CC Live: Domestic violence and child protection ‘not on same planet’

Domestic violence and child protection services “operate on different planets” despite the strong correlation between cases of each, a leading academic told Community Care Live yesterday.

Gill Hague, co-director of the violence against women research group at Bristol University’s school for policy studies, said different philosophies hampered necessary joint working between agencies.

She said: “We have the domestic violence planet, the child protection planet and the child contact planet. There are different and often contradictory ideas on these planets and so it’s hard to get joined-up working very satisfactorily.”

One of the problems was that domestic violence was seen as gendered and increasingly criminalised, while child protection issues were perceived as family dysfunction, with agencies often taking a welfare approach, she added.

But the interconnection between domestic violence and child abuse had to be recognised, she said. She pointed to NSPCC figures which revealed that about one-third of its cases initially appeared to concern domestic violence, but when clients were asked directly about domestic violence, that increased to 60%.

Kevin Gibbs, assistant director, NSPCC Cymru/Wales, told the session on domestic violence that he had carried out eight serious case reviews in England and Wales during the past year. In every one domestic violence was identified during the review – but had failed to be identified at the time.

Hague warned that the future of domestic violence services was “very uncertain”, despite the government’s national domestic violence plan. She said: “If the Home Office were here it would be talking about how wonderful it is, but there is desperate under-resourcing and the new regime is principally criminal justice focused.”

She added: “There is no longer a performance indicator for local areas to have domestic violence services, a strategy, strategy co-ordinator or education initiatives in school and that’s an extremely serious situation.”

Hague urged delegates to take up the issue with local service leaders.

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