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8.20 Domestic Violence and Abuse

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Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse:

  • Psychological;
  • Physical;
  • Sexual;
  • Financial;
  • Emotional.

Women are more likely to experience the most serious forms of domestic violence and abuse but it is important to acknowledge that there are female perpetrators and male victims and that domestic violence and abuse also occurs within same sex relationships.


The definition of 'harm' in Section 31A of the Children Act 1989 (introduced by the Adoption and Children Act 2002) recognises that a child may suffer harm through witnessing domestic violence and abuse.



Abuse of children as a result of domestic violence and abuse may manifest itself in a variety of ways including physical violence, emotional or psychological abuse, sexual violence, financial control and the imposition of social isolation or movement deprivation.


Where there is domestic violence and abuse, the implications for the children in the household must be considered because research evidence indicates a strong link between domestic violence and abuse and all types of abuse and neglect. These children should be regarded as Children in Need and may display low self-esteem, depression, absenteeism from school, bullying, antisocial or criminal behaviour, drug and alcohol misuse and self-harm


Significant Harm may result from the adverse psychological effect on children of being aware of threats or actual violence between adults, as well as the extra risk of physical injury, either by accident in the midst of a violent incident or by design from a violent adult. Exposure to domestic abuse and/or violence can have a serious, long lasting emotional and psychological impact on children. In some cases, a child may blame themselves for the abuse or may have had to leave the family home as a result.


Any agency assessment should consider the possibility of domestic violence and abuse and ensure the response safeguards both the child and the non-abusing parent.


Local arrangements set out how this assessment is undertaken including use of theDASH Risk Assessment Tool and referral to the MARAC process.


A MARAC is a multi-agency meeting, which has the safety of high risk victims of domestic violence and abuse as its focus. The MARAC is a process involving the participation of all the key statutory and voluntary agencies who might be involved in supporting victims of domestic violence and abuse. The objective of the MARAC is to share information and establish a simple multi-agency action plan to support the victim and make links with other public protection procedures, particularly safeguarding children, vulnerable adults and the management of offenders. The MARAC meeting is a part of a wider process, which hinges on the early involvement and support most frequently in the form of an Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA) and continued specialist case management, both before and after the meeting. The MARAC should combine the best of both specialist supports, together with the co-ordination of generic agencies whose resources and involvement will be needed to keep victims and their children safe.



Police and health are often the first point of contact and they (or any other agency that becomes aware of domestic violence and abuse) should safeguard the safety of the victim and:

  • Ascertain whether there are any children living in the household or if the victim is pregnant;
  • Make a preliminary determination of the degree of exposure of the children to the incidents of violence and its consequent impact;
  • Where possible provide the victim with information on local support services and refuge details, taking into account any ethnic or cultural issues (available from local domestic violence forums).

Operation Encompass operates in the majority of police forces across England. It helps police and schools work together to provide emotional and practical help to children. The system ensures that when police are called to an incident of domestic abuse, where there are children in the household who have experienced the domestic incident, the police will inform the key adult (usually the designated safeguarding lead) in school before the child or children arrive at school the following day. This ensures that the school has up to date relevant information about the child’s circumstances and can enable support to be given to the child according to their needs. Police forces not signed up to operation encompass will have their own arrangements in place.


In addition the Police will notify Children's Social Care whenever they become aware of an incident of domestic violence and abuse, including details and information about the family in the referral.


On notification of an incident of domestic violence and abuse within a family, theminimum response by Children's Social Care must be to consult existing records and consider what else is known of the family.


For any serious incidents of domestic violence and abuse between adults, where there is a child in the household, a Child and Family Assessment must be undertaken.


Lesser incidents should be considered individually, but no more than three minor incidents should be allowed to occur without the completion of at least an Assessment.


If a child has experienced Significant Harm during any domestic violence and abuse incident, a Section 47 Enquiry must be undertaken.


Whenever an Assessment is undertaken, or at any time thereafter, all agencies involved with the family should be informed of any domestic violence and abuse incidents.


Where the family refuse to co-operate with an Assessment, consideration should be given to the justification for a Section 47 Enquiry.



