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4.3.1 Domestic Violence and Abuse

RELEVANT INFORMATION

For additional information see: Framework for Action for all Children, Young People and Families in Bolton

Working Together to Safeguard Children March 2015

Bolton Domestic Abuse Handbook

Domestic Violence Crime and Victims Act 2004

Information Guide for Local Areas on the Change to the Definition of Domestic Violence and Abuse' (2013) (Home Office)

Greater Manchester Safeguarding Children Board Inter-Agency Procedures Manual:

AMENDMENT

This chapter was significantly updated throughout in March 2018 to provide a further updated version of the ‘Bolton Domestic Abuse Handbook’ and ‘Framework for Action For all children, young people and families in Bolton’, (see Relevant Information above).


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Good Practice Guidance
  3. Response to Domestic Abuse
  4. Inter relationship with Domestic Abuse and Child Protection and Children in Need Procedures
  5. A Model of Response for Children's Services Practitioners
  6. Key Agencies
  7. Multi Agency Risk Assessment Process (MARAC)
  8. Legal
  9. Welfare Benefits for Women Fleeing Abuse
  10. Domestic Violence Protection Orders and the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme

    Appendix 1: Domestic Abuse Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference

    Appendix 2: Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference Flowchart

    Appendix 3: MARAC and ICS Process - Levels of Domestic Abuse - Framework


1. Introduction

Domestic abuse is the abuse of power and exercise of control by one person over another. It can occur in any situation where two people have, or have had, a relationship. The relationship does not necessarily have to be of a sexual or intimate nature. Experience shows that in the majority of cases domestic abuse is perpetrated by men against women. However in a small number of cases, men are abused by women.

Issues of ethnicity, religion, social class, disability, family income, occupation, sexuality or age should not be seen as protective factors. Domestic abuse may involve:

  • A woman and a man;
  • A parent and a son/daughter;
  • Siblings;
  • Two men;
  • Two women.


Definition of Domestic Abuse

With effect from 31.3.13, the terminology which should be used is as set out in Home Office Guidance Information Guide for Local Areas on the Change to the Definition of Domestic Violence and Abuse' (2013).

The term 'domestic violence and abuse' should be used. The Government definition of domestic violence and abuse has been widened to include those aged 16-17 and the wording changed to reflect coercive control. (Note that this is not a legal definition.) The new definition is:

'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.

'Controlling behaviour is: a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.

Coercive behaviour is: an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.'

The definition includes so called 'honour' based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage, and is clear that victims are not confined to one gender or ethnic group.

Working Together highlights the need for co-operative inter-agency working in gathering information and organising supportive services for women and children experiencing domestic abuse. It states "normally, one serious incident or several lesser incidents... where there is a child in the household would indicate the need for a Child and Family Assessment in accordance with the Assessment Framework".

Research has made clear links between domestic abuse and the abuse and Neglect of children. Child death inquiries have highlighted the need for workers to acknowledge the issue of domestic abuse and incorporate it into their interventions. A recent local Serious Case Review 2009 highlights clearly the tragic consequences of domestic abuse and workers should familiarise themselves with the findings from this review at the Bolton Safeguarding Children website, Child Death and Case Reviews.

The impact of living with adult violence has detrimental emotional and psychological effects on children. In most circumstances these children can be defined as Children in Need. All agencies have a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, wherever possible keeping them within their families.

Children may be involved in domestic abuse in a number of ways. They may be:

  • Aware of the violence as a witness or overhearing it;
  • Intervening directly to try and protect;
  • Being threatened by a victim or perpetrator of domestic abuse to ensure silence;
  • Intervening indirectly by telephoning for help from relatives, neighbours or the Police;
  • Witnessing damage and ill treatment to their possessions, including pets;
  • Being encouraged or forced to participate in the abuse and the degradation;
  • Being injured directly or indirectly during an assault;
  • Witnessing the outcomes from an assault.

Living with domestic abuse does not automatically result in poor parenting. If parents or carers are to be empowered to promote their children's wellbeing, they will require sensitive and appropriate resources, including at times a safe place to live.

Recent research highlights particular vulnerability of children living with domestic abuse, when their parents/carers also have mental health and/or substance misuse difficulties.


