1.4.20 Domestic Abuse

See also: Interpersonal Violence and Abuse (IPVA) Young People's Relationships West Yorkshire Practice Guidance


This chapter was updated in June 2022 to reflect the new definition of Domestic Abuse within the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 and to update the links within Further Information. The provisions of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 are still being introduced and the statutory guidance is still in draft so there will be a further update to the chapter once the statutory guidance is finalised.

1. Introduction

Working Together to Safeguard Children defines Domestic Abuse as:

Domestic abuse can encompass a wide range of behaviours and may be a single incident or a pattern of incidents. Domestic abuse is not limited to physical acts of violence or threatening behaviour, and can include emotional, psychological, controlling or coercive behaviour, sexual and/or economic abuse.

Types of domestic abuse include intimate partner violence, abuse by family members, teenage relationship abuse and adolescent to parent violence. Anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, socio-economic status, sexuality or background and domestic abuse can take place inside or outside of the home.

Domestic abuse continues to be a prevalent risk factor identified through children social care assessments for children in need. Domestic abuse has a significant impact on children and young people.

Children may experience domestic abuse directly, as victims in their own right, or indirectly due to the impact the abuse has on others such as the non-abusive parent.

Under the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, children are recognised as victims of domestic abuse in their own right, if they see, hear, or experience the effects of the abuse, and are related to the perpetrator of the abuse or the victim of the abuse. Abuse directed towards the child is defined as child abuse.

Where there is domestic abuse, the wellbeing of the children in the household must be promoted and all assessments must consider the need to safeguard the children, including unborn children.

The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 says that behaviour is 'abusive' if it consists of any of the following:

  1. Physical or sexual abuse;
  2. Violent or threatening behaviour;
  3. Controlling or coercive behaviour;
  4. Economic abuse;
  5. Psychological, emotional or other abuse.

and it does not matter whether the behaviour consists of a single incident or a course of conduct. The perpetrator of the abuse and the victim of the abuse have to be aged 16 or over and are 'personally connected' as intimate partners, ex-partners, family members or individuals who share parental responsibility for a child. There is no requirement for the victim and perpetrator to live in the same household.

Domestic abuse in teenage relationships is just as severe and has the potential to be as life threatening as abuse in adult relationships. Victims under 16 should be treated as victims of child abuse and age appropriate consequences should be considered for perpetrators under 16. Abuse involving perpetrators and victims aged between 16 and 18 could be both child and domestic abuse.

The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 uses the term 'victim' but not everyone who has experienced, or is experiencing, domestic abuse chooses to describe themselves as a 'victim' and they may prefer another term, for example, 'survivor'.

The statutory guidance Controlling or Coercive Behaviour in an Intimate or Family Relationship defines controlling or coercive behaviour as:

  • 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.

Note:- The Government is updating the statutory guidance relating to the controlling or coercive behaviour offence as section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 will be amended by the Domestic Abuse Act 2021.

Other forms of abuse may be present for example:

Abuse by family members which can involve abuse by any relative or multiple relatives. Abuse within a family set-up can encompass a number of different behaviours, including but not limited to violence, coercive or controlling behaviours, and economic abuse. Abuse by family members also encompasses forced marriage, so called 'honour'-based abuse and female genital mutilation.

Child-to-Parent Abuse which can include physical violence from a child towards a parent or other family members such as siblings 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, damage to property and stealing and heightened sexualised behaviours.

Technological abuse using technology and social media as a means of controlling or coercing victims. This happens frequently both during and after relationships with abusers and is particularly common amongst younger people.

Spiritual abuse using religion and faith systems to control and subjugate a victim often characterised by a systemic pattern of coercive or controlling behaviour within a religious context. A form of spiritual abuse may include the withholding of a religious divorce, as a threat to control and intimidate victims.

