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The definition of domestic violence and abuse now includes young people aged 16 – 17 and aims to increase awareness that young people in this age group do experience domestic violence and abuse.

"Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass but is not limited to the following types of abuse:

  • Psychological;
  • Physical; 
  • Sexual;
  • Financial;
  • Emotional.

Controlling behaviour is: a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.

Coercive behaviour is: an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.”

This definition includes so called 'honour’ based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage, and is clear that victims are not confined to one gender or ethnic group.

Where there is domestic violence and abuse, the wellbeing of the children in the household is paramount and must be promoted. All assessments must consider the need to safeguard the children, including unborn child/ren.


At least 1.2 million women and 784,000 men aged 16-59 in England and Wales experienced domestic abuse in 2010/11 – 7.4% of women and 4.8% of men. (Domestic violence and abuse here is defined as: physical abuse, threats, non-physical abuse, sexual assault or stalking perpetrated by a partner, ex-partner or family member). At least 29.9% of women and 17% of men in England and Wales have, at some time, experienced it. (Smith et al 2012)

The risk of experiencing domestic violence or abuse is increased if someone

  • Is female;
  • Is aged 16-24 (women) or 16-19 (men) (Smith et al 2012);
  • Has a long term illness or disability – this almost doubles the risk (Smith et al 2012);
  • Has a mental health problem (Trevillion et al 2012);
  • Is a woman who is separated (Smith et al 2012) – there is an elevated risk of abuse around the time of separation (Richards 2004).

The risk is also increased if a woman is pregnant or has recently given birth. Although pregnancy appears to offer protection for some women (Bowen et al 2005) for others it increases the risk. (Harrykissoon et al 2002) In addition, there is a strong correlation between post-natal depression and domestic violence or abuse.(NICE 2004).

The emotional responses of children who witness domestic violence and abuse may include fear, guilt, shame, sleep disturbances, sadness, depression, and anger (at both the abuser for the violence and at other parent for being unable to protect).

Physical responses may include stress-induced aches and pains, bedwetting, and inability to concentrate. Some children are the direct victims of other types of abuse or injured while trying to intervene on behalf of their parent or sibling.

The behavioural responses of children who witness domestic violence and abuse may include acting out, withdrawal, or anxiousness to please. A change in achievement or behaviour at school can be an indicator of problems at home.

Domestic violence and abuse may have a long term psychological and emotional impact in a number of ways:

  • Children may be greatly distressed by witnessing (seeing or hearing) the physical and emotional suffering of a parent, or witnessing the outcome of any assault;
  • Children may be pressurised into concealing assaults, and experience the fear and anxiety of living in an environment where abuse occurs;
  • The domestic violence and abuse may impact negatively on an adult victim’s parenting capacity;
  • Children may be drawn into the violence and themselves become victims of physical abuse;
  • Children who have witnessed domestic abuse may go on to perpetrate violence against their parents or within their intimate relationships as adolescents.

For children living in situations of domestic violence and abuse, the effects may result in behavioural issues, absence from school, difficulties concentrating, lower school achievement, ill health, bullying, substance misuse, self-harm, running away, anti-social behaviour and physical injury.

During pregnancy, domestic violence and abuse can pose a threat to an unborn child as assaults on pregnant women often involve punches or kicks directed at the abdomen, risking injury to both the mother and the foetus. In almost a third of cases, domestic violence and abuse begins or escalates during pregnancy and it is associated with increased rates of miscarriage, premature birth, foetal injury and foetal death. The mother may be prevented from seeking or receiving anti-natal care or post-natal care. In addition if the mother is being abused this can affect her attachment to her child, more so if the pregnancy is a result of rape by her partner.

Children can also experience domestic violence and abuse within their own relationships (see Peer to Peer / relationship abuse). Girls are more likely than boys to report experiencing abuse in their intimate relationships, and younger adolescents are just as likely as older adolescents to experience it. Most children do not tell an adult about this abuse.

Young people themselves can be subjected to domestic violence and abuse perpetrated in order to force them into marriage or to punish him/her for ‘bringing dishonour on the family’. This abuse may be carried out by several members of a family increasing the young person’s sense of isolation and powerlessness.

There are increasing numbers of young people, aged under 16, perpetrating violence and abuse against their parents and within their intimate relationships (see Adolescent Parental Violence and Abuse (AVPA)). This is an emerging area of focus for agencies to be aware of.


Practitioners should be alert to the signs that a child or adult may be experiencing domestic violence and abuse, or that a partner may be perpetrating domestic violence and abuse. Practitioners should always consider during an assessment the need to offer children and adults the opportunity of being seen alone and ask whether they are experiencing, or have previously experienced, domestic violence and abuse.

Practitioners who are in contact with adults who are threatening or abusive to them need to be alert to the potential that these individuals may be abusive in their personal relationships and assess whether domestic violence and abuse is occurring within the family. 

Considerations in assessments where domestic violence and abuse may be present include:

  • Checking whether domestic violence and abuse has occurred whenever child abuse is suspected and considering the impact of this at all stages of assessment, enquiries and intervention this should include checks with the Police unit responsible for vulnerable people and any domestic violence and abuse screening process;
  • Identifying those who are responsible for domestic violence and abuse, in order that relevant family law or criminal justice responses may be made;
  • Providing victims with full information about their legal rights, and about the extent and limits of statutory duties and powers;
  • Helping victims and children to get protection from violence, by providing relevant practical and other assistance;
  • Supporting non-abusing parents in making safe choices for themselves and their children;
  • Taking into account that there may be continued or increased risk of domestic violence and abuse towards the abused parent and/or child after separation especially in connection with post-separation child contact arrangements;
  • Working separately with each parent where domestic violence and abuse prevents non-abusing parents from speaking freely and participating without fear of retribution;
  • Working with parents to help them understand the impact of the domestic violence and abuse on their children.