Intervention in families where there is domestic violence and abuse should give careful consideration to the wording of any letters sent out to the family and provide opportunities for both partners to be interviewed separately. It is important to create a safe environment to enable disclosure.


Many victims of domestic violence and abuse feel unable to disclose its existence or severity. The following issues should be discussed with the alleged victim as part of any assessment:

  • Severity, frequency and history of any violence, threats etc;
  • Circumstances of the domestic violence and abuse and if compounded by drugs/alcohol;
  • Extent and nature of the children's experience of the domestic violence and abuse;
  • Perception of risk to the child(ren);
  • Threats used - consider all household members;
  • Available options - immediate and in the future;
  • Factors that prevent victim taking action to protect self and children;
  • If possible to share victim's perceptions with alleged perpetrator.

The alleged victim of domestic violence and abuse should be advised of the availability of legal advice and options available through the Protection from Harassment Act, 1997 and the Family Law Act 1996 Part IV.


The interview with the alleged perpetrator of the violence should be planned carefully between the worker and their line manager. Care must be taken not to collude with the alleged perpetrator such as disclosing addresses, making unsafe contact arrangements etc.


If there is an acknowledgement of domestic violence and abuse, the interview should clarify the points in the list of bullet points above. Where there is no acknowledgement of violence and it is not possible to share the victim's account, there should be general discussions about the children's welfare.


The children should be interviewed (if sufficient age and understanding) and their experiences explored. It is important to consider the possibility that the child may have experienced direct abuse themselves and /or may be inhibited from disclosing concerns due to fear of (further) abuse to themselves.


If a Child Protection Conference is held, consideration should be given to any need to exclude the violent partner for part or all of the meeting.

Domestic Violence Protection Orders and the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (‘Clare’s Law’)

Domestic Violence Protection Orders


Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs) were implemented across England and Wales from 8 March 2014.


They provide protection to victims by enabling the police and magistrates to put in place protection in the immediate aftermath of a domestic violence incident.


With DVPOs, a perpetrator can be banned with immediate effect from returning to a residence and from having contact with the victim for up to 28 days, allowing the victim time to consider their options and get the support they need.


Before the scheme, there was a gap in protection, because police couldn’t charge the perpetrator for lack of evidence and so provide protection to a victim through bail conditions, and because the process of granting injunctions took time.

Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (‘Clare’s Law’)


The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS) (also known as ‘Clare’s Law’) commenced in England and Wales on 8 March 2014. The DVDS gives members of the public a formal mechanism to make enquires about an individual who they are in a relationship with, or who is in a relationship with someone they know, where there is a concern that the individual may be violent towards their partner. This scheme adds a further dimension to the information sharing about children where there are concerns that domestic violence and abuse is impacting on the care and welfare of the children in the family.


Members of the public can make an application for a disclosure, known as the ‘right to ask’. Anybody can make an enquiry, but information will only be given to someone at risk or a person in a position to safeguard the victim. The scheme is for anyone in an intimate relationship regardless of gender.


Partner agencies can also request disclosure is made of an offender’s past history where it is believed someone is at risk of harm. This is known as ‘right to know’.


If a potentially violent individual is identified as having convictions for violent offences, or information is held about their behaviour which reasonably leads the police and other agencies to believe they pose a risk of harm to their partner, the police will consider disclosing the information. A disclosure can be made if it is legal, proportionate and necessary to do so.



The three central imperatives of any intervention for children living with domestic violence and abuse are:

  1. To protect the children, including unborn children;
  2. To empower the non-abusing parent to protect the children;
  3. To identify the abusing partner and hold him or her accountable for the abusive behaviour and provide opportunities to change this behaviour.

The local authority may pursue legal options of:

  • Relocation of alleged perpetrators of abuse;
  • Injunctions attached to Prohibited Steps Orders;
  • Exclusion conditions attached to Emergency Protection Orders and Interim Care Orders;
  • An injunction under the Housing Act 1996 to restrain anti-social behaviour with power of arrest attached, where violence has occurred or is threatened).

Women with children fleeing domestic violence and abuse may receive support from the Housing Department. Children's Social Care should be included in planning the course of action if relocation is necessary.

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