Policy blog

Piecing together the evidence

This content originally appeared on Diana Barran's blog in January 2015 and reflected her views at the time. Caada is the previous name of SafeLives.

One of the questions that goes round and round is why the overall rate of domestic homicide has not budged really over the past 10 or 20 years despite the efforts of so many people locally and nationally to improve services for victims of domestic abuse. I was struck by two things this week which might hold a clue.

Firstly, we are presenting some of the early learning from our Insights data to a group of funders this week and so we were looking at some of the messages from the data. As a reminder, Insights data is collected from IDVAs, outreach workers, refuge workers, and a handful of other specialist roles such as ISVAs and Women’s Safety Workers. We collect data on several thousand cases a year from many different services, so it is a pretty good general reflection. I was struck that about 80% of women who engage with specialist services are separated/separating from their partner. Of course this links in part to the risks associated with the point of separation and the readiness of women to engage with help at this point.

Secondly, I looked at the notes a colleague had sent me from the DVCN conference just before Christmas where there was a focus on the Domestic Homicide Review process and the learnings from this. In contrast, Standing Together reported that out of the 30 DHRs that they had chaired, in about 2/3 of cases, the couple were living together.

Does this suggest that we need to work harder on offering support to women who do not wish to separate or for whom it is too dangerous to do so?

As we approach the election, how about ‘yes and’ rather than ‘either/or’?

This content originally appeared on Diana Barran's blog in January 2015 and reflected her views at the time. Caada is the previous name of SafeLives.

As we get closer to the next election, the pressure to present the case for funding specialist domestic abuse services gets ever more pressing. There have begun to be some of the ‘either/or’ arguments sneaking into the debate. I think that there are three problems with this line of thinking.

Firstly, we must not forget that domestic abuse remains one of the most under-funded sectors in this country. We started CAADA when several charities working in the children’s sector told me that domestic abuse was the biggest human problem in this country that was the hardest to raise money for. Things have improved since then but there is still a long way to go. The ‘either/or’ argument loses sight of the reality which is ‘not enough’. We need the services we have. We need them to be delivered to a high standard and in strong partnerships.

Secondly, the either/or argument risks some muddled thinking. For example, there is some talk of ‘either’ early intervention ‘or’ working with high risk cases. Actually, our data shows that we reach high risk victims earlier than medium or standard risk. But clearly we need to try and respond to all levels of risk. There is the ‘either’ refuge ‘or’ community based provision question. Women and children need both. Or ‘either’ MARAC ‘or’ MASH’. Again, a misunderstanding about how they work and what families need.

Finally, ‘either/or’ stifles innovation. I would be tempted to say that there is no one working in our sector who thinks that we have all the answers. If there someone out there, shout loudly. ‘Yes, and…’ encourages us to aim higher and build on what we know works today but develop it still further as well as look at other sectors too and learn from their work.

So, please, let’s look at a ‘yes, and’ model rather than an ‘either/or’ one. As pressures on funding increase further, let’s use our creativity to reconfigure and improve our response – building domestic abuse into services more broadly so that we multiply the impact of what we spend today rather than step back to an ever more siloed approach which won’t make families safer.

Update on the Young People's Programme

As our Young People's Programme comes to an end in spring 2015, we would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been involved since its launch.

Over the last two years we have worked with partners to improve and develop the local response for young people who experience interpersonal violence. This has included training Young People's Violence Advisors (YPVAs), providing regional support and encouraging those responsible for local domestic violence strategies to acknowledge young people's needs.

Christine Etheridge, Young People's Programme Manager, says: “Although our programme is coming to an end in March 2015, we want to reassure people that we will continue to help those working with young people affected by abuse. This will include training YPVAs as part of our work to make more people safe. We are also currently developing practice briefings to share the knowledge developed through the programme and we will continue to collect and analyse data about young people. In addition, young people will be central to CAADA's future strategy as it develops.

“We would like to thank everyone who has been involved in the programme for their hard work, including our funders, the Department for Education.”


By Tom.Ash

Interview: Zoë Billingham, HMIC

This content originally appeared in our newsletter between August and September 2014 and reflected our views at the time. 

