New report reveals children living with domestic violence are ignored

Research shows local authorities are failing to respond to children’s needs

A groundbreaking report released today by national domestic violence charity Refuge and the NSPCC, funded by the City of London’s City Bridge Trust, shows children living with or affected by domestic violence are neglected by services that are intended to support and protect them.

The report, Meeting the Needs of Children Living with Domestic Violence in London, includes interviews with children living with domestic violence as well as child service professionals. While the report highlights some isolated examples of promising work, a new approach is needed to enable children to access support, help and advice.

Refuge and the NSPCC are calling for:

  • Service provision to specifically target children living with, or affected by, domestic violence
  • Professionals to undertake specialist training as a priority for their work with children affected by domestic violence
  • Children to be consulted in the design and commissioning of services that directly affect them
  • New partnerships with the voluntary sector to  target resources at children as well as adult victims
  • Guidance for local authorities on how to involve children who have experienced domestic violence in the commissioning of local services
  • The police to be given clearer guidance and responsibility for talking directly and separately with children when attending domestic violence incidents
  • The courts to recognise a child’s right to say no to contact with a violent parent

Sandra Horley, CBE, chief executive at Refuge, said:

“Despite decades of campaigning to raise awareness of the needs of children exposed to domestic violence, Refuge is both saddened and frustrated to learn that even basic services to meet children’s specific needs rarely exist, that domestic violence risk assessments are not used routinely with children and that children are often considered separately from their mothers. Identifying a funding stream that allows organisations like Refuge to provide integrated and equal services for abused women and their children often feels like the search for the Holy Grail but it must be found if we are to provide long term effective solutions for these families.”

NSPCC Chief Executive, Andrew Flanagan, said:

“Gaps in services come from gaps in knowledge. It is only through listening to children living in homes with domestic violence or with a mother who has fled violence that shortfalls in keeping children safe can be addressed. These children have witnessed or continue to witness severe abuse.  Any resulting negative psychological and social impacts can be reduced with the right support.  But services will never get it right if they never ask children and young people what they actually need and want.”

Clare Thomas, Chief Grants Officer of the City of London’s City Bridge Trust, added:

“There is a clear and urgent need for better understanding about how to provide practical help to children living with domestic violence such as having safe places to live, getting to school, maintaining contact with their friends and dealing with the psychological impact of growing up in an abusive environment. Children need to have their voices heard and be involved in decisions that directly affect their lives.”

Quote from report by child interviewee aged 10:

“Because I was having breakdowns[...] my teacher called up my mum and then tried to sort out counselling for me but they didn’t have any for my age because I was in Year 6.”

Further information

To download an executive summary of the report, click here.

Click here to download the full report.

Sandra Horley, CBE, chief executive at Refuge, said:

“Despite decades of campaigning to raise awareness of the needs of children exposed to domestic violence, Refuge is both saddened and frustrated to learn that even basic services to meet children’s specific needs rarely exist, that domestic violence risk assessments are not used routinely with children and that children are often considered separately from their mothers. Identifying a funding stream that allows organisations like Refuge to provide integrated and equal services for abused women and their children often feels like the search for the Holy Grail but it must be found if we are to provide long term effective solutions for these families.”

NSPCC Chief Executive, Andrew Flanagan, said:

“Gaps in services come from gaps in knowledge. It is only through listening to children living in homes with domestic violence or with a mother who has fled violence that shortfalls in keeping children safe can be addressed. These children have witnessed or continue to witness severe abuse. Any resulting negative psychological and social impacts can be reduced with the right support. But services will never get it right if they never ask children and young people what they actually need and want.”

Clare Thomas, Chief Grants Officer of the City of London’s City Bridge Trust, added:

“There is a clear and urgent need for better understanding about how to provide practical help to children living with domestic violence such as having safe places to live, getting to school, maintaining contact with their friends and dealing with the psychological impact of growing up in an abusive environment. Children need to have their voices heard and be involved in decisions that directly affect their lives.”