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Longer-term approach needed to prevent and reduce domestic abuse, says new report

Inspectors call for ‘more systematic focus’ on perpetrators’ behaviour

A longer-term approach is necessary to prevent and reduce domestic abuse, says a report which has examined how well agencies are working together locally to help and protect children.  The report emphasises that this is more than a task for agencies individually, and requires a societal change in the conceptualisation of domestic abuse among professionals, and between individuals in the public domain. It concludes that while much good work is being done to protect children and victims, far too little is being done to prevent domestic abuse and repair the damage that it does.

The report also says that change must start with a more systematic focus on perpetrators' behaviour and preventing their abuse of their victims. By not taking this step forward, the cost to victims and children, and to the public purse, will remain high.

The report, by Ofsted, Care Quality Commission, HMI Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, and HMI Probation considers the extent to which, in the six local authorities inspected – Bradford, Hampshire, Hounslow, Lincolnshire, Salford and Wiltshire – children's social care, health professionals, the police and probation officers were effective in safeguarding children who live with domestic abuse.

According to the report, there needs to be a public service message aimed at reducing the prevalence of domestic abuse as part of a long-term strategy. The focus of this public service message needs to be on those perpetrators who have offended or might offend, and to communicate a better understanding of the behaviour and attitudes of those perpetrating abuse. The focus of agencies on the immediate crisis leads to them not focusing enough on the perpetrator of the abuse. Instead, they focused on removing the family from the perpetrator, leaving them to move on to another family and, potentially, a repeated pattern of abuse.

More thought needs to be given to how local areas can collectively supply the emotional, psychological and practical support that is needed to help children and victims – or families that have stayed together – get safe, stay safe and move on to reach their full potential.

There is still a lack of clarity about how to navigate the complexities of information sharing. There needs to be greater consistency in the definition of harm, and in the understanding of whose rights to prioritise.

However, inspectors were generally positive about the range of services that address domestic abuse and its impact on victims and children.

They highlighted midwifery as a strength by inspectors in five out of six local authority areas. Midwives were knowledgeable about the risks of domestic abuse and the additional risks to unborn children, and generally engaged well with mothers and worked effectively with other agencies to protect children.

Inspectors noted strengths in working with communities and minority groups in some local authorities. For example, they highlighted in one authority provision of specialist domestic abuse services to male victims and LGBT groups.

For the report, click here. For coverage in The Independent, click here.

21/9/17