2.7 Safeguarding and Domestic Violence / Abuse
- 2.7.1 Introduction
- 2.7.2 Understanding definitions of domestic violence and abuse
- 2.7.3 Links with safeguarding children
- 2.7.4 Working with people experiencing domestic violence and abuse
- 2.7.5 Consent and capacity in relation to domestic violence and abuse
- 2.7.6 Responding to disclosures and safe enquiries
- 2.7.7 Assessing and managing risks
- 2.7.8 Specialist services
This section contains information about the approaches and legal frameworks which can be used to support individuals who are experiencing domestic violence and abuse. Domestic violence and abuse is included in the Care Act 2014 as a specific category of harm/abuse. The Care Act specifies that freedom from abuse and neglect is a key aspect of a person’s wellbeing, and the statutory guidance outlines that abuse takes many forms, and Local Authorities should not be constrained in their view of what constitutes abuse or neglect.
In situations in which domestic violence and abuse is identified practitioners must always:
- Consider raising a safeguarding concern.
- Follow the Sussex Safeguarding Adults Policy and Procedures for undertaking enquiries as set out in Section 2.3 Receiving Concerns and Undertaking Enquiries.
2.7.2 Understanding definitions of domestic violence and abuse
The Home Office defines domestic violence and abuse as: “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 and 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.
Examples of coercive and controlling behaviour might be: the destruction of property, isolation from friends, family or other potential sources of support, preventing or controlling access to money, personal items, food, transportation and the telephone, and stalking.
This definition recognises that past legal and cultural understanding of domestic violence and abuse has been too narrowly focused on single physically violent incidents rather than complex and controlling patterns of behaviour.
There is a criminal offence under Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 in relation to coercive and controlling behaviour within the context of domestic abuse. This sets out the importance of recognising the harm and cumulative impact on the victim caused by these patterns of behaviour.
It is recognised that the desire to exert power and control underpins the majority of domestic violence and abuse which takes place, and that abuse is usually inflicted to achieve this end.
While the majority of victims are female, men are affected as well. Children are also affected both directly and indirectly and there is also a strong correlation between domestic violence and abuse and child abuse.
In many cases, stalking and harassment may also be a feature of domestic violence and abuse. Staff should explicitly consider any issues or concerns around stalking or harassment, particularly where there is a pattern of obsessive, fixated and unwanted behaviour that is intrusive and engenders fear, alarm or distress. In these cases, threats may not be made but victims may still be fearful. Harassment can include repeated attempts to impose unwanted communications and contact upon a victim in a manner which causes fear or distress to the victim. Stalking and harassment behaviours may include nuisance telephone calls, sending excessive emails, regularly sending gifts, following the person or spying on them and death threats. The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 makes stalking a specific offence.
Domestic violence and abuse can be challenging to identify:
- It can include multiple forms of harm or abuse by people who are, or have been, intimate partners.
- It can be hidden due to the complexity of family dynamics or be disguised as another issue such as carer stress.
- Assumptions about age and disability can lead to a lack of recognition of older and disabled people as victims and / or perpetrators of domestic violence and abuse.
Factors which may increase the risk for the person
- Women who have disabilities are at significant and higher risk of domestic abuse and more than 50% of disabled women in the UK may have experienced domestic abuse.
- People who experience poor mental health are more likely to experience domestic abuse, and domestic abuse can cause mental health problems.
- Older women who have experienced abuse over a life time may face particular barriers to seeking support. This presents a challenge for practice in recognising domestic abuse when working with older people.
2.7.3 Links with safeguarding children
Professionals or agencies working with adults have a key role in identifying children who need safeguarding. Everyone must be aware that in situations in which there is a concern that an adult may be experiencing abuse and there are children in the same household, they too could be at risk.
If a professional or agency working with such adults becomes aware that a child is or may be experiencing abuse or neglect they have a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child/ren. In such situations Adult Social Care and Children’s Services should work jointly.
Where there are concerns for a child in the context of a family experiencing domestic violence and abuse, a referral under the child protection procedures should be considered. Child protection procedures may apply locally for those under 18 years of age this would be the Sussex Child Protection and Safeguarding Procedures:
Or contact the local Single Point of Access (SPOA) or Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) for children and families.