The Serious Crime Act 2015 created an offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in intimate or familial relationships. Controlling or coercive behaviour does not relate to a single incident, it is a purposeful pattern of behaviour which takes place over time in order for one individual to exert power, control or coercion over another. Such behaviours might include:

  • Isolating a person from their friends and family;
  • Depriving them of their basic needs;
  • Monitoring their time;
  • Monitoring a person via online communication tools or using spyware;
  • Taking control over aspects of their everyday life, such as where they can go, who they can see, what to wear and when they can sleep;
  • Depriving them of access to support services, such as specialist support or medical services;
  • Repeatedly putting them down such as telling them they are worthless;
  • Enforcing rules and activity which humiliate, degrade or dehumanise the victim;
  • Forcing the victim to take part in criminal activity such as shoplifting, neglect or abuse of children to encourage self-blame and prevent disclosure to authorities;
  • Financial abuse including control of finances, such as only allowing a person a punitive allowance;
  • Threats to hurt or kill;
  • Threats to a child;
  • Threats to reveal or publish private information (e.g. threatening to 'out' someone);
  • Assault;
  • Criminal damage (such as destruction of household goods);
  • Rape;
  • Preventing a person from having access to transport or from working.

Note:- The Government is updating the statutory guidance Controlling or Coercive Behaviour in an Intimate or Family Relationship as section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 will be amended by the Domestic Abuse Act 2021

Professionals should be able to recognise all forms of domestic abuse, including coercive and controlling behaviour; they should know how to respond sensitively, without escalating risks for victims.

The definition includes So Called 'Honour' Based Abuse Procedure, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Procedure and Forced Marriage Procedure, Victims of domestic abuse are not confined to one gender or ethnic group.

While the majority of domestic abuse is committed by men towards women it can also involve men being abused by their female partners, abuse in same sex relationships, and abuse by young people towards other family members, as well as the abuse of older people in families. Domestic abuse occurs irrespective of social class, racial, ethnic, cultural, religious or sexual relationships or identity.

Where there is domestic abuse, the wellbeing of any children in the household must be promoted, and all assessments must consider the need to safeguard the children, including unborn babies. In addition agencies should seek to support perpetrators of abuse to address their behaviour in a way that does not compromise victim and child safety.

No single agency can address all the needs of people affected by, or perpetrating, domestic abuse. For interventions to be effective the agencies and partner organisations must work together.

2. The Child

Prolonged or regular exposure to domestic abuse can have a serious impact on a child's development and emotional well-being, despite the best efforts of the non abusing parent to protect the child.

The impact of domestic abuse on children can often be exacerbated when combined with any form of parental substance misuse and/or mental ill health.

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

Domestic abuse may have long term psychological and emotional impacts as a result of:

  • Children experiencing distress by witnessing (seeing or hearing) the physical and emotional suffering of a parent, or witnessing the outcome of any assault;
  • Children being pressurised into concealing assaults, and experience the fear and anxiety of living in an environment where abuse occurs;
  • The domestic abuse impacting negatively on an adult victim's parenting capacity, emotional well being and their capacity to make informed and safe decisions;
  • Children may be drawn into the violence and become victim's of physical abuse;
  • The child may feel that they have to protect the non abusing parent.

Research has found that young women in the 16 to 24 age group are most at risk of being victims of domestic abuse. Young people under the age of 18 years who are victims of domestic abuse should receive support from Children's Social Care Services or Early Help Services in line with the Children Act 1989. Young People who are in abusive relationships will need the support of specialist services e.g. Young People's Violence Advisor. See also: Interpersonal Violence and Abuse (IPVA) Young People's Relationships West Yorkshire Practice Guidance

Young people can also be subjected to domestic abuse perpetrated in order to force them into marriage or to punish them 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. It is particularly important in these cases that professionals take care not to share information with family members or others in the local community. See Forced Marriage Procedure and So-Called Honour Based Abuse Procedure.

During pregnancy, domestic 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 abuse begins or escalates during pregnancy and is associated with increased rates of miscarriage, premature birth, foetal injury and foetal death. The abuser may prevent the mother 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.

