Domestic Violence – What about the children?

Myself and many others have spent years campaigning to highlight the issue of domestic violence, and so I was delighted to speak at a conference today hosted by the City of London’s City Bridge Trust, NSPCC and Refuge looking at what can be done to meet the needs of children affected by domestic violence.

There are some great services out there that support thousands of vulnerable women and children, but it is concerning that new research by the NSPCC and Refuge shows children’s views are often ignored and considered second to those of women suffering from violent abuse.

The report highlights some isolated examples of promising work in this area that we can build on, but the researchers found children can be sidelined, and some of the most vulnerable children and young people are the least likely to get help.

We must do more to tackle this issue, and ensure children as well as the women are able to access adequate support, and that children have a role in shaping the services that directly affect them. You can read my full speech from the conference here:

Introduction
Good morning. I would like to start by thanking Refuge and the NSPCC for inviting me here today and giving me an invaluable opportunity to hear from these incredible young people.

It’s easy as a Minister to get stuck in Parliament or in the Home Office, and to simply read reports and meet officials, but it is so important for me to hear first hand from the people whose lives are affected by the issues I am working hard to address.

I would like to commend the panel for having the bravery to talk about your experiences.

I was so moved to hear about your lives and the difficulties that you have overcome. It is truly humbling to stand in front of you to hear about the challenges you’ve faced, but to see that you’ve not let these stop you from moving forward.

Your voices bring this research to life and underscore its importance.

And Michelle.

I am always thrilled to meet successful business women as I’m very aware of the unique challenges they face (especially when dealing with Lord Sugar).

But your success is even more commendable in light of your own experiences as a child. It is a tribute to your character that you have not let this hold you back, and your tremendous success shows that no matter what terrible events you endure as a child, they need not define your future.
However, we cannot let these inspiring stories distract us from the reality facing so many children living with domestic violence and the important messages in your research.

Why is this report important?
As minister responsible for the Government’s action plan to end violence against women and girls, tackling domestic violence is one of my most important responsibilities and one that is always at the forefront of my mind.

The level of violence faced by women and girls continues to shock me – in the last year alone, there were over 1 million female victims of domestic abuse in England and Wales.

That’s nearly 2 women each minute – another 20 victims by the time I finish speaking. This is simply deplorable. It is a scandal and an outrage that over the course of their lifetimes a quarter of women will experience this horrific crime.
But what we forget is that these women often have children and when violence enters the family home, it enters the lives of everyone there. No one is left untouched.

Living with those 1 million victims are many more children, powerless to end the violence that surrounds them and desperate for it to stop.

Whether violence happens in the next room, directly in front of children or involves children themselves, it casts a devastating cloud over their daily lives and stops their childhood instantly.

From speaking to victims myself, I know how hard they try to shield their children from violence, to the extent that they will endanger their own lives further to protect their children.

But we are understanding more and more that when children grow up in a home tainted by violence, their development, their wellbeing and their relationships with both parents – perpetrator and victim – are all adversely affected and the damage is deep and long lasting.

We recognise in law that seeing or overhearing violence to another person in the home is potentially detrimental to children’s welfare, and, as your report identified, this is increasing the notification of domestic violence cases to children’s services. But we need to think more about quite how far reaching the impact is and how differentiated our response to children needs to be.

We know how victims in violent relationships struggle to know what they should do, but too often we don’t acknowledge the confusion felt by children trying to reconcile the image they have of a loving parent, with the violent perpetrator who destroys family life.
We often focus our efforts on moving victims and their families out of violent homes, but do we think enough about the support children need to adjust to new homes and new schools, and the new life these bring.

Listening to the stories of the young people on the panel today, I am struck by some of the particular issues you raised: services rarely open outside school hours – so you can’t access them without missing school; more promotion of sites like The Hideout – the Women’s Aid website for young peopl and the need to treat every child individually with a solution that address their needs personally.

Government strategy and action
So what are we doing? First, let me be clear – the protection of children is a priority for this government and protecting them from domestic violence is a personal priority for me.

To that end we have allocated £28 million of stable Home Office funding for specialist violence against women and girls services until 2015.

The majority of this funding is directed to local areas and is going to support independent domestic violence advisers, and multi-agency risk assessment conference co-ordinators.

Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference Coordinators
The key feature of Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences, of which there are over 250, is that they bring together all the relevant agencies to secure the safety of high-risk domestic violence victims.

They facilitate that vital link with child-focused services, helping to ensure the needs of children are considered alongside the needs of their parents.

I was really pleased to read in your report that those areas that used these arrangements offer a better prospect of providing the comprehensive, differentiated response that children living with domestic violence need.

This year we have granted funding for 54 Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference coordinator posts and I hope that this will enable a more child-focused approach to domestic violence.