Adolescent Parental Violence and Abuse (AVPA)

There is currently no legal definition of adolescent to parent violence and abuse however it may be referred to as: Adolescent to parent violence and abuse (APVA) may be referred to as 'adolescent to parent violence (APV)' 'adolescent violence in the home (AVITH)', 'parent abuse', 'child to parent abuse', 'child to parent violence (CPV)', or 'battered parent syndrome'.

The cross-Government definition of domestic violence and abuse is any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass, but is not limited to psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional abuse. While this definition applies to those aged 16 or above, APVA can equally involve children under 16, and the advice in this document reflects this.

It is important to recognise that APVA is likely to involve a pattern of behaviour. This can include physical violence from an adolescent towards a parent and a number of different types of abusive behaviours, including damage to property, emotional abuse, and economic/financial abuse. Violence and abuse can occur together or separately. Abusive behaviours can encompass, but are not limited to, humiliating language and threats, belittling a parent, damage to property and stealing from a parent and heightened sexualised behaviours. Patterns of coercive control are often seen in cases of APVA, but some families might experience episodes of explosive physical violence from their adolescent with fewer controlling, abusive behaviours. Although practitioners may be required to respond to a single incident of APVA, it is important to gain an understanding of the pattern of behaviour behind an incident and the history of the relationship between the young person and the parent.

Risk Assessment with Young People perpetrating APVA

There are specific factors to consider when working with young people who are involved in adolescent to parent abuse:

Environmental factors:

  • Is there a history of domestic abuse within the family unit?
  • Is the young person in an abusive intimate relationship?
  • Is there a need for adult services' involvement in the family?
  • Is the young person being coerced into abusive behaviours?
  • Is the young person displaying heightened sexualised behaviours?
  • Is the young person associating with peer groups who are involved in offending or older peers?
  • Are Children's Services currently involved with the family?
  • Should a risk assessment be conducted on the siblings to see if they are at risk of violence and/or contributing to the violence?
  • Is the young person isolated from people and services that could support them?
  • Is there a risk that the young person is being bullied?
  • Are there BAME issues that need to be considered or that may affect a victim's disclosure?

Emotional self-regulation:

  • Does the young person have difficulties in forming relationships?
  • Does the young person have mental health issues, self-harm or suicidal tendencies?
  • Is the young person disengaged from education?
  • Is the young person misusing substances?
  • Does the young person display an obsessive use of violent games or pornography?
  • Does the young person have poor coping skills or engage in risk taking behaviours?
  • Does the young person they identify their behaviour as abuse?


It is important that a young person using abusive behaviour against a parent receives an appropriate safeguarding response.

Young people may need support from a wide range of local agencies. Where a young person could benefit from coordinated support from more than one agency (e.g. education, health, social care, and police) there should be an inter-agency assessment. These early assessments (such as the use of the common assessment framework (CAF)) should identify what help the young person requires to prevent their needs and behaviour escalating to a point where intervention would be needed via a statutory assessment under the Children Act 1989.

Where adolescent to parent abuse involves under 16 year olds a safeguarding referral should be made.

See Referrals Procedure.

Peer to Peer / Relationship Abuse

According to a NSPCC report in 2009, 1 in 5 teenagers have been physically abused by their boyfriends or girlfriends. (Partner exploitation and violence in teenage intimate relationships' (September 2009) by Christine Barter, Melanie McCarry, David Berridge and Kathy Evans).

Although affecting both genders, girls report more incidents and more frequency of violence; and also described it as having a greater impact on their wellbeing.

Associated factors, both for experiencing and instigating teenage partner violence, can include previous experiences of child maltreatment, domestic violence in the family and aggressive peer networks.

Peer to Peer/Relationship abuse should be viewed as a significant child-welfare problem and support offer to those young people effected.


Practitioners must work sensitively with young people affected by relationship abuse. Despite this topic having been covered on popular TV dramas, many young people will not understand that what they are experiencing is abuse. It should be acknowledged that young people affected by relationship abuse are more likely to speak to their friends than an adult.

To better inform the assessment of risk when working with young people practitioners are encouraged to use the Safe Lives Young People's Risk Assessment Tool.

Where abuse is identified in young people over the age of 16, professional judgement will be required to decide whether the A Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) or safeguarding route is more appropriate.

For young people under the age of 16 consideration needs to be given as to whether support is required from more than one agency (e.g. education, health, social care and the police) and would benefit from an interagency assessment.

Sibling Violence

Sibling violence can have a profound impact on the psychological and emotional development of the victim and perpetrator and can result in long term emotional and psychological consequences. Living in families where this is a feature of daily family life and is left unresolved can lead to feelings of helplessness and disempowerment and give rise to feelings of anger and mistrust about those in a caring role.

Sibling violence is not routinely recognised as a source of significant harm, there is an absence of guidance provided to front line practitioners and the limited recognition of the impact on the development and wellbeing of all family members leaves a vacuum where needs are unrecognised and services ill equipped to provide a response.


Practitioners need to be aware of the impact of sibling violence and understand and recognise it within families where it is a feature.

Risk to both victim and perpetrator of sibling violence needs to be assessed and understood and where indicated the child protection systems need to be sufficiently adapted to ensure the risk of sibling violence is addressed.

In addition, multi-agency service provision to both the victim and perpetrator need to be tailored to meet their individual needs with robust monitoring in place to safeguarding them.