The key imperatives of any intervention for children living in households affected by domestic abuse are:

  1. To protect the child/ren, including unborn child/ren;
  2. To assess the level of risk to the children (and the non abusive parent / carer);
  3. To empower the non abusing parent to protect themselves, their children and other dependents;
  4. To hold the abusive partner accountable for their behaviour and provide opportunities for change.

3. Confidentiality

Clarity about information sharing is essential, and all agencies, including all refuge projects and non statutory services, should ensure that information is shared in line with agreed local protocols - see: Information Sharing Procedure

Professionals must ensure that their efforts to support victims do not trigger an escalation of violence and abuse; care should be taken to discuss domestic abuse only when the child or non abusing parent when they are safely on their own. However it is essential that professionals are realistic and honest about the limits of confidentiality.

When a referral is made to Children's Social Care Services, there must be clarity about who in the family is aware that a referral is to be made. Any response by Children's Social Care Services to such referrals should be discreet, in terms of making contact with the non abusing parent in ways which will not further endanger them or their children.

4. Assessing Concerns of Domestic Abuse

Professionals in all agencies should be alert to the signs that a child or adult may be experiencing domestic abuse, or that a partner may be perpetrating domestic abuse or experiencing coercive or controlling behaviour. A disclosure may be prompted during routine questioning or be unprompted. Professionals should never assume that somebody else is addressing the issue of domestic abuse. This may be first or only disclosure made by the child, adult victim or perpetrator. 

Research suggests that women experience on average 35 incidents before reporting any abuse to the Police. Professionals should therefore, in conducting assessments routinely offer children and adults the opportunity of being seen alone and ask whether they are experiencing, or have previously experienced, domestic abuse. This type of routine enquiry is particularly useful for health providers, for example when midwives are working with pregnant women.

Concerns about domestic abuse may also be reported to a professional by a third party such as extended family member, neighbour or community member. Information from the public, family or community members must be taken sufficiently seriously by professionals in statutory and voluntary agencies and responded to in accordance with these procedures.

Professionals working with children and families should be encouraged to attend domestic abuse awareness training, in order to help them identify families affected

Considerations in assessments where domestic abuse may be present include:
  • Asking direct questions about domestic abuse;
  • Checking whether domestic abuse has occurred whenever child abuse is suspected (routine enquiry) and considering the impact of this at all stages of assessment, enquiries and intervention;
  • Identifying those who are responsible for domestic 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 abuse, by providing relevant practical and other assistance;
  • Supporting non-abusing parents in making safe choices for themselves and their children;
  • Always being mindful that there may be continued or increased risk of domestic 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 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 abuse on their children.

Professionals in contact with children and families who identify that there are, or have been, domestic abuse incidents should consider the types of abuse perpetrated including the severity, frequency and duration. The adult experiencing the abuse will usually, but not always, be well placed to predict the risks faced and the likelihood of further abuse. A SafeLives DASH Risk Assessment Checklist should be completed by a trained professional. The risk assessment can then be used by the professional and the victim to develop a personal safety plan.

Early Help Assessments can be used to explore and assess any concerns that practitioners may have about children or young people. They can also be used to assess the degree of exposure of each child in the family to the domestic abuse, the impact on them, the risks involved, and the protective factors bearing in mind the ages of the children. This should include physical and emotional impact, and the effect on parenting capacity, as well as any other risks posed by the perpetrator. A separate assessment form should be used for each child. If a threat to the child's safety is identified at any stage refer to Children's Social Care Services.

