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The second JTAI programme that began in September 2016, which is a programme of joint targeted area inspectorates including Ofsted, CQC, HMICFRS and HMIP, recently published a report on “the multi-agency response to children living with domestic abuse” to review practices and provide recommendations.

Per the report, there are 6.5 million adults estimated to have directly experienced domestic abuse from the age of 16. Therefore, the need for effective services that transform domestic violence is imperative.

However, the report findings revealed many gaps in addressing domestic abuse and the following five actions were recommended for health and social care professionals to improve the overall service and generate better outcomes. Whether those are social workers, Approved Mental Health Professionals or in Child Protection services, these points are relevant and can lead to better outcomes.

1) Increase depth and analysis of domestic abuse cases

The report outlined a need for professionals to “connect isolated incidents and build a picture that would lead to a different conclusion about the level of risks including understanding and addressing history of abuse to predict and anticipate trajectory of its severity.”

Therefore, those in social work jobs are encouraged to work harder to see the bigger picture and not look at the one incident on its own, but rather include previous incidents if available and thoroughly questioning the partners and children to achieve a more holistic understanding.

2) Research and identify how domestic abuse varies across the family context of different ethnicities and sexual orientations

Domestic abuse looks differently depending on the relationship dynamics and culture. This means that heterosexual and LGBTQ domestic abuse cases may look differently than one another. It also means different communities, as discussed by a social worker from Sikh community in the upcoming Social Work News magazine, define and view domestic abuse differently.

Therefore, to be effective, one must understand these varying dynamics and provide the best way to facilitate a communicative space to challenge attitudes and help reframe what it means to be in a healthy relationship.

3) Better understand and recognise the emotional impact on children

The report outlined the difficulty that social services are having when it comes to identifying the emotional impact domestic abuse may have had on a child because it is not as visible as physical signs. 

Social workers need to increase alertness and educate others about the subtle signs of abuse including being quiet and withdrawn or irritable and confrontational at school. 

4) Focus on the perpetrator to make informed assessments

In the cases observed for the study, not enough attention was given to the perpetrators as being the sources of the problem and the impact coercive control can have on victims.
With that, professionals need to use skill and insight to communicate with victims to “identify that untruths or attempts to distract or mislead may be a coping strategy and not assume that a victim is intentionally trying to be manipulative, secretive or contradictory in their words or actions.”

The report also recommended that social workers should not use written agreements with the parents in these relationships that outline actions that the victim “needs to follow” due to the risk of coercive control. Writing reports in this way victim blames and blurs the definition of what domestic abuse is and how it should be handled appropriately.

5) Recognise potential risk of separation

Although this does not always occur, professionals should be cautious when suggesting separation because it could escalate the domestic abuse in post-separation violence. 

Therefore, working hard to diffuse the situation before suggesting separation through addressing the perpetrators behaviour and family-oriented case work is essential.

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