Practitioners need to understand the seriousness of the issues and the complexities of meeting the needs of both children affected by sibling violence.

Practitioners need to support parents and carers to help them understand the complexities of sibling violence and ensure they are able to manage and care for their children appropriately. Where identified and assessed support services should be accessed.

Protection and Action to be Taken

Domestic violence and abuse is a complex issue that needs sensitive handling by a range health and social care practitioners. The cost, in both human and economic terms, is so significant that even marginally effective interventions are cost effective. (NICE 2014)

Working in a multi-agency partnership is the most effective way to approach the issue at both an operational and a strategic level. Initial and ongoing training and organisational support is also needed. (NICE 2014)

When responding to incidents of violence, the practitioner should always find out if there are any children in the household or any children who would normally live in the household. The Police or other agencies should ensure the children are seen and their safety established whenever they attend a domestic violence and abuse incident.

Persons Who Have No Recourse to Public Funding

The ‘no recourse to public funds’ (NRPF) rule adversely affects women and men experiencing domestic abuse who have insecure immigration status and are subject to immigration control. People with NRPF have no entitlement to public housing or welfare benefits – including Income Support, Jobseekers Allowance, and Housing Benefit, homelessness assistance, Child Benefit, disability allowances or Working Families Tax Credit. People with NRPF are therefore unable to access refuge spaces, as these are maintained through rental income mainly funded by housing benefit. Local Authorities Guidance should be followed:

Multi Agency Responses

Practitioners will work with many women who are experiencing domestic violence and abuse and who have not yet disclosed. Research suggests that women usually experience an average of 35 incidents before reporting it to the police. It is recognised good practice that practitioners should offer all children and women, accompanied or not, the opportunity of being seen alone (including in all assessments) with a female practitioner, and asked whether they are experiencing or have previously experienced domestic violence and abuse.  

Practitioners will want to be aware that victims of domestic abuse may also experience sexual violence and there is a cross-over between the Community safety Partnership Work on the Sexual Violence Strategy and Domestic Violence Strategy.

Practitioners in all agencies are in a position to identify or receive a disclosure about domestic violence and abuse. Practitioners should be alert to the signs that a child or mother may be experiencing domestic violence and abuse, or that a father / partner may be perpetrating domestic violence and abuse.

Practitioners should never assume that somebody else will take care of the domestic violence and abuse issues. This may be the child, mother or abusing partner’s first or only disclosure or contact with services in circumstances which allow for safeguarding action.

Practitioners must ensure that their attempts to identify domestic violence and abuse and their response to recognition or disclosure of domestic violence and abuse do not trigger an escalation of violence.

In particular, practitioners should keep in mind that:

The issue of domestic violence and abuse should only ever be raised with a child or mother when they are safely on their own and in a private place; and separation does not ensure safety, it often at least temporarily increases the risk to the child/ren or mother.

The risk of young people being involved in child sexual exploitation is known to be a risk for a range of young people, but experiencing domestic abuse is one factor found in a number of cases.

If there is concern that a child/ren have suffered, or are likely to suffer, significant harm then every practitioner’s overriding duty is to protect the child/ren. This may include a referral to Children’s Social Care which should follow the “Referral Procedure"

Information from the public, family or community members must be taken sufficiently seriously by practitioners in statutory and voluntary agencies. Recent research evidence indicates that failure to do so has been a contributory factor in a significant number of cases where a child has been seriously harmed or died.

Risk of violence towards practitioners should be considered by all agencies who work in the area of domestic violence and abuse and assessments of risk undertaken. It is acknowledged that intimidatory or threatening behaviour towards practitioners may inhibit the practitioner’s ability to work effectively.

Thus the importance of effective supervision and management is highlighted and agencies should take account of the impact or potential impact on practitioners in planning their involvement in situations of domestic violence and abuse.

Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH)/Multi Agency Information Sharing Hub (MAISH)

Police Public Protection Notification (PPN) reports in respect of children are processed in the Multi-Agency Information Sharing Hub at Poole Police Station. All three local authorities have managers from Children’s Social Care who work in the hub and link with police and health colleagues, who are also based in the same location. The police RAG rate the PPN reports and then share them with Children’s Social Care and health colleagues. PPN reports are then reviewed by Children’s Social Care managers, in discussion with health staff in the hub and then disseminated to Children’s Social Care local offices for any further action and to relevant health staff.

Single Agency Responses


When a police officer deals with a domestic incident where children are present or normally reside in the household, a copy of the domestic violence and abuse form (Public Protection Notification is completed in all cases. All information and relevant history must be recorded fully on the PPN by the attending officer. The Police attending the incident will inform the adults involved that as children are (or normally are) residing or spend significant time there on contact/other visits, information relating to the incident will be forwarded to the appropriate Children's Social Care Department and the Dorset Healthcare Trust Safeguarding Team (in Bournemouth and Poole this information is also passed to education). The domestic abuse office will inform Children's Social Care within 24 hours, or the first working day of receiving the PPN. The CAADA/DASH risk assessment is completed with the victim at the scene or time of reporting to the police. The police will look to share this information and that on the PPN with other agencies. In the case of very high-risk victims, the police will make a referral to the MARAC.

The Police must take all reasonable steps to safeguard the welfare of the adult victim and children. Removing the abuser from the home should be considered, unless the safest option is to assist the victim and child/ren to a place of safety. Dorset Police policy (2006) requires that an attending officer must take positive action when responding to and investigating incidents of domestic violence and abuse. This means that where a criminal offence is disclosed and the power of arrest exists, then that power should normally be exercised. Officers must be prepared to account for their actions if they do not make an arrest in those circumstances.