4.1 Assessing the Needs of Children and Young People Living with Domestic Abuse

When assessing harm and the needs of children or young people living with domestic abuse, the following factors should be considered:

  • Frequency and severity of the violence and abuse, how recent and where it took place;
  • Whether the child was present or has ever been present when violence and abuse has occurred;
  • The age and vulnerability of the child;
  • What does the child do when the violence and abuse is happening?
  • Has the child ever intervened, or are they likely to in future?
  • Has the child been physically threatened or sustained any injury?
  • The child's description of the effects upon them, their siblings, and upon their parent/carer;
  • Is the child being made to participate in or witness acts of violence and abuse against their parent?
  • Is the child used physically or emotionally to exert control over their parent?
  • Is the non-abusing parent able to meet the child/ren's immediate and longer term needs?
  • Has the adult victim and/or child/ren been locked in the house or prevented from leaving it?
  • Is the abuse connected with any other factors that undermine parenting capacity (such as alcohol or substance misuse or mental ill health)?
  • Have any weapons been used or has there ever been a threat to use a weapon?
  • Is actual or threatened ill treatment of animals used to control the child/ren and or other parent / carer?
  • Has physical abuse or threats been directed towards a pregnant woman and her unborn child?

These considerations should help professionals determine whether there is a safety threat present. If a threat to the child's safety is identified at any stage, refer to Children's Social Care Services. See Referrals Procedure.

Throughout the assessment process and within any services being provided, the needs of the child must not become overshadowed by the focus on the adults and the range of services being provided must include support and services for the children in the family. However, the most effective responses are those which are coordinated by a range of agencies and consider all risks and needs within the family. Managing risks to the children cannot be done in isolation.

The assessment should include contact with a range of support services such as refuge projects and the voluntary sector.

The Police or health providers (including the ambulance service, hospital emergency departments and GPs) are often the first point of contact with families in which domestic abuse takes place although. When responding to incidents of domestic abuse, the agency in question should always find out if there are any children in the household or any children who would normally live in, or are frequent visitors to, the household.

Specific concerns about the safety and welfare of a child, must always result in a referral to Children's Social Care Services. A referral will always be made where:
  • The child made the original call (usually to the Police);
  • The child has been injured;
  • The child has been used as a shield;
  • A pregnant woman is involved in a violent incident;
  • The victim is assessed as High Risk on a DASH assessment by the Police and there is a child in the household;
  • A multi-agency risk assessment conference (MARAC) is convened and there are children in the household;
  • Any other circumstances, which are judged by a professional to warrant a referral.

In addition, in situations where adults in a household display intimidating or threatening behaviour towards professionals the possible impact of this type of behaviour should always be considered within the assessment of risk to the children.

4.2 Assessing the Needs of Children and Young People in Contact with a Parent who Perpetrated Domestic Abuse

In situations when the non abusing parent has left the perpetrator taking the child/ren, professionals need to be alert to the ongoing potential for risk. The dynamics of domestic abuse are based on the perpetrator maintaining power and control over their partner. Challenges to that power and control, for example, by separation may increase the likelihood of escalating violence. Statistically the months following separation is the most dangerous time for serious injury and death. Professionals in contact with children and their families in these circumstances may decide that a referral to Children's Social Care Services is indicated and in all cases would need to consider:

  • The previous level of physical danger to the adult victim and in particular the presence of the child during violent episodes;
  • The previous pattern of power, control and intimidation in addition to the physical violence;
  • The level of coercive or manipulative behaviour of the parent who was violent;
  • Any threats to hurt or kill family members or abduct the child/ren;
  • Any information about parental drug or alcohol misuse, or poor mental health;
  • Any reported harassment, stalking or obsession about the separated partner or the family;
  • The motivation of the parent in seeking / maintaining contact with the child/ren - is it a desire to promote the child's best interest or as a means of continuing intimidation, harassment or violence to the other parent;
  • The child/ren's views about contact and whether they have any worries about the contact taking place;
  • Has there been a shared decision regarding the arrangements for contact including location;
  • The likely or reported behaviour of the parent during contact and its effect on the child;
  • The partners level of care and supervision of the child/ren in the past;
  • The attitude of the parent to their past violence, their capacity to appreciate the impact it has on their family whether they are motivated and have the capacity to change;
  • Be alert to cultural issues when dealing with ethnic minority victims and that in leaving a partner they may be ostracised by family, friends and the wider community increasing the risks to their safety. Bear in mind the 'one chance rule', and obtain as much information as possible as there may not be another opportunity for the individual reporting to make contact.

