Government details full scale of domestic violence impact on children

By Neil Puffett

| 23 February 2016

Close to 200,000 initial child protection assessments during 2014/15 involved domestic violence as an identifiable factor, the government has said.

A total of 1.35 million women experienced domestic abuse in 2014/15. Picture: David McCullough

Figures released in parliament show that there were 197,700 assessments where domestic violence was identified by social workers as a “relevant factor”.

The government has said it is working to address the impact of domestic abuse on children and will publish a refreshed cross-government Violence Against Women and Girls strategy “shortly”.

The figures were revealed by Home Office minister Karen Bradley in response to a parliamentary question by Labour MP for Coventry South Jim Cunningham.

Bradley said that, in total, 1.35 million women experienced domestic abuse in 2014/15. This is fractionally down on 2013/14, and represents a 21 per cent decrease on the 1.71 million women who experienced domestic violence in 2004/05.

She also cited Office for National Statistics figures showing that, in 2014/15, in 46 per cent of cases of partner abuse, a child was present in the household, of which 20 per cent of children saw or heard the abuse.
 
“The government works closely with charities, academics and statutory agencies to assess and address the impact of domestic abuse on children and wholly recognises the life-changing impact domestic abuse can have on the lives of children,” Bradley said.

“Improvements have been made to the police response to domestic abuse, and we are supporting multi-agency working, which takes a whole family approach.

"Government will shortly publish a refreshed cross-government Violence Against Women and Girls strategy setting out how it will do more to support victims and their children."

Jenny Coles, chair of the families, communities and young people policy committee at the Association of Directors of Children's Services, said its own research conducted in November 2014 shows that domestic abuse, parental mental health and substance misuse are all significant presenting issues in child protection assessments and common reasons why children are taken into care.

"Child protection work is complex and no one should underestimate how hard local authorities are working, together with our partners in the police, health services and the voluntary sector to raise awareness of the effects of domestic abuse and protect vulnerable families," she said.

"This is something councils take very seriously and in my own local authority, in Hertfordshire, all of the key agencies involved in dealing with domestic abuse have created a joint strategy to improve the way we tackle it and provide support to victims.

"But the ‘toxic trio’ is sadly becoming more prevalent in our society and work with families, not less.”

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