The officer will record visible injuries and encourage the victims to seek medical assistance. Digital photographs of injuries (with due regard to cultural sensitivities and the dignity of the individual) and the scene of an incident are to be obtained. Evidence gathered at the scene is vital and good quality photographs are an essential part of any prosecution. They would also help in the assessment of risk posed to any children. Police officers will also provide victims with information about help available to them.

At Child Protection Conferences the police will provide information about all reported domestic violence and abuse incidents.

Children’s Social Care

The Referral Procedure should be followed and Children’s Social Care must consistently record and actively consider all notifications of incidents of domestic violence and abuse.

Emergencies or incidents of domestic violence and abuse where children are present in the household will often involve the police, and the police will complete a Children & Young Person at risk form PPN and CAADA DASH risk assessment. Children’s Social Care may already have been alerted to the incident where there are immediate concerns for any children. This includes the Out of Hours Service. On notification of an incident, the minimum response must be to consult existing social care records and check whether the family are known and where other practitioners are known to be involved from universal or targeted services.

A decision about the most appropriate course of action must be made by the manager, according to locally agreed agency protocols.

The evaluation will be based on a consideration of information and factors such as:

  • The degree of injury sustained to the adult;
  • Where the victim is pregnant and there is a risk of injury to the unborn child;
  • Whether a child is injured;
  • Whether a child is involved and not injured;
  • Whether a child is in the house;
  • The emotional impact on the child / adult;
  • The age of the child / children;
  • The number of previous incidents and their severity;
  • Previous MARAC’s with current or previous partner;
  • Whether parties involved are separated or separating;
  • Whether there are any other attributing or associated factors e.g. substance misuse, mental health, vulnerability (parent or child);
  • Police information regarding significant offending history of the adults e.g. previous assaults, use of weapons, drug and alcohol related offences.

Following a consideration of the initial information against agency protocols, a decision may be taken to record the incident in the client record system (RAISE) as a contact only. The decision in this case may therefore be no further action.

Where the threshold for taking a referral is met, further information will be gathered and this may include contacting the victim, where appropriate, and liaising with the Police domestic abuse teams. Advice may be given to the victim regarding services.

Within 24 hours of the receipt of the referral a decision will be made on the basis of the information gathered whether to proceed to an assessment. Each case will be considered on its own merit, using the risk factors outlined and any other agency protocols. Referrers to Children’s Social Care should not automatically expect that there will be an assessment but Children’s Social Care must inform the agency / practitioner making the referral of the decision. Where the threshold for an assessment is met this will be undertaken in accordance with the “Framework for Assessment Triangle”. The Child must be seen and if of sufficient age must be spoken to.

If earlier notifications have not led to an assessment, on receipt of the third PPN within a 12-month period contact will be made with other agencies (e.g. police, education, health) to discuss their involvement and to consider an appropriate course of action. Generally, an assessment will be undertaken. However if each conflict is verbal, and of a minor nature the Children’s Social Care assessment team may decide not to proceed to an Assessment. The responsible manager must clearly record on the case file the reasons why an assessment was not undertaken. In these cases any of the agencies consulted may request further discussion or a review of this decision.

Contact with a family for the purposes of completing any assessment should be done with care and sensitivity in order to avoid exposing the non-abusing adult and the children to the risk of further harm-especially when that contact is not face to face. This includes checking with the referrer and / or agencies that are working with the family about the best way to contact them and when the alleged abuser is most likely to be absent. When any contact is made with the adult victim, information concerning support services and legal options must be offered and be available.

As part of an Assessment a child/ren must always be seen and where the age of the child is appropriate the views of the child must also be sought. Reasons for not obtaining the child’s views must be discussed with a manager and the reasons recorded.

If during the assessment, more information is obtained which raises concerns which reach the threshold for child protection, a strategy discussion must be held and, where the outcome is that a s.47 enquiry should commence, the assessment must continue.

Where the assessment identifies complex or additional needs a specialist assessment may be required. Where an Assessment and S.17 response is made, a Child In Need Plan should be agreed and actioned.

Consideration must be given to working with the perpetrator, in line with the child in need/child protection plan, challenging the behaviour and assessing their understanding of the impact of their behaviour on the children. It is critical that the implications for the personal safety of social workers, other practitioners working with the family and for that of the victim are considered within risk assessments.

Factors which are likely to suggest that a Section 47 (Child Protection Enquiry): should be considered are:

  • Previous child protection concerns;
  • A child/ren witnessing serious assault;
  • A significant domestic violence and abuse incident involving a child/ren – either child threatened (at risk of injury from violence) or directly injured;
  • A repeated pattern of referrals / escalation of domestic violence and abuse incidents where there is significant risk of harm to the child/children;
  • Previous MARAC with current or previous partners (whether victim or perpetrator);
  • Clear injury to a child would automatically instigate a Section 47 Enquiry and an assessment, unless the child is no longer at risk.

The Child Protection Conference

The following are additional procedures to be followed in conjunction with the “Child Protection Conferences Procedure and Child Protection Plans and Core Groups Procedure”.

Where a Child Protection Conference is to be held the Police Domestic Abuse Coordinators (Community Safety / Public Protection Unit) should be asked to provide all information of reported domestic violence and abuse incidents in relation to the family in question. All regular pre-conference checks should be carried out in line with procedures i.e. Schools, Probation Service, Education Welfare, Health / GP and any other agency known to be involved with either the children or adults.

All practitioners involved with the family, including adult services, probation, health, advocates and voluntary sector services, should be invited to the initial child protection conference. If unable to attend, they should be asked to provide a report.

