’s Law’)
The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS) (also known as ‘Clare’s Law’) commenced in England and Wales on 8 March 2014. The DVDS is a formal mechanism to make enquires about an individual who they are in a relationship with, or who is in a relationship with someone they know, where there is a concern that the individual may be violent towards their partner. This scheme adds a further dimension to the information sharing about children where there are concerns that domestic abuse is impacting on the care and welfare of the children in the family.
Members of the public can make an application for a disclosure, known as the ‘right to ask’. Anybody can make an enquiry, but information will only be given to someone at risk or a person in a position to safeguard the victim. The scheme is for anyone in an intimate relationship regardless of gender.
Partner agencies can also request disclosure is made of an offender’s past history where it is believed someone is at risk of harm. This is known as ‘right to know’.
If a potentially violent individual is identified as having convictions for violent offences, or information is held about their behaviour which reasonably leads the Police and other agencies to believe they pose a risk of harm to their partner, the Police will consider disclosing the information. A disclosure can be made if it is legal, proportionate and necessary to do so.
For further information, see Domestic Abuse Disclosure Scheme (Clare's Law) - Leicestershire Police.
Appendix A: What Works: Safety and Risk Assessment
Particular reference should be made to the guidance in the Thresholds for Access to Services for Children and Families in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Children's Social Care Procedure and the associated Early Help Assessment Procedure. Information to support the process of assessing risk and this should be clearly documented in the Early Help Assessment process. It involves identifying a lead professional where appropriate, and sharing information to avoid duplication of assessments. This also reduces the need for children or their families to re-tell their story to different practitioners. The Lead Professional (LP) is the person responsible for co-ordinating the actions identified in the assessment process and being a single point of contact for children with additional needs being supported by more than one practitioner.
Safety planning work within domestic abuse can be approached in different ways and at different levels depending on the circumstances and time available. It can be as narrow or as wide as circumstances allow - i.e. focussed on crisis planning, or work to establish safety in the long term.
Information sharing is critical to building a comprehensive picture of the level of risk.
Victims presenting as high risk of serious injury or death should be referred to the local Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA) service or to the Police and will be referred through the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) process. MARACs are now held routinely to hear listings of the high risk cases of domestic abuse that have been identified in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. The agencies represented at the MARAC will then develop a safety plan for each case that has been presented. Many of these cases involve individuals with children.
The risks to victims increase at the point of separation and after leaving. Work can be done with the victim/survivor of domestic abuse to make a plan of action for quickly escaping a dangerous situation. Plans that involve collecting the children from a person at a later date may not be safe.
Consider asking the following questions:
- What things are you worried about right now?
- If you stay, how do you think things will be?
- If you left or tried to leave do you think that would make things better or worse? How?
Other considerations to explore include:
- Financial (resources, income, employment history);
- Home locations (are resources available, where are family and friends?);
- Physical and mental health (do these limit the options?);
- Perception or experiences of social institutions (positive or negative);
- Risk to pets that may not be able to leave with victim;
- Immigration status. The plan should include:
- Identifying a safe place to go;
- Identifying a safe place for children to go if they cannot go with the victim;
- Putting money aside for bus/taxi fares, telephone calls, food, overnight accommodation;
- Telling a professional or trusted neighbour about the situation;
- Getting copies of, or placing important information somewhere safe;
- Putting a change of clothes and other essential items, such as medication, somewhere safe where they can be retrieved easily if the victim and children/others have to leave in a hurry.
Some victims may take years to leave an abusive relationship or may never be in a position to leave and safety plans should take this into account. See What happens if the person chooses not to access support?
Children and Safety Planning
Work on safety planning can be helpful for children and young people, including an assessment of what mechanisms they are already putting into place to manage their situation. Assessments can be made on what action the child or young person already does when they perceive a dangerous or uncomfortable situation and direct to be completed by lead professionals ensuring that the voice of the child/ren is made clear within any assessment. Clear statements need to be made about the domestic violence not being their responsibility and that they need to take steps to cover their own safety first and foremost rather than thinking of intervening.