Independent Domestic Violence Advisers
Victims are represented at these conferences by their Independent Domestic Violence Adviser, an IDVA.

These are trained specialist who provides that crucial tailored support, focused on a family’s unique circumstances, including the effect on any children.

In some areas there are even specialist advisers for children. Blackpool, for example, has a specialist Children’s IDVA Service who provides weekly drop in sessions for young people at local high schools.

We know that these specialists play a crucial role in putting children at the heart of the discussion and having put funding toward 144 posts this year, I hope personalised support is making a difference to the lives of more families, and more children than ever before.

Police
The police also play an important part and have a statutory responsibility to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

To strengthen this, we also amended the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill so that Police and Crime Commissioners would, rightly, have child safety as a priority.

Domestic Violence Protection Orders
We are also piloting new powers for the police in three areas – Greater Manchester, West Mercia and Wiltshire.

Domestic Violence Protection Orders address one of the key themes that you identified when talking to children – that in some cases children want to get away, and stay away, from the abuser.

These orders prevent the perpetrator from returning to a residence and from having contact with the victim for up to 28 days, for example.
They give a victim and her children immediate protection and also enable an unstable family environment to stabilise, minimising the disruption that is so damaging and helping children return to the normal life they crave.

If they prove successful, we will look to roll them out more widely.

Government funding
We know that statutory services can do all this better with the support of children’s charities, like the NSPCC.

That is why earlier this year we announced that we would award grants worth £60 million to go directly to fund the voluntary and community sector (VCS) organisations that work with children, young people, parents and families.

Over £170,000 of the grant, this year, has been awarded specifically to address the issue of domestic violence.
In addition, the Government has awarded the NSPCC a new grant totalling £11.2 million between 2011-2015 for investment in ChildLine and the NSPCC Helpline.
These services really do provide a lifeline for children trying to survive situations that, as a parent, I can barely bring myself to imagine.

MUNRO REVIEW
But we know we must do more and that our systems do not always function as we would wish them to.

Professor Eileen Munro’s review of child protection services in England showed us that the system is not working as well as it should. And this includes working with adult’s services to tackle domestic violence.

The Government has accepted Professor Munro’s fundamental argument that the child protection system has lost its focus on the things that matter most: the views and experiences of children themselves.

As I have heard today, and seen in your report, we need a fundamental shift in the way the system works.

Children should be at the centre of discussions that affect them, not cast aside and dictated to. They of all people understand best what they need and how they feel about what has happened to them.

They need to be able to talk to skilled adults themselves; they need to be the authors of their own stories.

The Government’s approach to child protection reform is therefore driven by three key principles:
• trusting skilled frontline professionals to use their own judgement;
• reducing bureaucracy and prescription;
• and, most important of all, making the system child-centred.

We need to enable professionals to focus on the needs of children and young people, so they are better protected and their welfare better promoted.

We are not seeking to impose a one size fits all approach, nor introduce a host of new procedures. We believe that local leaders with their partners should have the freedom to design and deliver services.

But we do think that however they choose to meet needs of children and young people, they must put those children and young people at the heart of the decision making process.

And to show our commitment to making this happen, and to address one the key recommendations of your research, I would like to invite all of the young people on the panel here today to come at meet with me.

What I have heard already today has been invaluable, but I’m sure it only touches the tip of the iceberg and you have much more that you would like to contribute.

Please come to the Home Office and we can continue these discussions.

0 thoughts on “Domestic Violence – What about the children?

  1. More sexist rubbish from someone who is supposed to be the Equalities Minister.

    In case you weren’t’ aware Lynne, children actually have two parents, and 40% of domestic violence vicitms are men.

    How about some concern from the the group of children with the most horrific plight of all – those who’s parent is a domestic violence victim of the wrong gender to be able to access 95% of services? What on earth happens to them?

    Even dependants of female domestic violence victims aren’t immune from the sexism of the hateful feminists who still run many domestic violence services. A great many shelters are so misandrist that they actually expel boys from shelters as a 13th birthday present. Therefore these innocent children having lost contact with one violent parent, then lose touch with another and end up in care for no good reason. It’s a disgrace.

    These are the real scandals and problems relating to children in the domestic violence sector, yet you haven’t so much as hinted at any of them or even so much as acknowledged the existence of 40% of vicitms nor all their children.

    Will will never have equality in this with someone as sexist as you as Equalites Minister.

  2. Lynne,
    I agree the children are the key to reducing domestic violence. If we can help children from homes of domestic violence we can have the biggest long term change. More than 80% of boys and 77% of girls who experience domestic violence as children go on to repeat it as adults, studies show. These individuals are six times more likely to commit suicide, 50 times more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol and ultimately perpetuate the cycle of violence that leads to an untold loss of human potential. More than 90% of prisoners in the U.S. experienced domestic violence as children.