A SafeLives CAADA DASH risk assessment should have been completed and any additional assessments must be undertaken regarding risks posed by the abuser/ offender to the child/ren and any risks that their attendance at the conference might pose to the non-abusing parent children and practitioners present.

It is the responsibility of the allocated social worker to discuss the reasons for the conference and the conference process with the non-abusing parent and ascertain their views regarding the participation of the abusing adult.

The social worker must discuss with the Chair of the Conference, in advance of the conference, if the working process of a Child Protection Conference is likely to be compromised because the non-abusing parent feels unable to share information or participate, or has safety fears. Consideration must be given to excluding the abusing parent from all or part of a meeting. This decision is the responsibility of the Chair of the Conference, who will record the reason in the conference record. The Chair of the Conference will also consider how the views of the adult perpetrator will be sought regarding the children for whom they have parental responsibility, and will make arrangements for the abusing adult to be informed of the outcome of the conference.

The Family Law Act 1996 gives greater powers to permit, in certain circumstances, removing the abuser from the home in order to protect children and this should be considered as part of the of a Child Protection Plan, or before this point if necessary. Consultation with the legal department to use these powers or other orders will be necessary


The specific health consequences of domestic violence and abuse are numerous. They can range from psychological effects to physical injury and death. Domestic violence and abuse often starts or escalates during pregnancy.

The health service has a dual role when dealing with domestic violence and abuse. Firstly, it is the source of care for many of the injuries of victims and survivors, providing both immediate and long-term care. Secondly, since there is near universal contact with the Health Service, the NHS provides a key route to identification, risk assessment and appropriate health and other support for those experiencing domestic violence and abuse, including their children.

If Health practitioners, including GPs, Midwifery, Practice Nurses, Health Visitors (HV) and School Nurses (SN), Paediatricians and Emergency Department Staff, become aware of domestic violence and abuse within a family they should listen to the victim and take them seriously. The safety of any children in the household and the implications of domestic violence and abuse for them should be discussed. Any injuries should be logged, (photographed if possible, by medical photography or forensic photography but NOT with a mobile phone) and questions should be sensitively asked about how they were received.

The need to safeguard the welfare of the child/ren is paramount. Where child/ren are in the household the Health practitioner should establish how/where the child/ren were and how they are affected. The emotional impact on children may be difficult to assess but may manifest as adjustment problems resulting in withdrawal, depression, anxiety, difficult behaviour, parent child conflict, low self esteem, attachment problems etc. Where children are involved the parent/carer should be informed that the matter will be discussed with the Safeguarding Children Adviser (Health) and their advice sought. If the child/ren are considered to be suffering, or are likely to suffer, significant harm a referral will be made to Children’s Social Care (formerly SSD). If domestic abuse is suspected but denied any injuries should be recorded and consideration should be given to a referral to Children’s Social Care.

GPs have a responsibility to alert other health practitioners and /or social care where an adult patient who is a parent/carer/partner raises concerns in relation to domestic violence and abuse. As a minimum GPs should check whether the adult patient has children or children who visit the home and where a decision is made NOT to make a referral to Children’s Social Care, the reasons for this should be recorded on the patient record and cross referenced onto the child’s record. Additionally, GPs should consider whether a referral may be appropriate under the Safeguarding Adults Policy and Procedure.

Management of Single Combined Assessment of Risk Form (Public Protection Notification PPN)

The police will distribute PPNs to health practitioners via the Dorset Healthcare, Safeguarding Children department who will alert other health practitioners and other health trusts in the area as appropriate.

Upon receipt, the PPN will be read, assessed and passed on to health visitors and school nurses, they will also be sent to midwives for any victims with unborn children. If they are assessed as ‘high risk’ staff will be contacted by phone. Health visitors will share the referral with GPs, school nurses and midwives as appropriate.

Health practitioners will record this information on the child and family records. Any concerns will be discussed with their Safeguarding Children Team and appropriate action agreed. This includes considering a referral to Children’s Social Care.

If it is decided that a support visit is needed from a health visitor, or other health practitioner, then contact will be made with other agencies to ascertain their level of intervention and to consider joint visits if appropriate, or to agree who will undertake a support visit in order to avoid duplication of intervention. Following a visit any outcomes or actions taken will be passed to the relevant agencies.

The health practitioner will discuss the information with all other health practitioners’ including the GP who may be involved with the child. The GP should ensure this information is safely scanned and coded within the notes of the victim and perpetrator, and only coded within the child/ren records. (It is advisable to make a note as to where the full PPN can be found).

Click here to view a more detailed guidance for storage of Public Protection Notification (PPN) for GPs.

If the health practitioner is aware that a child involved is being seen in a secondary or tertiary care setting and that the information could be relevant to the secondary care management they should ensure that the information is passed on to whoever is providing secondary or tertiary care.

Dorset Devon and Cornwall Community Rehabilitation Company

As part of the Governments’ Transforming Rehabilitation agenda, Probation Trusts were separated into two separate organisations from 1 June 2015. The Community Rehabilitation Companies manage low and medium risk of serious harm offenders and the National Probation Service manages all those assessed as high risk of serious harm and all MAPPA cases. Dorset and Devon and Cornwall areas were merged to become the Dorset Devon and Cornwall CRC, and following the Governments nationwide share sale of CRCs, Dorset Devon and Cornwall CRC (DDC CRC) are now owned by Working Links. The Ministry of Justice retain an interest in order to ensure that the contract is delivered.

DDC staff should follow the management of risk of serious harm and safeguarding policies / practice guidance and relevant Probation Instructions.