5. Managing Risk and Levels of Intervention

West Yorkshire Police use the Domestic Abuse and Harassment and Honour Based Violence (DASH) Identification and Risk Assessment Model which is a victim focused model which identifies the risk to the victim as Standard, Medium or High. Any risk assessment tool being used should be both culturally sensitive and explicitly consider the risks to the children. It should not be exclusively adult focused. The use of any risk assessment tool should be underpinned by a thorough analysis of the information otherwise available such as past history of offending. The risks should be interpreted to also determine the potential dangerousness of the alleged perpetrator.

In households where there are children and the assessment for the victim is High Risk a referral will be made to Children's Social Care Services.

Barnardo's have also developed a Domestic Violence Risk Assessment Matrix.

REMEMBER - The younger the children in the family, or the presence of special needs, the higher the risk to their safety.

Babies under 12 months old are particularly vulnerable to the effects of domestic abuse. Professionals who become aware of an incident of domestic abuse in a family with a child under 12 months old (even if the child was not present) or in families where a woman is pregnant, should always complete a risk assessment to determine what action is required including consideration of whether a referral to Children's Social Care Services is indicted.

The following indicators are provided to aid professional judgement when assessing risk and the appropriate level of intervention in response to reported incidents or domestic abuse

Level 1: Factors which may indicate the potential risk of harm to the child/ren to be Standard / Low Risk:

  • Single or up to 3 minor incidents of physical violence which were short in duration and the victim did not require medical treatment;
  • Occasional intense verbal abuse;
  • Children were not present or not drawn into the incident;
  • Victim's relationship to the child is nurturing, protective and stable;
  • Abuser accepts responsibility for the abuse/violence indicting remorse and willingness to engage in services to address abusive behaviour.

The professional should consult with the manager/child protection adviser within the agency and check if an Early Help Assessment has been completed by another agency. With the parents' consent complete an Early Help Assessment if one has not been completed in relation to the domestic abuse, or refer under local arrangements for an Early Help Assessment to be completed.

A child in this situation will have additional needs as defined within the local thresholds of need guidance. The child/ren and their parents are likely to need targeted family support interventions which can be offered by the agency itself, by another single agency. The professional needs to consider what their own agency can contribute as part of any interventions and/or make a referral to another agency to offer interventions. Early Help planning will need to include safety planning for the child/ren and victim, and consideration of a referral to an appropriate resource for the perpetrator if there is a willingness to engage with services to address abusive behaviour.

If consent to an Early Help Assessment is not obtained, the practitioner should review with the manager/child protection adviser the potential level of risk to the child. A reluctance to engage in an assessment of the needs of the child may give cause to raise the level of concern and a referral to Children's Social Care Services may be indicated.

Level 2: Factors which may indicate the potential risk of harm to the child/ren to be Medium Risk:

  • History of minor/moderate incidents of physical violence of short duration;
  • Victim received minor injury that did not lead to medical attention being sort;
  • Evidence of intimidation/bullying behaviour to victim but not towards the child/ren;
  • Destruction of property;
  • Family, relatives, neighbours report concerns regarding the victim and children;
  • Intense verbal abuse;
  • Abuser attempts to control victim's activities or movements;
  • Children were present in the home during the incident but did not directly witness it;
  • Mental health issues for victim or abuser;
  • Substance misuse for victim or abuser;
  • Victim's relationship to the child is nurturing, protective and stable and despite abuse was not prevented from attending to the child/ren's needs;
  • Significant other nurturing adults in the child's life provides protective factor;
  • Older children able to identify coping / protective strategies.

