Social workers issued guidance on coercive control

Chief social worker for adults commissions set of resources to help practitioners recognise and respond to safeguarding issue

Social workers have been issued guidance on safeguarding people who are victims of controlling and coercive behaviour.

The Department of Health has funded a set of tools to help practitioners respond to the issue, which experts say underpins domestic abuse and can be a heightened risk among people with care and support needs.

The Serious Crime Act introduced a criminal offence of “controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship” in 2015.

In light of the law change Lyn Romeo, the chief social worker for adults, commissioned Women’s Aid and Research in Practice for Adults (Ripfa) to produce a set of resources to help social workers tackle the issue.

“We felt people coming into contact with adults with care and support needs really needed the skills and knowledge to respond to this,” she said.

“We wanted to provide support and guidance as this is a new area of challenge for social workers. They need to recognise it, and understand the underlying dynamic. We know people with care and support needs are more likely to experience domestic abuse, so social workers are a key professional group here.”

Ruth Ingram, a Ripfa associate who is delivering training as part of the resources, said practitioners needed to be alert to “the extent and seriousness” of domestic abuse and coercive control among people with support needs.

Examples of the behaviour in care settings include perpetrators exerting control and making someone increasingly dependent on them by withholding medication or personal care, she said. The fear of negative repercussions can stop people from disclosing the abuse, making it harder for practitioners to recognise.

The set of resources includes guidance, case studies and sample assessment and safety plans.

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