Offenders known to the CDD CRC are assessed as to whether they pose a risk of causing serious harm to others. The likelihood of domestic abuse is an important aspect of this assessment. If any offender presents a risk of serious harm a referral will be made for consideration under the MAPPA, MARAC or the DVLA and a multi agency meeting may be convened. If the risk of serious harm is assessed as raising to high or very high for a CRC case, a formal risk escalation process will be followed to refer the case to the National Probation Service. On agreement of the assessment, the National Probation Service will take ownership and management of the case.

Some offenders may, themselves, be victims of domestic violence and abuse and they should be assisted to protect themselves and any dependents.

Perpetrators under the supervision of DDC CRC are monitored, their behaviour is challenged and they will be referred to the Accredited Programme Building Better Relationships (BBR) as appropriate. For offenders who do not meet the criteria for BBR, there is an alternative course ‘Positive Relationships’ which prioritises women’s and children’s safety by providing a Partner Link Worker to support the partner/ex-partner of the men sentenced to the activity.

The focus of supervision is protecting the victim and any dependents, preventing further offending and changing established patterns of thinking and behaviour.

Those perpetrators required to attend the BBR will be required to provide details of partners so that the Women’s Support Worker can make contact with partners. WSW support to victims is a key part of the Probation’s public protection remit. The WSW will liaise directly with police, offender managers, programme staff and Children’s Social Care in order to provide safety planning options and manage the risk to partners.

Offender Managers will liaise with the relevant Children’s Social Care (through the assessment team if appropriate) where it is known that there are children in the family of an offender and offenders are known to be perpetrators of domestic abuse. In addition to the usual child protection procedures, where a convicted domestic violence and abuse perpetrator is attending the IDAP programme and is living with or having regular contact with children, the Probation Offender Manager will send a notification form to Children’s Social Care Assessment Team. The purpose of the notification should be made clear e.g., notification only, information seeking, or making a referral.

National Probation Service - Dorset

The National Probation Service (NPS) has a vital part to play in tackling domestic abuse within its wider role of protecting the public and reducing re-offending. The importance of the delivery of an effective, consistent and high quality service to victims, and a fully integrated and coordinated approach to the identification, assessment and management of perpetrators, encompassing access to appropriate interventions and inter-agency working, cannot be under-estimated.

NPS Staff are expected to work to agency policy, practice guidance and Probation Instructions. They are also required to adhere to established protocols regarding safeguarding for vulnerable adults and children. The Domestic Abuse Policy for the National Probation Service South West South Central Region is in the process of being finalised. A revision to this section as a result of that document’s publication will be made in due course.

In terms of ongoing activity to tackle domestic abuse Dorset NPS will:

  • Ensure that strategic leadership pays appropriate attention to domestic abuse;
  • Ensure that issues relating to domestic abuse are embedded into the identification, allocation, assessment and management of offenders in custody and in the community;
  • Ensure there is early identification of perpetrators and victims throughout the criminal justice process;
  • Make certain that all aspects of the assessment and management of offenders take account of victims/potential victims, and link with relevant agencies to enhance victim safety;
  • Maintain a robust commitment to multi-agency working;
  • Ensure that staff are fully aware of their role in terms of adult and child safeguarding and always consider safeguarding issues where domestic abuse is identified;
  • Ensure that staff are able to respond appropriately to working with domestic abuse perpetrators and all known victims regardless of race, gender, age, religious beliefs, sexuality, race or disability;
  • Make sure that appropriate and effective interventions are provided for perpetrators of domestic abuse through working with Dorset, Devon and Cornwall Community Rehabilitation Company and other partnership agencies;
  • Enable offenders who are victims of domestic abuse to access appropriate services and support.

Youth Offending Teams

Young offenders can experience domestic abuse as victims or perpetrators, or both. All young people being supervised by the Youth Offending Service (YOS) are assessed using the nationally approved structured assessment tool for youth justice. This assessment covers both the risks posed to other people, and the risks posed to the young person. In undertaking the assessment the YOS practitioner will seek information from other services, including social care.

The assessment identifies risks which the young person may pose to others. The offence for which the young person is being supervised may be unrelated to the risks they pose of perpetrating domestic abuse. Domestic abuse perpetrated by young people can be against parents/carers/family members, as well as against intimate partners. The YOS Risk Policy provides guidance to YOS practitioners on assessment of these risks, and actions to take when risks have been identified. The team’s Victim Liaison Officer will play an important role in supporting the victim and contributing to the plan to manage the risks safely. When the victim is a parent or carer then the team’s Parenting Officer will also provide support to the victim and advice on risk management. The principles of risk management for such cases will be to prioritise protection and support for the victim, while working with the young person to help them change their behaviour, using resources appropriate to the young person’s age and learning ability.

Young people who are known to the YOS have often witnessed domestic abuse, and may currently be living in a household where domestic abuse is being perpetrated. The YOS practitioner’s assessment of the young person’s safety will consider such risks. Where concerns about the young person’s safety are identified, procedures within the YOS Risk Policy give guidance about actions to manage the risk, including the possibility of an inter-agency referral to social care. Assessments of risk to young people known to the YOS will also consider risks to other children in the household. Where such children are identified as being at risk of significant harm, a referral will be made to the local social care team.

Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS)

Where a Family Court Adviser is asked for a welfare report under section 7 of the 1989 Children Act in relation to a disputed application for contact and/or residence in a household or family in which domestic violence and abuse is a feature, an assessment must be made regarding the harm the child/ren have suffered or are at risk of suffering if contact is ordered. Check will be made with local agencies about their involvement. The report should include an assessment of whether the child/ren and resident parent’s safety can be secured, before, during and after contact. Particular efforts should be made to ascertain the wishes and feelings of the child/ren in the light of domestic violence and abuse allegations. In each case, children should be interviewed in a manner consistent with their age, developmental needs and understanding.