At Level 2 the professional should consult with the manager/safeguarding children lead within their agency and check if an Early Help Assessment (EHA) has been completed by another agency; if not, with the parents' consent, complete an EHA, or refer under local arrangements for an EHA to be completed. If the parent does not consent to the completion of an EHA make a notification or referral to Children's Social Care Services.

The professional should share information with relevant multi-agency professionals, convene or attend a multi-agency Team Around the Child meeting and consider what their own agency can contribute as part of any multi-agency Early Help interventions. A child in this situation will have additional needs, as defined in the local thresholds of need guidance. The child/ren and their parents are likely to need family support interventions offered by more than one agency, which are co-ordinated by a lead professional. The intervention and support may also include Children's Social Care Services planning via a Section 17 children in need assessment.

Planning at Level 2 must also include safety planning for the child/ren and victim and consideration of referral to an appropriate resource for the perpetrator if there is willingness to engage with services to address abusive behaviour.

Level 3: Factors which (in the absence of protective factors) may indicate the potential risk of harm to the child/ren is assessed as High Risk:

  • Incidents of serious and/or persistent physical violence which are increasing in severity, frequency and duration;
  • Victim and/or children indicate that they are frightened of the abuser;
  • Victim required medical attention or explanation for injuries implausible;
  • Requests for police intervention;
  • Incidence of violence occurs in presence of children;
  • Threat of harm to children and / or adult victim;
  • Physical assault on a pregnant woman;
  • Abuser has history of domestic abuse in previous relationships;
  • Mental health issues for victim or abuser;
  • Substance misuse by victim and/or abuser;
  • Strong likelihood of emotional abuse of children e.g. may display behaviour problems / self harm;
  • Abuser suspected of physically abusing child/ren;
  • Minimisation by abuser, lack of remorse / guilt;
  • The Police identify the level of risk as High on a DASH assessment and there are children in the household.

In situations where protective factors are limited and the children may be suffering or be at risk of suffering Significant Harm, a referral should be made to Children's Social Care Services. In all cases where a referral is made for a Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) to plan intervention in relation to a high risk domestic abuse situation if there are children in the family a referral must be made to Children's Social Care Services.

In all cases where a referral is made for a Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) to plan intervention in relation to a high risk domestic abuse situation if there are children in the family a referral must be made to Children's Social Care Services.

6. Referral to Children's Social Care Services

Whenever a professional becomes concerned that a child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm, a referral must be made to Children's Social Care Services in accordance with the Referrals Procedure.

Normally, one serious or several lesser incidents of domestic abuse within a 3 month period where there is a child in the household means that Children's Social Care Services should carry out a Single Assessment of the child and family, including consulting existing records.

Children's Social Care Services may assess the child/ren to be child/ren in need, and offer services under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989. However, child protection intervention (i.e. under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989) may be necessary if the threshold of Significant Harm is reached. Children's Social Care Services will convene a multi-agency meeting following the appropriate level of assessment and initiate safety planning for the child/ren and adult victim.

7. Managing Risks in Child Protection Conferences

Where a Child Protection Conference is held, the Conference Chair, in consultation with the professionals, must assess the risks carefully in relation to the participation of the violent or oppressive parent/carer, the non violent parent/carer and the child/ren. See Initial Child Protection Conferences Procedure, Criteria for Excluding Parents or Restricting their Participation.

It is not only issues of safety at the Conference itself but any travel arrangements before and after as well as the contents and addresses (including schools) on the minutes of the meeting which may pose a risk if disclosed.

The same careful approach to disclosure of information should be adopted with the records of all meetings, i.e. Core Group, Planning meetings etc.

All arrangements to contact family members that are made as part of any plan for the child, whether person to person directly or via letters, emails, telephone including mobile phone calls and text messages, must be carefully assessed bearing in mind the safety of the children and the non-abusing parent/carer.