2. Good Practice Guidance

Effective sharing of information between statutory and voluntary agencies is a vital part of positive response to domestic abuse. Workers need to familiarise themselves with the services provided by Fort Alice (local refuge), Witness Support, domestic abuse housing officers and the Endeavour Project etc, in order to offer relevant services.

Workers should take a holistic approach to family support, including the provision of services appropriate to the issue of domestic abuse. This may include practical and emotional support for victims, perpetrators and children, e.g. use of target hardening measures, safety planning, specialist support groups etc. Whatever support is provided this should be reflected in the plan for the child and their family. As such child concern matters should be discussed alongside domestic abuse and not treated as a separate factor.

'Safety Planning' with individuals helps to focus on discrete plans prior to crisis, which will aid at a time of need. This should include:

  • Finding somewhere the individual could quickly use a telephone;
  • Keeping a spare set of keys and some money in an easily accessible place or with a trusted friend or neighbour;
  • Carrying a list of emergency numbers;
  • Talking to children about emergency situations;
  • Talking to a neighbour or friend who may be able to help in an emergency.

Interviews with family members should be undertaken in a manner which does not contribute to additional risk of abuse. Joint interviews with a controlling and abusive partner or interviewers conducted in situations where the perpetrator is in the environment, minimises opportunities to seek help whilst giving the message that the worker fails to understand the danger of their situation. As such they should be avoided certainly in the initial stages of assessment and planning.

The use of interpreters should be carefully considered where there are issues of domestic abuse. There are additional barriers to seeking help for members of ethnic minority groups, which require specific support and advice. It will be advisable to speak to specialist domestic abuse services to identify appropriate translators. As ever the use of children to translate should be avoided.

The safety of children must take priority when planning intervention. This should include confidentiality regarding the family's whereabouts if they have left the home environment.

In line with the Framework for the Assessment of Children's Needs and their families, particular reference should be made to the context within which the child is being brought up. This includes the impact domestic abuse has on the parents' ability to meet the needs of their child and the effect on the child's development of living with family violence.

Children's needs and the impact of domestic abuse on a child will vary. Workers need to engage in direct communication with a child to understand their perspective.

'Safety Planning' with children may include establishing:

  • How to remain safe during an incident, i.e. not to intervene directly in the violence;
  • Where they can go to use the telephone or to be safe if the need arises;
  • Who they can talk to;
  • Children must be kept informed about what is happening in a way which is appropriate to their age and understanding.


3. Response to Domestic Abuse

Research shows that the quality of a worker's response can significantly influence the likelihood of individuals engaging in the change process. Workers need to support and empower individuals to strengthen their ability to promote the wellbeing of their children. At an initial stage this may mean acknowledging that the abuse is not their fault and reassuring them that they will receive help to resolve difficulties.

Individuals need permission to openly discuss the issues of conflict and violence within their intimate relationships without feeling they are being judged. They also need to be able to do this in a safe place.

Although the abuse may not be a daily occurrence, the risk of an incident places great strain on those living with it with those involved feeling responsible for the abuse and living with a high level of shame and guilt.

Making a decision to leave your home and loved ones requires a long process of contemplation. It is not easy to disregard your own and your children's familiar places and routines in order to escape abuse and violence. It should be further recognised that in some situations may be a loss of financial security, shame and fear of the unknown.

Domestic abuse should be recorded as a specific concern on all referral and assessment forms. Those involved should be asked if they are safe at the moment and given appropriate advice if not.

The Children Act 1989 provides legislation to aid work in situations where there is a risk posed to children from domestic abuse. The Act:

  • Recommends that where possible abusers rather than children should be removed from home. (Vol 1. Section 4.31);
  • Places a duty on Local Authorities to provide services to Children in Need and provides support to help children remain within their own families. (Section 17);
  • Places a duty on Children's Services to investigate the circumstances of a child where they are informed that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer Significant Harm or they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child may be or is likely to suffer Significant Harm (Section 47).