Family Court Advisers should be informed by the court prior to their assessment if a Finding of Fact concerning domestic violence and abuse has been made. It may be advisable for reporters to confirm this in such cases. In addition, Family Court Advisers have a duty to advise the Court if they believe that a Finding of Fact Hearing would be appropriate because of allegations of domestic violence and abuse.

Where allegations of domestic violence and abuse are involved and the whereabouts of the child/ren and resident parent are not known to the parent seeking contact, but are known to the court and the Family Court Adviser, it is vital that the court makes directions designed to ensure that the welfare report does not reveal their whereabouts, either directly or indirectly. In addition, CAFCASS has a general duty to respect this. It may also be appropriate for responsibility for a welfare report to be allocated to an office away from the area where the children and the resident parent are living in order to avoid detection of their whereabouts.

In deciding whether to recommend contact in their report to court, the family court adviser should take into account the welfare checklist in section (1) (3) of the 1989 Children Act. The court, when considering whether or not to grant contact, will take into account details on whether or not it will be supervised/supported, by whom and how. Any contact must minimise the risk of harm to the child/ren and ensure the safety of the child/ren and resident parent, before, during and after contact. In making an assessment, the Family Court Adviser will make appropriate use of the CAFCASS Domestic violence and abuse Toolkit and safety planning documents. In cases where there is agreement between the parties and there is a background of domestic violence and abuse the Family Court Adviser will act to carefully scrutinize the agreement in terms of safety and protection. All referrals to CAFCASS will initially be screened by a Service Manager in terms of possible safeguarding issues. In all Private Law cases where there are allegations of domestic abuse the Local Authority will be notified that CAFCASS is involved with the family. Where the arrangements for the child/ren currently prevent the risk of exposure to harm, or that risk is being managed during the course of CAFCASS’ work, no formal referral will be made at that stage. Where the outcome of the court application results in contact and residence arrangements that resolve issues satisfactorily, excluding the risk of future exposure to harm as a result of witnessing or experiencing domestic abuse, the Local Authority will be notified that CAFCASS’ involvement is at an end and no referral is being made.

Where ongoing concerns remain and the child/ren require assessment as to services needed then a formal referral will be made, (see Referrals Process). If the child/ren have suffered harm or are considered to remain at risk of harm a Child Protection referral will be made. The court, the children where appropriate and their families will be informed of the steps CAFCASS will take. In cases of Child Protection referrals there may be specific reasons not to do this although the Court will always be informed of actions taken.

Whenever a Court requires a Section 7 Report and the Local Authority Children’s Social Care are working with the child/ren and their family, the Local Authority shall ordinarily undertake the reporting requirement in order to avoid agency duplication.

In Section 31 applications, Adoption Proceedings and any other Public Law Proceedings the Family Court Adviser must be aware of any relevant domestic violence and abuse issues in their assessment.

Schools and Education Support Services

Education support services and schools have no statutory responsibility for protecting adults who have experienced or are experiencing domestic violence and abuse. However, they do have a duty under the Children Act to assist Children’s Social Care acting on behalf of children in need or enquiries into allegations of child abuse. Further, Section 175 of the Education Act 2002 placed a statutory duty on Local Authorities, schools and further education institutions to make arrangements for carrying out their functions with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children. The same duty is imposed on Independent Schools through s157 of the Education Act 2002

Every school is required to have a child protection policy in place and a named Senior Designated Person within the school that has specific responsibility for child protection issues. Many children and young people in schools and youth settings will be experiencing or witnessing domestic violence and abuse within their immediate family. Many young people may be in relationships where they are already experiencing violence or abuse.

Staff in the Education Service who have direct contact with children and families should be aware of the significance of domestic violence and abuse on the lives of children and young people. Staff should not only be alert to signs of physical abuse but also the emotional impact on children. Schools and educational establishments are a major point of contact for children and their parents/carers. Schools can have more contact with school-aged children than any other practitioner or agency. Schools also have a role to play in reminding the community that domestic violence and abuse is a crime and can display information about sources of help available locally for women and children.

Dorset, Bournemouth and Poole Schools have an agreed protocol for receiving notification of domestic violence incidents relating to children – see “Guidance on Sharing Information on Domestic Abuse with Bournemouth and Poole Schools, College and Early Years Settings”.

Where Children’s Social Care are undertaking an assessment or undertaking a child protection investigation, the social worker will communicate with the school’s designated member of staff and a named representative within education.

If child protection concerns are raised then a referral should be made to the appropriate. See the Referrals Procedure.

If a child/ren has transferred schools due to the family experiencing domestic violence and abuse, care should be taken in relation to revealing the new location of the school to the perpetrator. However relevant information about the child should be shared by the school’s Designated Safeguarding Lead with the appropriate figure in the new school to ensure the overall well-being of the child is safe-guarded.

Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset have systems for identifying the whereabouts of the child and adult victim of abuse where they are Children Missing From Education

Early Years Providers

Early Years settings may be aware of domestic abuse and violence between parents and adult carers of children attending the setting. They should use this guidance and their own safeguarding policies to consider whether a referral to Children’s Social Care is required.

In Poole, Early Years Providers who are signed up to information sharing protocols will be alerted when a child attending their setting has been involved in domestic abuse or violence so that they can play their part in the vigilance, assessment and planning for that child

Adults Services

A significant finding described in “Analysing child deaths and serious injury through abuse and neglect: what can we learn?” DCSF 2008 is that where domestic violence and abuse prevailed in cases subject of a serious case review, this very often coexisted with other problems in the family such as substance misuse and mental health. The conclusion being that this continues to be a challenge for adult services in terms of early identification and that agencies who have contact with the adult members of the family have a key role to play.

