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Half of children affected by domestic abuse not known to social services

Half of children affected by domestic abuse “not known to social services”


The Gaurdian newspaper has reported, that half of all children who live in homes where domestic abuse takes place are not known to social services.

The organisation, Co-ordinated Action Against Domestic Abuse, found that while 80% of children were known to one public body – such as the police or healthcare – half of the children social services are not aware that there is an issue.

“Because child protection services and adult domestic abuse services tend to work in their own ‘silos’, the dangers to children exposed to domestic abuse just aren’t visible enough to local authority children’s social care,” said Diana Barran, chief executive of the charity.

“People need to make an urgent shift in approach from doing their own separate assessments and referrals, agency by agency to a proactive, genuinely joint response – that’s social services, police and voluntary sector working together – to protect these vulnerable children.”

The charity examined detailed evidence from 877 children receiving support from specialist domestic abuse services in four areas over two and a half years. Their research shows 62% of the children had experienced direct physical assault, emotional abuse or neglect and 18% had been injured during an attack on someone else.

One 14-year-old boy told a children’s support service in Blackpool, whose data contributed to the research, that he stayed in the same room where fights started. “It’s worse listening from my bedroom trying to imagine what has happened when it all goes quiet,” he said.

More than half of the children in the study had behavioural problems, over a third had difficulty adjusting to school and two-thirds blamed themselves for the misery at home.

Worryingly, one in four had started to display abusive behaviour; mostly this began once their exposure to domestic abuse at home had stopped, and mostly it was directed towards their mother or sibling, almost never towards the perpetrator.

“I feel angry all of the time. I hurt others then I feel really bad about it,” a nine-year-old boy told his support worker.

Barran said an estimated 130,000 children lived in homes where there was “significant and imminent risk of serious harm or death” in the UK. Hundreds of thousands more live in homes where repeated exposure to a range of types of domestic abuse means they suffer both short- and long-term damage.

In some parts of the country, support workers help children as young as three to create personal safety plans and to understand that they are not responsible for the abuse.

“Specialist children’s domestic abuse services are currently a very rare resource,” said Barran.

The article emphasises why Multi-Agency Training is vital

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