If an individual attends a public building wanting help to flee domestic abuse, their safety should be a priority. Whilst interviewing ensure the safety of the parent and any children. This may mean:

  • Alerting colleagues to the situation;
  • Providing somewhere safe for children to sit whilst their parent is interviewed;
  • Maintaining confidentiality regarding their whereabouts in the building.

Research tells us there is a significant link between violence to a partner and the abuse of children. 70% of men who are violent to their partner are also violent to her children. Living with domestic abuse has a significant detrimental effect on the wellbeing of children. Several studies link domestic abuse to the risk of Sexual Abuse. Violent and controlling individuals misusing their power to have their needs met by a partner may well be using the same power to abuse children in the household.

Greater Manchester Safeguarding Children Board Inter-Agency Procedures Manual:

In some situations there will be a conflict of interest whereby the child's need for safety must take priority over the parent's choice to remain with her partner. This should be discussed fully with both the victim and the perpetrator.

The individual circumstances of a family should be taken into consideration where it is suspected a level of adult violence exists. In some families mutual adult violence is the norm. This will affect the assessment and intervention process.

Working with adults who are violent may pose risks to workers. There should be a discussion of risk with the line manager and a risk assessment completed to reflect the level of risk and actions to manage the risk. Consideration should be given to sharing the outcomes from the risk assessment with other agencies.

A female immigrant who has moved to Britain to join her husband and wants to leave him should seek legal advice immediately. Her immigration status and that of her children may be at risk. The Endeavour Project and Fort Alice can offer relevant advice and support.

Research shows that one of the most dangerous time for an individual is when they are planning or have actually left the violent situation. Workers should, therefore, move at the pace advised by the individual and provide supportive services after they have left the relationship. Continued single or multi-agency intervention may well be required to support individuals to maintain the separation and to develop new support networks away from the perpetrator.

Individuals who return to violent situations require more intensive support and help not less. Returning to your home and familiar situation should be seen as a normal response to separation and part of the process of change. Assessments should be reviewed and revised in these circumstances, as should any Child in Need Plan or Child Protection Plan. Workers should ensure that relevant information is shared with other agencies party to the plan.


4. Inter relationship with Domestic Abuse and Child Protection and Children in Need Procedures

All workers should be aware of the inter-relationship between domestic abuse and the abuse or Neglect of children. In all circumstances where the abuse of a child is suspected, workers should be alert to the possibility of domestic abuse in the household. Where there is evidence of domestic abuse workers should seriously consider the implications for the children in the household.

Research indicates the risk to children begins before birth, with women experiencing domestic abuse being twice as likely to have had a miscarriage or stillbirth. Other research shows father figures who abused their partners were three times more likely to be the child's abuser than were other father figures.

Many parents are worried that disclosure of the level of violence will lead to removal of their children. Parents should be informed about what help is available to them which will enable them to protect themselves and promote the wellbeing of their children. Workers should clearly outline and discuss with the victim and the perpetrator the implications, impact and effects of domestic abuse on the children.

Where concerns persist parents should be provided with honest and clear information regarding the concerns workers have and the procedures that will be followed in order to protect their children. Individuals rights should be outlined and information of organisations that can support them be provided.

The inclusion of violent partners in formal decision making, including Action Meetings, needs to be discussed with a line manager. Safety issues need to be balanced with any possible benefits of all relevant parties attending. However it is important that perpetrators of abuse are made aware of the level of concern and the action to be taken.

When planning a Child Protection Conference, advice should be sought from a Head of Service prior to convening a conference.

Child Protection Conferences should be fully informed of the level of domestic abuse and any protective factors, which are available to the child. The written Child Protection Plan should include specific services aimed at the issue of domestic abuse. Subsequent Child Protection Review Conferences should share information relating to the response to these services and reassess the level of concern for the child.

Core Groups and any other inter-agency meeting should note and act upon any evidence of domestic abuse in families.

All documentation referring to a family should carefully manage confidential information regarding the whereabouts of victims, with or without children in their care, as disclosure of addresses may place them at risk. This would include child protection matters in Court proceedings and all minutes of meetings, assessment documents and other correspondence.

