Domestic abuse is one of the most common issues when working with children and families. One in four women will experience domestic abuse and around two thirds of cases within Children’s Services will have reported domestic abuse.
Women are seen as being responsible for keeping their children safe and often report feeling blamed for continuing to put their children at risk by remaining in an abusive relationship. The Children Act 1989 states that the welfare of the child is paramount, however, the reality is far more complex.
I have been working with children and families as a frontline Social Worker for a number of years now and I have frequently worked with families where domestic abuse has been a factor in their lives. Some of these families have remained together, some have fled abusive relationships and relocated, and others have ended up in the family law courts in care proceedings.
I have known both men and women struggle, to be honest, with those around them out of sheer fear of the consequences and others ask for help to leave relationships where violence, control, and manipulation have become the norm in daily life.
Within research, one of the key arguments is that Social Workers struggle to gain trust within a system that sees domestic abuse as a hurdle that mothers must overcome, rather than a trauma through which they should be supported.
Not all Social Worker intervention is negative. I would like to reach out to those that maybe feel trapped, or those that are ready to leave and let them know about the positives that can come from a trusting relationship with a Social Worker.
Over my years in practice, I have seen families relocate with support given practically and financially, children settled into new schools and uniforms provided for them, and relationships rebuilt between parents and children.
Children’s Services aim to take a whole family approach where possible, and where safe to do so, as the safety of the children is of paramount importance. In working with domestic abuse perpetrators behaviour can be challenged and, in some cases, changed resulting in reduced risk.
A Social Worker can also support both the victim and perpetrator in understanding the impact of domestic abuse upon children.
Social Workers are able to work directly with children and young people to help them make sense of their lived experiences and to develop resilience.
Children say that they often deliberately position themselves so that they can see what’s going on. That it’s better to know what’s happening than to be in another room imagining the worst, wondering if this is the time things will go too far.
Many children report seeing or hearing domestic abuse within their homes when their parents would argue that they had not witnessed it, nor had they been affected by it in any way.
In addition to the support that Children’s Services can provide, there are links with other agencies that are able to provide domestic abuse counselling to both victims and perpetrators alongside help in understanding the impact that domestic abuse can have upon children.
There have been cases where relationships have continued, and children are at a significant risk of physical and/or emotional harm as a result of domestic abuse. Assessments are then completed to determine whether the mother or father has the capacity to protect their children. These assessments should consider the complexities of domestic abuse and the control and manipulation that can take place to prevent safe decisions being made. If a child is deemed to be at significant risk, alternative care arrangements may be ordered by the Family Courts. These cases are in the minority.
The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, Clare’s Law, gives members of the public a ‘right to ask’ police where they have a concern that their partner may pose a risk to them or where they are concerned that the partner of a member of their family or a friend may pose a risk to that individual. A Social Worker is often able to support in making a request for disclosure under Clare’s Law.
If they want to take action to keep the abusive partner away, they could consider getting an injunction to protect from more violent behaviour (known as a Non-Molestation Order), or a court order to sort out who can stay in the family home, for example, to stop a violent partner from returning home (known as an Occupation Order).
If you have experienced or been threatened with domestic abuse, the police can issue a Domestic Violence Protection Notice and then apply to the magistrates’ court for a Domestic Violence Protection Order.
A Domestic Violence Protection Order can also protect victims from further abuse, and if they live with the perpetrator, ban them from returning to the home and contacting the victim. If the perpetrator does not keep to the Order, they can be arrested and brought before the court.
A Domestic Violence Protection Order lasts for up to 28 days and gives victims time to explore their options and get further support.
In conclusion, it is a common misconception that Social Workers swoop in and remove children. Research suggests that the best outcomes are achieved when children remain within their families.
Ultimately social work is a ‘helping’ profession and Social Workers want to support children and families in improving outcomes and ensuring that children are not at risk of harm.
By : Anonymous-Social Services UK