Family Law Week Email SubscriptionCoram Chambers1 Garden CourtAlpha Biolabs

Helping families ‘open up about domestic violence needs to be a public health priority’

NICE says that NHS has important role in identifying victims

Helping children and families open up about experiencing domestic violence needs to be a public health priority, experts from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have warned.

NICE has set out how NHS staff can have a more active role in spotting and responding to victims of domestic violence. NICE says staff across the NHS can help pick up potential victims of domestic violence. This could be the receptionist in a doctor's surgery, or a physiotherapist treating a recurring knee injury, or ambulance staff who pick up a victim after an attack.

At a conference held in London, public health experts met to discuss the latest evidence on the effects of domestic violence to families and how NICE guidance can help.

More than 940,000 domestic violence incidents were reported to the police in England and Wales last year. In one in five cases victims admitted that their children saw or heard the attack in their home.

Professor Gene Feder from the University of Bristol, who has been involved in developing NICE guidance on domestic violence, opened the conference.

He said:

"Almost half of all people who report domestic abuse have children. Even if they escape being hurt directly, witnessing abuse can still have lasting physical and emotional effects on a child or young person.

"They may suffer from bed wetting, insomnia, depression or anxiety. They are also at increased risk of experiencing or perpetrating domestic violence as adults.

"The true number of children who are exposed to domestic violence may be even greater as many parents are too scared to come forward."

In NICE's guidance to local authorities, it says services should work together to create campaigns that encourage people to talk about domestic violence and abuse.