Domestic abuse issues should be considered when planning contact for children as research suggests this is an area where intimidation and abuse can continue. The impact of such contact for the child should be carefully considered. This should involve eliciting the child's wishes and feelings regarding their contact with their absent parent and any impact such contact has on the child's relationship with their mother.

See also Section 10, Domestic Violence Protection Orders and the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme.


5. A Model of Response for Children's Services Practitioners

This domestic abuse framework aims to ensure that Children's Services Social Care workers have a structured and consistent approach to assessment and intervention of children and their families where there are issues of domestic abuse.

The framework aims to keep children and young people safe and healthy in accordance with the Every Child Matter's agenda and Children Act 2004 while continuing to improve practice when dealing with domestic abuse through a systematic response.

This model will enable workers to screen, identify levels of risks and provide a framework for appropriate and consistent levels of intervention by identifying four levels of intervention dependent upon presenting factors of the domestic abuse incident.

Click here to view Appendix 3: MARAC and ICS Process – Levels of Domestic Abuse – Framework


6. Key Agencies

Women's Aid

Fortalice offers a safe place for women with or without children. (See Fortalice Website.)

In addition to temporary accommodation the refuge offers aftercare, advice and support, a weekly drop-in, counselling services, therapeutic group work and services for children. Women can be referred by statutory and voluntary agencies with the women's permission or by self-referral. The Women’s Support Centre offers a counselling service, the Freedom Programme and children’s counselling, which can be accessed directly by women.

The Bolton Refuge works within the LSCB child protection guidelines (See Bolton Safeguarding Children website). They will refer to Children's Services any concern for a child, including circumstances where a woman is returning to a situation where there is a known or suspected risk to children's safety. The refuge staff work alongside all agencies regarding the wellbeing of a child.

The refuge staff should be kept fully informed of any intervention by Children's Services staff and should be invited to attend all Core Groups involving families who are known to them.

There are refuges for specific ethnic groups including an Asian Women's Refuge in the North West region. However, discussion should take place regarding which refuge would best meet an individual woman's needs. Assumptions should not be made as women may be placed at risk by inappropriate decisions. Workers could request advice regarding specific issues or ask for help in providing an appropriate service to individual women.

Housing

Bolton Local Authority recognises its responsibility to provide housing services to women who are fleeing violence.

The Homeless Welfare service will respond promptly to women fleeing from domestic violence situations. They will provide a refuge or other emergency accommodation according to availability.

Positive consideration is given to referrals across authorities where the applicant is fleeing domestic violence. Women are free to decline an offer to return home with the protection of a Non-Molestation Order or other Court order. Housing workers will try to clearly lay out as many options for the applicant as possible, so that they can make an informed choice of what to do.

Housing staff will try not to be intrusive, however, they may ask for the history of domestic abuse and wish to liaise with other agencies. The Housing code of guidance states, "The fact that violence has not yet occurred does not on its own suggest that it is not likely to occur", therefore it should not be necessary for actual 'proof' of violence to be provided.

Many women worried about their tenancy and household goods if they flee domestic violence. Housing staff will advise them on possible options regarding securing their property and furnishings or relinquishing their tenancy, whichever they choose.

Police

All forces in England and Wales have special domestic abuse units. In Bolton the Public Protection Investigation Unit works closely with Children's Services and Health. Once an incident is reported, it will be recorded and a specially trained officer will assess if the victim should be contacted to offer advice and/or further services. The Police Public Protection Investigation Unit meet daily with Children’s Services Referral and Assessment Team and discuss domestic abuse reports when:

  • The referrer is a child;
  • A child is present during the assault;
  • Where there has been a number of referrals or there are additional concerns;
  • It is a serious individual domestic abuse incident.

Workers should always check records held by the Public Protection Investigation Unit regarding domestic abuse incidents as part of the assessment.

The Public Protection Investigation Unit can be asked for advice or help with joint visits where it is thought appropriate. They can also help to put in place various practical measures to protect the individual in the home e.g. home link alarm, CCTV etc.


7. Multi Agency Risk Assessment Process (MARAC)

Purpose

MARAC is a multi-agency meeting which supports the risk assessment process for individuals and their families who are at risk of Domestic Abuse. Organisations are invited to share information with a view to identifying those at "very high" risk of domestic abuse. Where very high risk has been identified, a multi-agency action plan is developed to support all those at risk.

