Government savaged for doing 'far too little' to tackle domestic abuse in major report

Findings claim that not enough is being done to prevent domestic abuse in the first place or to repair the damage it causes afterwards

May Bulman
Tuesday 19 September 2017 19:06
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Report highlights failure to implement a long-term strategy to the domestic violence endemic — which accounts for about one in 10 of all crimes committed in England, claiming the lives of two people each week
Report highlights failure to implement a long-term strategy to the domestic violence endemic — which accounts for about one in 10 of all crimes committed in England, claiming the lives of two people each week

“Far too little” is being done to prevent domestic abuse and support child victims, according to a major new report that savages the Government for its failure to implement a long-term strategy to tackle the issue.

The domestic violence epidemic accounts for around one in 10 of all crimes committed in England and claims the lives of two people each week.

The report, compiled by Ofsted, says that although social workers, the police, health professionals and other agencies such as youth offending teams and probation services are often doing a good job to protect victims, not enough is being done to prevent domestic abuse in the first place or to repair the damage it causes afterwards.

Inspectors have urgently called for a more rounded approach to the issue.

Alongside inspectors from the Care Quality Commission, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services and HM Inspectorate of Probation, Ofsted inspectors carried out joint inspections of six areas in England to evaluate the multi-agency response to cases of domestic abuse – which affects 6.5 million victims across the country.

The report said there was a lack of a long-term strategy to the “public health issue”. Instead it said the focus placed on the “immediate crisis”, which leads agencies to consider only those people and children at immediate risk.

It also highlighted a “lack of clarity” when it came to agencies sharing information and said there was a failure at times to understand whose rights to prioritise.

Eleanor Schooling, Ofsted national director for social care, said not enough was being done to prevent violence from happening in the first place or help victims in its aftermath.

“There is a lot of good work being done to protect victims of domestic violence – emergency services are particularly effective.” she said. ”But we’re not so good when it comes to helping victims deal with the aftermath and get on with their lives.

“The justice system must play a role, but there is work to do to stop it happening in the first place. That’s why schools have an essential role in educating children about domestic abuse. Teaching children about healthy relationships is already part of the curriculum, but it is often not prioritised by schools.

“It is a sad truth that the sheer scale of domestic abuse means that it can be all too easy for police, health professionals and social workers to focus on short-term responses to incidents. But the best teams are able to see the bigger picture.”

Ms Schooling urged that a “new approach” was needed with more focus on both prevention and repairing damage to victims, but that only a “widespread public message” would be able to change things.

“I want to see a new approach to tackling domestic abuse – one which focuses more on prevention and repairing long term damage to child victims,” she said. “Agencies can address these complex challenges but due to the endemic nature of domestic abuse they cannot do it alone. A widespread public service message is needed to shift behaviour on a wide scale.”

Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation, said the probation sector had an important role to play, in delivering “effective work” with adults who can be repeat or first-time offenders.

“To reduce the extent of domestic abuse, the probation sector needs to deliver effective work with those adults who have been convicted and also those where we have concerns about possible domestic abuse in the households, but no conviction,” she said.

“There are many skilled practitioners who can change perpetrators’ behaviour but services need to be resourced and well organised to reach the right people.

“Probation providers also have to look beyond the adults under their supervision to the families and ensure they are vigilant and swift to respond where they see signs of domestic abuse. They can only achieve this by well-trained staff working closely with local services for children.”

Domestic abuse charity Women’s Aid, which recently ran a campaign highlighting the detrimental impact domestic abuse can have on children’s long term well-being and safety, said a “fundamental rethink” was required to tackle the “social epidemic”.

Katie Ghose, its chief executive, said: “Sadly, in some cases abuse results in the tragic loss of innocent lives. This is a social epidemic that needs to be urgently tackled and we support this landmark call for a fundamental rethink in how we prevent and tackle domestic abuse.

“For far too long, the focus on cases deemed to be ‘high risk’ has failed to provide women and their children with the support they need to recover in the long term and it has failed to tackle the root causes of domestic abuse.

“It is critical that all parts of the public sector – from midwives to teachers and social workers – recognise and understand domestic abuse so that they can intervene early and effectively support women and child survivors to help them escape abuse. Sadly, as the report shows, victim blaming attitudes across all agencies are still far too common.”

Ms Ghose added that sexism and inequality, the “root causes” of domestic abuse, must also be tackled in order to mount an effective response to the issue.

“Power and control are at the heart of domestic abuse. We need to tackle the sexism and inequality that are root causes of domestic abuse and ensure that perpetrators are held solely accountable for their actions,” she said. “We believe survivors’ and their children’s experiences and needs must be factored into all responses to tackling domestic abuse. As a survivor quoted in the report states, the public sector must start asking what she needs, rather than telling her what’s best for her.”

Responding to the report, a government spokesperson said: “Domestic violence and abuse shatters the lives of its victims and we are determined to make sure that anyone facing this threat has somewhere to turn. We are pleased that this report highlights the progress that has been made – however, we know that more must be done.

“That is why we are introducing a landmark bill to protect and support victims, and we are taking forward important measures to improve the police response. As part of our children’s social care innovation programme, backed by £200m, we have funded a number of projects with a specific focus on tackling domestic abuse.

“Schools have an important role to play in educating children about abuse, which is why we are making it a requirement that all schools teach about healthy relationships.”

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