    More alarming statistics at the Makers of Memories blog.

  3. More male bashing from one who claims to be an “Equality” minister but only demonstrates that the feminist hate movement methodology of discriminating against men must be ensured and promoted. Feminists like yourself, have continually maligned fathers and children under the guise of “for the children” when in reality it’s really only ever about the mother. Fathers in this day and age have no rights at all. While you malign and denigrate and ignore that fathers have as much right to his own child, it would appear to be the case that you do not and cannot fix the problem while only on half of society is protected and promoted. You are part of the problem as you continually promote your anti male hating attitude and your unbridled sexism..

  4. Okay Lynne I see where your going with this, let me tell you my experiences from the last seven months of hell in brief.

    I owned my own property and met my ex partner back in 2000, we were together for ten years, in 2006 due to work commitments I decided to add my Ex partners name to the deeds.

    In April this year we were going through a rocky patch, one day I was in a meeting with one of your fellow MP’s, on my return I found myself being arrested after an allegation of DV was reported by my EX partner, she had wind that I was seeking legal advice to remove her name from the deeds, the allegation while 100% false in nature did not matter to the police who held me captive in a cell for over 24 hours while they “gathered evidence” their treatment of me was barbaric, the allegation was made so I must have been Guilty in the eyes of the two female officers who were in charge of the investigation, well I ended up being charged for an assault, even though no evidence of any assault was present, through the court process it was deemed my EX was too scared to come into court, too scared to give evidence, the courts in the end found me not guilty, it has since later transpired that it was not even my EX who contacted the police, made statements et al but a friend of my EX portraying to be her, while going through the court proceedings I suffered two heart attacks, bearing in mind I have never been arrested before so was at a loss as to how to deal with it, Then I find that because of the DV situation I end up homeless, (still are) I was barred from my own home, stopped from coming anywhere near my home town, even though I was found not guilty my EX (I think) applied for an injunction and was successful.

    It later transpired and I was informed by my EX that it was her friend who portrayed herself as my Ex and that the matter had gone completely out of control she did not know how to stop it so carried on regardless, yes there can be many avenues now I could take to seek Justice, but I am not a bitter person, I would rather not let the matter turn any more ugly than it already is, yeah I should have my EX arrested for falsifying evidence, contempt of court and the likes but it serves no purpose, I still have the battles to conquer without the need for anymore shattered lives.

    I am now in the midst of lengthy legal battles through no fault of my own, spending thousands of pounds which I dont have to simply return what was rightfully mine, why did all this happen, well its with the nonsense policies that this government and previous governments have placed on the situation of DV, until the recognition that nearly half of DV cases are in fact caused by women you will never see the end of these matters.

    A woman without any evidence can scream DV, where as a male goes to the police and screams the same they would be laughed out of the station and I can guarantee no further action would be taken.

    Until this selfishness of a government realises that in many cases the allegations of DV against males can and is prefabricated nothing will go to change the culture your government has created, now you mentioned about the removal of perpetrator of DV from the Home, the way in which its written,

    “These orders prevent the perpetrator from returning to a residence and from having contact with the victim for up to 28 days, for example.
    They give a victim and her children immediate protection and also enable an unstable family environment to stabilise, minimising the disruption that is so damaging and helping children return to the normal life they crave”

    The Male, left out on the street, what if the allegations are wrong, false or made up like I said above, what if its the other way round, your condoning destroying the Guy’s life (like mine) for what, a few figures and ticked boxes, Lynne you really need to look at the situation from an unbiased approach, and believe it or not we have met and spoken before in person, It shocks me the approach and stance your taking, jumping on the band wagon I see.

    I don’t condone violence of any type and yes I know DV happens and can be caused by men, in my line of work I actually visit Women’s Refuge’s and help and support DV Victims with their fight for their children back after plans like the one you say above fail drastically and the children end up in the local Authorities care, I have done this line of work for over 6 years, now even stepping foot into one of these refuge’s I get an awful chill and from my experiences its made me think twice about continuing with my line of work.

    There’s two sides to every argument, in some cases white is not always white, one day Lynne all this male bashing and sexist approach will bite back and I can see serious consequences, the males who did no wrong and were the innocent party will not take this nonsensical garbage for much longer, we have feelings too that get hurt just the same, one shoe should fit all and D.V against men should be allowed to have the full force that women get these days, where’s the men’s refuge’s where’s the men’s aid, in fact where is any support for the wrongly accused men who end up in these horrific situations, I’ll tell you, there isn’t any because of the women only focus.

    I will stop now because I can go on and on about how your policy and plans stink to high heaven and I hope the backlash you will receive from this is the key to change your one sided sexist approach and please just stop and think of us men who are innocent parties in some of these cases.