8. Safety of Professionals Working with Domestic Abuse

Care must be taken to assess any potential risks to professionals, carers, foster carers or other staff who are involved in providing services to a family where domestic abuse is, or has occurred. This includes support services offered to a victim or child following separation and any risks to family members and friends who are supporting the adult victim. In general perpetrators do not pose a specific risk to professionals, as they usually want to appear reasonable and compliant. However, each situation must be assessed on its own merits to minimise any potential risks to either service user or staff member. 

If someone intends to visit or collect the child's belongings from the family home where the abusive parent / partner resides or has access, it should never be the case that one person does so on their own. A risk assessment should be undertaken prior to the visit and appropriate measures put in place to safeguard staff. The assistance of the Police should always be requested in these circumstances.

9. Domestic Violence Protection Orders and the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme

9.1 Domestic Violence Protection Orders

NOTE: Domestic Violence Protection Orders will be replaced by Domestic Abuse Protection Orders and Domestic Abuse Protection Notices under Domestic Abuse Act 2021.

Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs) provide protection to victims by enabling the police and magistrates to put in place protection in the immediate aftermath of a domestic violence incident.

With DVPOs, a perpetrator can be banned with immediate effect from returning to a residence and from having contact with the victim for up to 28 days, allowing the victim time to consider their options and get the support they need.

9.2 Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme ('Clare's Law')

See also: West Yorkshire Police - Clare's Law.

The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS) (also known as 'Clare's Law') gives members of the public a formal mechanism to make enquires about an individual who they are in a relationship with, or who is in a relationship with someone they know, where there is a concern that the individual may be violent towards their partner. This scheme adds a further dimension to the information sharing about children where there are concerns that domestic abuse is impacting on the care and welfare of the children in the family.

Right to Ask

Members of the public can make an application for a disclosure, known as the 'right to ask'. Anybody can make an enquiry, but information will only be given to someone at risk or a person in a position to safeguard the victim. The scheme is for anyone in an intimate relationship regardless of gender.

Right to Know

Partner agencies can also request disclosure is made of an offender's past history where it is believed someone is at risk of harm. This is known as 'right to know'.

If a potentially violent individual is identified as having convictions for violent offences, or information is held about their behaviour which reasonably leads the police and other agencies to believe they pose a risk of harm to their partner, the police will consider disclosing the information. A disclosure can be made if it is legal, proportionate and necessary to do so.

10. Further Information

The Government's updated Tackling Violence against Women and Girls Strategy sets out the government's strategy including planned legislative provisions to tackle issues such as child marriage and 'virginity testing'.

Safe Lives (Links to Dash Risk Assessment Checklist)

Safe Lives – Resources for Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (MARAC)

The Hideout – a resource created by Women's Aid to help children understand domestic violence

NICE PH 50 Domestic Abuse and Multi Agency Working – information to help public health professionals when planning and delivering multi-agency services for domestic abuse

Statutory Guidance Framework: Controlling or Coercive Behaviour in an Intimate or Family Relationship (Home Office, 2015)

Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (GOV.UK)

Domestic Abuse: A Resource for Health Professionals (DoH, 2017)

Royal College of Nursing Domestic abuse: Professional Resources

Domestic Abuse: Specialist Sources of Support (GOV.UK) – Nationalist Specialist Support Services contact details

Domestic Abuse help for children and young people

Domestic abuse: how to get help – range of resources including, specialist services, guidance on Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme and court orders, translated guidance and how to summon help and find a safe space.

Operation Encompass Resources - police and education partnership enabling schools to offer immediate support to children experiencing domestic abuse.

The Respect Phoneline (tel: 0808 802 4040) is an anonymous and confidential helpline for men and women who are abusing their partners and families. It is open Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm. The helpline also takes calls from partners or ex-partners, friends and relatives who are concerned about perpetrators.

Domestic Abuse Commissioner Website

Homelessness code of guidance for local authorities - guidance on providing homelessness services to people who have experienced or are at risk of domestic violence or abuse.

Delivery of support to victims of domestic abuse in domestic abuse safe accommodation services - statutory guidance including Terms of Reference for Local Domestic Abuse Partnership Boards