When I first started in the area of child protection the subject of domestic violence was rarely addressed as an issue. It was seen mainly as an adult issue, not a child protection issue. Over the last twenty years the perspective has thankfully changed and social work has recognized that children are deeply affected by conflict in their carers’ relationship.
What is also generally true is that “Children are often more aware of problems than parents realise, but they don’t always understand what is happening and why”.1 More specifically, research has also clearly shown that children are at greater risk of abuse if they are in a home where domestic violence is occurring. More recently (based largely on research from the United States) it has also been recognized that there are, on occasions, links between the abuse of children, vulnerable adults and animals.2
All of this research is to be welcomed as it recognizes the fact that in our work with families we need to be constantly aware of the issue of domestic violence. This is not, however, merely an issue for social workers; it is an issue for all professionals. A new guidance entitled Vision for services for children and young people affected by domestic violence – guidance to local commissioners of children’s services has recently been jointly produced by the Association of Directors of Social Services, Women’s Aid, the Local Government Association and the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service.3
What that report recognizes is that “It is important that domestic violence is mainstreamed and integrated throughout the children’s agenda”. Although this may seem like stating the obvious, my experience of being part of an active Domestic Violence Forum would suggest that the issue was not ‘mainstreamed and integrated throughout the children’s agenda’ but seen by some as a peripheral issue.
This booklet deserves a wide audience because it draws together research evidence together with the policy and legal framework to provide a coherent strategy for intervention.
- 1S. Gorin (2004) Understanding what children say: children’s experiences of domestic violence, parental substance misuse and parental health problems. National Children’s Bureau in association with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. http://www.jrf.org.uk/knowledge/findings/socialpolicy/514.asp
- 2NSPCC (2005) Understanding the links: child abuse, animal abuse and domestic violence Information for professionals http://www.nspcc.org.uk