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Children and Families Experiencing Domestic Violence: Police and Children’s Services Responses Nicky Stanley, Pam Miller, Helen Richardson-Foster and Gill.

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Presentation on theme: "Children and Families Experiencing Domestic Violence: Police and Children’s Services Responses Nicky Stanley, Pam Miller, Helen Richardson-Foster and Gill."— Presentation transcript:

1 Children and Families Experiencing Domestic Violence: Police and Children’s Services Responses Nicky Stanley, Pam Miller, Helen Richardson-Foster and Gill Thomson University of Central Lancashire University of Central Lancashire

2 Background to the Study 2002 - Children’s exposure to domestic violence incorporated into ‘significant harm’ criteria in England & Wales 2002 - Children’s exposure to domestic violence incorporated into ‘significant harm’ criteria in England & Wales Guidance emphasising need for interagency communication and coordination Guidance emphasising need for interagency communication and coordination Explosion in police notifications to children’s social work services Explosion in police notifications to children’s social work services Fragmented service response to children and families experiencing domestic violence Fragmented service response to children and families experiencing domestic violence

3 About the Research 2007-09  Stage 1: Capturing children’s, survivors’ and perpetrators’ views  Stage 2: Tracking professional practice in 2 sites – police and children’s services  251 Notifications tracked  Interviews with 56 practitioners  Stage 3: Postal survey of LSCBs

4 More information and explanations for young people   Young people felt excluded or ignored when police intervened in domestic violence incidents and wanted more information and explanations: When my dad came round and he started kicking off, the police come round and they arrested him, they took a statement of my mum and that's it, they don't …they didn't say to us what happened if he was going to be released the next day or - we didn't find out anything. (Dawn, Young People’s Focus Group 4)

5 Being listened to and believed She [police officer] was really helpful, she spoke to me rather than just my mum, she was the one that gave us the number for the NSPCC. She was just good at listening to us and that. (Nicola, Young People’s Focus Group 1) And I told them what was happening to me and it was such a nightmare. And I could tell, they were just looking at me and thinking you are lying. (Pearl, Survivor) They listened to me, they listened to me and they took into the fact of what had occurred in the background in the past and what have you. (Craig, Perpetrator)

6 Feeling safe Children and survivors wanted to feel safe, wanted perpetrator to be removed from home immediately and to know what would happen next: When they come straight away, they could like take him away straight away, instead of waiting around and everything and listening to sides, just … they should be taken away because a mum or child wouldn't call 999 just to get a dad taken away for no reason. (Louis, Young People’s Focus Group 5)

7 Support with Contact Arrangements “most of the reasons that the arguments were caused was that mum didn’t like talking to my dad, and she had no other way of contacting him … and that if the social were there they could have sorted it out.” (Dawn, Young People’s Group 4) …all his dad were interested in was questioning [our son] whether I had a boyfriend, where we were living, where was the refuge. …and these people that volunteer…they haven’t got the ability to say “hang on a minute mate, you shouldn’t be asking that”. I know of places that are run by social services that mums and dads go to visit their children, and social workers are covering over. And I wanted something like that. (Sarah, Survivor)

8 The wake up call for perpetrators Perpetrators experienced police intervention as a wake-up call and highlighted the potential for police to signpost perpetrators to relevant services: ….they brought me in and they cautioned me and this ….made me realise that before that I had blinkers on….They shook me up, what I was doing with my son. (Patrick, Perpetrator)

9 Police Data Findings: Sample characteristics  Jan 2007 - 251 (236 families) incidents between intimate partners that involved notification to Children’s Services  Notifications to Children’s Services - 33% of all domestic violence incidents  87% of incidents took place at home, just over 50% involved ex-partners

10 Police Data Findings: Children witnessing violence   Children present in just under 80% of incidents   Nearly a third of children involved under 3   61% of children witnessed the incident directly   Levels of violence were more likely to be high when children were present at an incident than when they were not

11 Police Data Findings: Access to children/child contact Incidents occurred in context of child contact visits or when perpetrator was seeking access to the house/ children: Father was watching his three year old child and needed to go somewhere. He contacted mother (ex-partner) to come and collect child. When she said she couldn’t make it back quickly, father threatened to ‘box your face’ if he had to take the child to her. Father has made threats in past, but never acted upon them, so mother ignored threat. When father brought child to mother in public shopping area, he punched her in the face three times, knocking her down. When she tried to fight back, father punched her again and then left. #37

12 Police Data Findings: Children’s involvement   Children direct objects of violence/abuse in few incidents, more often caught in the cross-fire   Police reports provided limited detail of children’s involvement, but some detailed extent to which children observed violence or described their distress: A mother called police due to her husband being extremely drunk. Police arrived to find clothes thrown around residence, but no indication of a physical assault. A six year old witnessed the incident and police recorded that the child was ‘upset and crying’. #99

