Domestic policy

There really is no place like home. Sadly, it is in the home
that one in four women will experience violence in their lifetime
from a partner or ex-partner. Domestic abuse accounts for a quarter
of all violent crime and has the highest rate of repeat
victimisation of any crime.

And it happens just about everywhere. Cheshire, for example,
certainly has areas of deprivation (in Crewe and Ellesmere Port,
for example), but the county has a rather leafy image. But each
year, Cheshire police are called out to over 10,000 domestic
incidents. And they are just the ones that are reported; many more
people presumably suffer painfully in silence.

In 1997 some brave thinking led to the creation of the Cheshire
Domestic Abuse Partnership (CDAP). It was believed that rather than
being just another “problem” for some families, domestic abuse was
potentially a cause of parental mental health problems and
substance abuse, and children needing services. Today nearly 41 per
cent of children in need in Cheshire have reported domestic

“Violence between parents is so often the cause of children
coming into services,” says development manager and chair of CDAP
Sue Bridge. “And if you look into the inquiries into child deaths,
those children were killed by the man who was already known to have
been abusing the woman.”

CDAP started out modestly aiming to raise awareness through
information and training, but has gone from strength to strength.
Bridge says: “It is part of mainstream services and we work
together to share good practice on prevention, protection and
support.” Information is available through a directory of services,
website and leaflets including a concertina credit card-sized
version. Its training programme, now in its eighth year, has been
delivered to around 3,000 multi-agency staff.

Multi-agency is a key word. CDAP brings together social
services, police, health, education (each year in the UK 30,000
children flee with their mother to refuges, disrupting their home
life and schooling), probation, Women’s Aid, Cheshire domestic
violence outreach service, crime and disorder partnerships, Relate,
the Council for Racial Equality, Victim Support, Connexions, the
NSPCC, Refuge Forum and Chester diocese.
In 2000 CDAP was awarded a grant from the Home Office crime
reduction programme to set up a range of schemes, including data
monitoring and its impressive outreach service.

“Early intervention could substantially reduce the numbers of
children needing services,” says Bridge. “We recognised that while
there were refuges for women to escape to, we didn’t have any
services in the community for those who might still be living with
a violent partner and weren’t ready or wanting to move out of that
relationship; or who wanted to make things better.”

The outreach service, managed by Stonham Housing, which also
runs a refuge in Chester, supported 941 women (and 1,489 children)
in its first two years: “Our target was 360 women a year.”

Research shows that for a woman the most dangerous time is when
she decides to leave. “That is the time when the control is being
taken away. Every three days in this country a woman is killed at
the hands of their partner or ex-partner,” says Bridge.

Desperation is often the reason for leaving. As one victim of
domestic violence explains: “I left to protect my child. He put a
pillow over his head, ‘Shall I kill you or him first?’ I only got
out because the neighbour heard my screaming and called the

Although domestic abuse is inching up the political agenda, and
is a significant underlying cause of poor outcomes for children, it
gets only one mention in Every Child Matters in the outcomes

But Bridge remains positive. “At least it’s there. The big worry
now with the split between adult and children’s services is that if
we see children without their parents – we are ignoring where their
problems come from. And if we don’t have the services supporting
those parents experiencing abuse, we are not going to make things
better for those children.”

Lessons Learned 

  • Data monitoring has given a clear picture of incidences and
    related needs. Information is fed back to services and police to
    help identify gaps and needs.
  • Cheshire has achieved a 27 per cent increase in reporting. “The
    rise does not necessarily mean more domestic abuse is happening but
    rather that people are more confident in reporting it to agencies,”
    says CDAP data monitoring officer Judith Gibson.
  • Bridge feels opportunities have been missed. “What hasn’t been
    grasped sufficiently is that domestic abuse isn’t just another
    issue, it is fundamentally behind many of the others.”


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