The House of Lords Public Services Select Committee is conducting an inquiry into whether reforming public services can address the growing child vulnerability crisis.
Based on our work with children and young people, we submitted a response calling for better understanding and coordination from public services that intervene and support survivors of domestic abuse.
Training on all forms of domestic abuse as defined in the Domestic Abuse Bill should be mandatory for social work qualifications, and periodically updated through continuing professional development. Domestic abuse is the most common factor identified in assessments of children in need of children’s social care services but training is variable and can lead to social workers putting children at risk because they do not understand perpetrator behaviour.
Safeguarding training for schools should also include mandatory training on domestic abuse and safeguarding designates should be informed of children’s social care safeguarding cases. Safeguarding training, which is statutory, does not have to include training on domestic abuse yet teachers can (and often do) play a crucial role in identifying the signs of abuse and intervening. Operation Encompass is an improvement on communication between the police and schools, but most domestic abuse is not reported to the police.
NHS trusts should ensure staff in maternity units receive regular training on routine enquiry and support for domestic abuse survivors. Domestic violence is the leading cause of foetal death. Maternity services are required to make routine enquiries but we know from our service users that mandatory routine enquiry is still not being done correctly.
Commissioners of domestic abuse services should budget for specialist support for children and young people in those services. We supported 1,392 children in our services in 2019/20. Of the nearly 200 children in our refuges in December 2020, around 30% had children’s services involvement. Upon leaving refuge, many of those mothers had increased their parenting capacity and increased their understanding of the impact of domestic abuse on parenting as a result of parenting workshops they had accessed in the refuge.
Agencies should base their ways of working, communication and data-sharing for children assessed as in need and early help on how they approach children with protection plans. When children are on a child protection plan the coordination between responsible agencies tends to be much better than when children are assessed as being in need, though practice varies. The Government should make clear that sharing information in order to safeguard children is always legitimate within the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).
If you’re interested in our work with children and young people contact Erin Mansell, Public Affairs Manager: [email protected]