‘The overall police response to victims of domestic abuse is not good enough': this was the conclusion drawn from the review of police forces in England and Wales by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) earlier this year. In a special interview for eNews, HMIC Inspector Zoë Billingham reflects on the implications of the review, and offers tips to police and practitioners on working together to tackle coercive control.

What key findings did the inspection make?

That the police response to victims of domestic abuse is just not good enough. Forces told us that domestic abuse was a priority on paper, but we found that this just isn't being put into practice. What was most disappointing is the way in which victims of domestic abuse are being failed with respect to even the most basic elements of policing. Too often domestic abuse is seen as the 'poor relation' in comparison to other types of crime.

What impact have HMIC's recommendations had so far?

We were really determined that any report we wrote didn't just sit on the shelf, but that it led to a real difference being made. We'll be continuing to work with the Home Secretary, the police and with women's voluntary organisations to make sure that the recommendations happen.

What findings and recommendations did you make around coercive control in particular?

We identified that, while police are aware of the definition of domestic abuse, they're generally poor at being able to identify coercion and threatening, controlling behaviour on the frontline. We also found very limited examples of frontline response officers having been trained effectively in domestic abuse.

To combat this, we've recommended that the College of Policing conducts a thorough and fundamental review to ensure its training reflects the fact that domestic abuse – including coercive control – is core policing business and is relevant to all officers and staff. Forces have a tendency to use online e-learning packages as a cheap and easy way of training staff, but we know from our inspection that it's not a good way to learn. It's absolutely vital that police officers have the time and space to think and reflect on such an important issue, and a classroom setting is essential to this. The voluntary sector has a massive role to play in this too.

You talk about domestic abuse being the ‘poor relation' in comparison to other crimes. How can forces go about changing this organisational culture?

We're asking Chief Constables and senior officers to review how they, as individuals and as leaders, give priority to domestic abuse. This includes looking carefully at the force's own culture and values, and its performance management framework. For instance - are officers that are really good at understanding victims rewarded through the selection and promotion processes? What sorts of messages do senior leaders send to their force about the importance of tackling domestic abuse? And so on.

What other advice can you give to senior officers to help them make changes within their force, particularly in relation to coercive control?

The advice I would offer would be:

  1. Take on board the recommendations we've outlined in the report, and act on them. When you put together your action plan, make sure it's realistic – work with partners, victims and charities to develop it, and look at how you can move training away from e-learning to something that includes proper input from victims.

  2. The College of Policing is pulling together a range of evidence about what works in identifying and tackling domestic abuse, and identifying coercion and control. This will feed into updating the Authorised Professional Practice and training programmes for policing at a national level, and be delivered to staff through education at a local level. As soon as that's available make sure that you're aware of it.

  3. Lead by example and show that domestic abuse is a priority for you. Attend the training with frontline officers, talk about the issue on your blog and social media, and raise it with the public at roadshows and local groups.

What about frontline officers? What advice would you give to them?

The best thing you can do when you go into a domestic abuse incident is:

  1. Make sure you've got all the available information. Things like a history of incidents at the property will help give you an idea of the nature of the relationship and who is likely to be the victim.

  2. Separate the parties immediately and listen carefully to what each has to tell you. Never jump to conclusions or make assumptions about the victim or their lifestyle. Be aware not just of what they are saying but how they are saying it, and observe whether they seem to be holding back. If the victim is being uncooperative, consider why this might be - it's possible they are simply terrified.

  3. Ask questions that will help you to ascertain whether this is a relationship which is controlling and abusive - remember that there doesn't have to be visible injuries in order for you to act.

  4. Above all, take your time. Doing the best you can to understand the relationship in front of you will help you to identify what support the victim needs, and what police action is required in order to protect them.

Finally, what can domestic abuse practitioners do to support the police?

They have an invaluable role to play. In some areas, we're even seeing IDVAs accompanying police to incidents. In the report, we're extremely clear about the important role IDVAs play because we just couldn't conceive the overall response to victims being where it is without them. IDVAs give such extraordinary levels of support - often across all risk levels.

During the review, we found so many benefits in forces where IDVAs are co-located either in police stations, or working in the specialist domestic abuse or protecting vulnerable people units. It's not just the support the IDVAs provide to the victims that's important, it's the knowledge and understanding that IDVAs bring into an organisation, a police force.