This protocol should be read in conjunction with:

Therefore when practitioners are working with adults who have a child caring responsibilities they need to ensure that the children are included in any holistic assessment when the adult mentions as part of history gathering:

  • History of domestic violence and abuse or convictions for violent offences;
  • Disordered thinking about their partner;
  • Obsessive/controlling behaviour towards partner and/or children;
  • Expressing fears or intent to harm partner and/or children;
  • Known use of or availability of weapons (carries a knife /owns or access to guns);
  • Describing behaviours which could suggest harassment or stalking;
  • The heightened risk to a pregnant partner or a partner who is threatening to or has recently left the family home.

Therefore it is essential that a client’s relationship with their partner is explored as part of the practitioner assessment and intervention.

Safeguarding Adult Procedure

In respect of Domestic violence and abuse, consideration should also be given to the level of vulnerability of the Adult experiencing domestic violence and abuse. Currently the definition of Vulnerable Adult is a follows:

"The individual is or may be in need of Community Care Services by reason of mental or other disability, age or illness
Is or may be unable to take care of himself or herself
Is unable to protect themselves against significant harm or serious exploitation”
(“Who Decides” - Lord Chancellor's Office, 1997 and “No Secrets”, 2000)

If it is felt that the person experiencing domestic violence and abuse does or may fall in line with this definition then a referral to Adult Social Care should be made under the Pan Dorset Adult Protection Policy and Procedure to raise an “alert”. This will then be further screened and acted upon in line with the policy. Work will be undertaken in liaison with all relevant parties with the intention of safeguarding this adult against significant harm, abuse or neglect.

Housing Departments

There follows general references to housing law and policy relating to victims of domestic violence and abuse. Local policies and priorities may differ.

Many victims do not leave their violent partners because they believe there is nowhere else to go. They may also return to violent partners due to inadequate housing arrangements. There are, in fact, several options available and they can:

  • Obtain a court order “Occupation Order” under the Family Law Act 1996 to remove the perpetrator. Those who are concerned about their immigration status should seek advice from the Immigration Advisory Service before taking legal proceedings. See Foreign National Guidance;
  • Staying with family or friends – the Council should be informed immediately that this has resulted in homelessness. Migrants to Britain should contact the Immigration Advisory Service before contacting the housing department;
  • Refuge – referrals can be made via Samaritans, CAB, the Police, Children’s Social Care, Housing Services or Women’s Aid and some accept self-referrals. Women fleeing violence are in priority need if they are vulnerable;
  • Privately rented accommodation or home ownership – the victim may be eligible to claim Housing Benefit for rented housing or may be able to claim assistance with mortgage interest relief. Benefits are dependent on income and assets;
  • Traveller Liaison Officers within Housing Departments can be contacted for advice and availability of caravan sites within the area. This may include information on private sites renting caravans or private letting agencies. Rented caravan accommodation qualifies for housing benefit.

Councils have a duty to arrange housing for anyone who is homeless, in priority need and is not intentionally homeless (Housing act 1996, Part VII, as amended by Homelessness Act 2002). Local councils have a duty to advise/assist the homeless and provide interim accommodation in certain circumstances.

Homelessness may apply when:

  • A person tries to live in their accommodation they may be at risk of violence from someone living in it;
  • The person has no accommodation they can lawfully occupy;
  • The person’s family members who normally live with them are forced to live separately from them because they have no accommodation they can occupy together;
  • The person has accommodation but cannot occupy it i.e. illegally evicted or is forcibly prevented from occupying it.

In deciding whether interim accommodation duties apply, the councils will also consider the following factors

  • The person’s vulnerability as a result of fleeing violence;
  • Whether the person has dependant children living with them or who would normally live with them;
  • Whether the person is pregnant or has someone living with them who is pregnant;
  • Whether the person is 16 or 17yrs old who is not a relevant child or a child in need to whom the LA owes a duty under S20 of the Children Act 1989;
  • The person or anyone who lives with them is vulnerable due to old age, or mental or physical disability. Councils sometimes accept that single women fleeing violence are in priority need if they are vulnerable.

The Department of Communities and Local Government Code of Guidance on Homelessness states that local authorities should respond sympathetically to situations where violence has not yet occurred, but it is feared. If a woman is living in a refuge, she should be treated as homeless. If she has gone to stay with friends or relatives, she may still be regarded as homeless.

Homeless victims are entitled to apply to any council, irrespective of any local connection. A referral to a local housing authority should not be made if a move to that area would renew the risk of domestic violence and abuse. Housing authorities must work with victims and advise and assist with housing options, preventing homelessness is a key priority and objective in supporting victims to achieve settled housing solutions.

Practitioners should advise victims to record the violence experienced before going to the Housing Department, or in the event of literacy difficulties assist the victim to do this, as it may be difficult to remember details in an interview. If victims have supporting evidence such as a social worker’s/doctor’s report or letter, an occupation order, an injunction or a Police report, they should take these with them when applying to the Housing Department.

If a Housing Officer has received information to suggest that either an adult or a child maybe vulnerable due to domestic abuse they should consult with Children’s Social Care or Adult Services in line with inter-agency safeguarding procedures and adult protection procedures

Training Links:

Bournemouth & Poole Local Safeguarding Children Board

Dorset Safeguarding Children Board Training Information Page


Amendments to this Chapter

This chapter was reviewed and amended in February 2017 in regard to a change in nomenclature from SCARF to PPN (Public Protection Notification) issued by the Police.