13 Police Data Findings: Who made the call?   Most calls to police made by victims. Children made 11 calls. An 11 year old called the police at 5:34pm on Monday evening. His parents had been arguing about behaviour of an older child and the argument became heated. The 11 year old became frightened and called the police. The police responded within 15 minutes, and found everyone calm. #189 A 5 year old called the police at 1:59am on Thursday morning. His step-father became angry with his mother for not coming up to bed when he did. He punched the mother and threatened to hurt the children if she did not come up. He retracted threat, but mother put children in bathroom for safety and went to get knife to protect herself and children. Step-father took knife from mother, cutting himself, and proceeded to punch and push mother. Mother was knocked out during the assault. While the step-father and other children tried to get mother to wake up, the five year old called the police. #32

14 Police Data Findings: Engaging with children   Little evidence of police engaging with children   Half officers interviewed expressed some reluctance about talking directly to children   No information provided for children …. it's not something that's done as often as you would probably think. (Frontline Officer 8) …. if you can avoid bringing the children in that’s what you look to do because it’s a drain on our numbers and our people. (Frontline Officer 1) I would probably have to say that they don’t [talk to children], probably because they wouldn’t know how to …. (Supervising Officer 2)

15 Children’s Services: Notification pathways

16 Children’s Services Data : Characteristics of notified cases  Most families had little/no prior contact with Children’s Services  40% of families in sample had no prior contact  26% had minimal prior contact (previous referral or notifications closed no further action)  19 cases – already open - notification triggered a substantial service for only 5% (n=9) of sample

17 Children’s Services Data: factors determining pathways   Unless case already open, chances of notified family receiving an intervention low, unless children under 12 months.   Notifications that conveyed the severity of an incident by reporting injuries might trigger a service if the family was already known   Over half the families where an adult was injured did not receive a service.   All those cases where children were injured received a service

18 Children’s Services Data: Letters   No differences between NFA group and Letters only group re renotification – over half families in both groups renotified I think it’s a bit discriminatory if we say that the mum’s duty is to protect the children… (Initial Assessment Manager 2) …it's alerting people, if you don’t want social services involved in your family…then they need to address it, and, to some extent, I think it is a good idea. (Initial Assessment Social Worker 2)

19 Children’s Services Data : Cases with high levels of intervention   Most families following a family support or safeguarding pathway characterised by multiple and complex problems   Social workers talked directly with children when assessing or intervening, and described undertaking safety planning with both children and victims   Families directed to range of services: domestic violence services, health and education services, but shortfall in perpetrator programmes reported

20 Interagency Collaboration Limited CS communication with police beyond that contained in notifications and formal meetings Health visitors involved in collaborative work - links appeared stronger Health visitors involved in collaborative work - links appeared stronger when health services copied in to notifications Specialist dv services – seen as relieving demands on CS. Limited evidence of collaboration between social workers and these agencies

21 Children’s Services Data Findings: Working with perpetrators   Not all social workers saw this as their role: As a general rule, I personally don't ever get involved with the perpetrator… (Initial Assessment Worker 2) I've heard it said we don't work with perpetrators in social work and I struggle with that really, you know, and I don't think you can ever say we don't work with perpetrators …if they're part of the family unit and if that risk can be managed and if that person is open to change. (Child Protection Manager 2)

22 Children’s Services Data: Safeguarding   Safeguarding service described as likely when:   parents struggled to acknowledge domestic violence and its impact on children   stigma made for unwillingness to engage with social workers on a voluntary basis.   ‘Duty to Protect’ - Social workers uncomfortable about pressuring mothers to protect children, but argued that need to prioritise children’s safety left few options when mothers unwilling/unable to separate from abusive partners

23 Children’s Services Data: Patterns of intervention   Interventions characterised by ‘stop-start’ pattern - families with repeat notifications receiving repeated assessments   Intervention often withdrawn when families informed social workers that they had separated   Those cases which received substantial intervention and where children remained living at home with both parents 18 months after the sample notification were likely to be those where father as well as mother had engaged with services

24 Conclusions  Notifications bring domestic violence to forefront for Children’s Services, but few additional resources to meet this new demand  Most notifications: no service, repeat notifications serve to push families towards Children’s Services threshold  Letters alone: ineffective as means of managing demand  Safeguarding rather than family support interventions  Stop-start interventions: over-emphasis on whether couple have separated – need for long-term, low- level support and monitoring for some families

25 Key Recommendations  Children’s Services to review value of letters - do they act to promote engagement?  Children’s Services to address SWs’ skills in working with perpetrators  Separation should not be equated with safety  Specialist dv and universal services to contribute to early interventions – supervised access services?

26 Accessing the report Available on NSPCC website at: ngs/children_experiencing_domestic_violence_ wda68549.html ngs/children_experiencing_domestic_violence_ wda68549.html For further information contact: Nicky Stanley:

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