Call for government to recognise children living with domestic abuse as victims

By Agencies
January 11, 2019

The NSPCC is calling on the Government to recognise children as victims when they are living with domestic abuse. 

Department for Education figures for 2017/18 show domestic abuse was a factor in 246,720 child protection assessments across England – more than half of all child protection assessments, where factors were identified, during that period.

The government are yet to publish the outcomes of last year's consulation on domestic abuse. Their proposed new definition of domestic abuse only refers to the effects of abuse on those aged 16 and over, leaving younger children unrecognised by the justice system

Legal recognition would:

  • give children greater protection through domestic abuse protection orders
  • help professionals take action to protect children at risk
  • help authorities ensure there are specific support services for children and young people.

The NSPCC is calling on the government to publish their White Paper and help ensure children get the support they need.

The call is backed by brothers Luke and Ryan Hart whose father murdered their mother and sister in 2016 after two decades of domestic abuse. "What is often missed is the effects of living in that environment has on kids, growing up not only witnessing abuse but experiencing it day in and day out. Children living with domestic abuse are victims themselves. Luke and I know first-hand the psychological effects, emotional effects can have on you by seeing someone you love being a victim of abuse", said Ryan.

Almudena Lara, Head of Policy at the NSPCC, said: "It is quite astonishing that the government is dragging its feet when deciding whether to recognise young people as victims when almost a quarter of a million children that we know of are living with domestic abuse in England alone.

"As well as the day-to-day distress that living with domestic abuse creates, it can cause long-term problems into adulthood that can only be addressed through targeted services that understand the complex trauma children living with domestic abuse experience.

"For this to be done effectively we need government to open their eyes to the harm domestic abuse has on children and give them victim status in the upcoming White Paper to ensure they receive the services they need."

The NSPCC's call was echoed by domestic abuse charity Women's Aid. Chief Executive of Women's Aid Katie Ghose said: “We know from our experience working with child survivors that they do not just witness domestic abuse, they experience it. Domestic abuse impacts their wellbeing, health, development and also their safety. Yet children are often the hidden victims of domestic abuse.

“Nowhere is this more apparent than in the cuts to vital children’s support services. There has been a 10 per cent fall in the number of domestic abuse services that are able to provide dedicated support to children and young people from 2010-2017, while currently only two thirds of refuges are able to fund a specialist children’s support worker. This is leaving vulnerable children without the support they desperately need and at risk of further abuse.

“We know from our experience working with survivors and their children that the best way to support children who are experiencing domestic abuse is by supporting both the mother and her children. Far too often we hear of mothers being threatened that her children will be removed from her care because of the abuse the family is experiencing at home. This is not the answer. It only puts the survivor and her children at further risk. That’s why we want to see the government’s forthcoming domestic abuse bill deliver mandatory domestic abuse training, co-delivered by specialists like Women’s Aid, for all statutory agency staff to ensure they give the right response to survivors the first time they reach out for help; this must be a response that supports both survivors and their children. We are also calling for the domestic abuse bill to deliver resources as well as legislation to ensure that every survivor and her children can get the specialist support they need to safely escape and rebuild their lives free from fear and abuse.”

* NSPCC https://www.nspcc.org.uk/

* Women's Aid https://www.womensaid.org.uk/

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