Attendance

The following agencies are represented:

  • Children's social care;
  • Adult social care;
  • Police;
  • Probation;
  • PCT;
  • Royal Bolton Hospital;
  • Education;
  • Housing;
  • Women's Aid (Fort Alice);
  • Victim Support;
  • BIDAS.

Process

Referrals to MARAC can be made by any agency using the MARAC referral form included in Appendix 1: Domestic Abuse Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference. Once completed this should be sent securely (password protected) to the referring agencies own named MARAC representative. The MARAC representative will check the details on the referral and upload on SHAREPOINT. All referrals to MARAC should be made with the knowledge and consent of the victim and ideally, completed with the victim. If the victim consent is not sought, or the victim refuses, reasons should be clearly noted on the referral form.

Agencies should be clear when referring to MARAC the type of support they are requesting from MARAC and clearly identify the risk issues for both the adult and the child. Where a child is subject to either a Child in Need Plan or a Child Protection Plan, it will be essential that the MARAC referral is recorded as part of that plan and that the purpose of the intervention requested is also reflected. This will avoid unnecessary duplication.

MARAC is held every two weeks and is chaired by the Detective Inspector, Public Protection Investigation Unit. Minutes are taped and can be made available by making a written request to the police. An Action Plan is available to all those present in the meeting which is available on SharePoint and it is the responsibility of each agency to access this and follow up any of their actions.

The flowchart in Appendix 2: Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference Flowchart identifies the process to be followed by social workers. This will ensure good information sharing and that children are protected from harm.

Appendix 3: MARAC and ICS Process – Levels of Domestic Abuse – Framework outlines how MARAC cases will be managed in the ICS process.


8. Legal

Individuals have recourse to the law for protection against violence in the home. Individuals should be advised to seek legal advice regarding the best course of action.

The Domestic Violence and Matrimonial Proceedings Act 1976 provides Non-Molestation and Ouster Injunction Orders which can be sought from the County Court. Emergency, Domestic Violence Protection Orders and Ex-parte Injunction Orders can be applied for via the Duty Judge or outside of court hours by a County Court judge. Women do not need to be married to apply for any of these orders.

The Family Law Act 1996 deals with Occupation Orders and Non-Molestation Orders Part IV. It also includes amendments to the Children Act 1989 and can be used in conjunction with Interim Care Orders and Emergency Protection Orders.

The Protection From Harassment Act 1997 provides legislation which includes protection from 'stalking' which can be useful in situations where the woman does not live with her aggressor.

See also Section 10, Domestic Violence Protection Orders and the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme.


9. Welfare Benefits for Women Fleeing Abuse

Financial independence can be a crucial factor in helping women make the decision to leave an abusive situation. Women should be advised to seek a consultation with a Welfare Rights Officer regarding her financial position should she leave.

In a crisis, when there is delay in accessing Benefits Agency benefits, help under Section 17 should be considered to help the decision process. Local Welfare provision can be accessed via the internet and by telephone on 01204 332772.

The most significant benefits are Income Support, Child Benefit, Family Credit, Housing Benefit, Crisis Loans and Community Care Grants. Updated information regarding these benefits can be obtained from the Benefits Advice and Welfare Rights.

For some women their immigration status will be unclear and will affect their right to benefit. These women will therefore require additional help including legal advice.

In circumstances where there is 'an intention to return' it is possible to have Housing Benefit paid for the refuge and the property. This can be agreed for up to a time-limited period, giving women time to reflect on their situation and make choices about housing and location.


10. Domestic Violence Protection Orders and the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme

10.1 Domestic Violence Protection Orders

Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs) are 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.

10.2 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.

For further information, see Domestic violence disclosure scheme (GOV.UK).


Appendix 1: Domestic Abuse Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference

Click here to view Domestic Abuse Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference.


Appendix 2: Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference Flowchart

Click here to view Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference Flowchart.


Appendix 3: MARAC and ICS Process - Levels of Domestic Abuse - Framework

Click here to view the MARAC and ICS Process - Levels of Domestic Abuse - Framework.

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