Reporting a concern about a child to the local authority
| West Sussex County Council
Monday to Friday between 9am – 5pm
Contact the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) on 01403 229 900
At other times contact the out of hours team on 0330 222 6664
| East Sussex County Council
Monday to Thursday 8.30am – 5pm and Friday 8.30am – 4.30pm
Contact Single Point of Access (SPoA) on 01323 464 222
At other times contact the out of hours team on 01273 335 905 / 01273 335 906
| Brighton and Hove City Council
Contact on 01273 290 400
2.7.4 Working with people experiencing domestic violence and abuse
Both the local arrangements for responding to domestic abuse and the safeguarding adults procedures will apply in situations where an adult who has care and support needs that prevent them from safeguarding themselves is experiencing domestic violence and abuse. As well as considering the legal measures under the Care Act, the adult experiencing abuse should have support to access a range of specialist services (see Section 2.7.8 Specialist Services). Good practice is using a Making Safeguarding Personal approach, ensuring that principles of a safe enquiry and a robust risk assessment are followed (see Section 2.7.7 Assessing and managing risks) and empowering them to address the risk(s) they face.
Family and inter-generational abuse
Whilst victims of domestic violence and abuse are most likely to be an adult who is a former or current partner, professionals need to be able to recognise abuse in other contexts. This can include:
- ‘Honour’-based Violence (HBV), which is defined as: ‘a violent incident or crime committed to protect or defend the perceived honour of the family or community.’ It is often committed with some involvement or co-operation from the family and/or community and is designed to punish an individual for behaving in a way that is not in keeping with traditional, cultural beliefs. Other associated forms of violence and abuse include Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Forced Marriage.
- Violence and abuse between intergenerational family members, for example an adult child to a parent. Adult Family Homicide is where a parent is murdered by adult child (usually a son). These cases are often associated with mental health issues.
Careful consideration is needed to determine good practice in such circumstances, taking account of the different factors which may present in intergenerational abuse. Appropriate support services should be sought to meet the needs of the adult who is experiencing domestic violence and abuse.
Family and friends as carers who are at risk of domestic violence and abuse
It is also important to consider the carers in the context of domestic violence and abuse, both as a potential victim or perpetrator:
- A carer may experience intentional or unintentional harm from the adult they are trying to support.
- A carer may unintentionally or intentionally harm or neglect the adult they are providing care and support for. For example, this may include preventing services from engaging with the adult.
- A carer may witness or disclose abuse or neglect but not recognise this as domestic violence and abuse.
Support to address domestic violence and abuse should be offered. It may be appropriate to consider a referral to local carer support services, to reduce carer isolation and address some of the challenges arising from caring responsibilities.
2.7.5 Consent and capacity in relation to domestic violence and abuse
Assessing capacity can be particularly challenging in situations involving domestic violence and abuse, where the adult is cared for, or lives with a family member or intimate partner and is seen to be making decisions which put or keep themselves in danger.
Some adults experiencing domestic violence and abuse may lack capacity to take certain decisions for themselves. They will need additional help to support and empower them in line with the Mental Capacity Act 2005. When an adult is assessed as lacking capacity to make decisions about keeping themselves safe from domestic violence and abuse then any decision made by professionals on behalf of that adult must be made in their best interests.
An Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA) should be considered in all circumstances where an adult lacks mental capacity to make decisions about their safety, where that adult does not have suitable representation within their network of family and friends. People who do have family and friends are still entitled to have an IMCA to support them in safeguarding procedures, if the decision-maker is satisfied that having an IMCA will benefit the adult.
The Mental Capacity Act 2005 sets out that all practicable steps have to be taken in order to ensure that person has access to all information relevant to the decision, before any assessment can conclude that a person lacks mental capacity. It is important that people who may be experiencing domestic violence and abuse are given accessible information about all the options available to them. This should include specialist domestic abuse services as well as information on legal options such as restraining orders, and actions the police can take such as Domestic Violence Protection Orders.
Refer to Sections 2.2.5 'Consent and empowerment of an adult when raising a safeguarding concern' and 2.3.9 ‘Involving an adult in an enquiry’ for further guidance on applying the Mental Capacity Act in practice.
When a person who appears to have mental capacity chooses to stay in an abusive relationship then skilled assessment and intervention is required to judge whether they are making that choice free from undue influence of the person who is causing them harm. A decision not to leave may be based on a realistic fear of the behaviour the perpetrator has threatened if the victim were to disclose abuse or try to leave the relationship.
Being at high risk of harm often limits someone’s capacity to safeguard themselves. This is due to the psychological process (sometimes called ‘Stockholm Syndrome’) that focuses an individual on acting, within the context of the immediate threats that they face, to limit abuse and its impact. This can lead people to identify with the perpetrator and can prevent people acknowledging the level of risk they face. It commonly prevents people from taking steps to leave or end a relationship.
As outlined above advocacy is an additional resource that can be used to support people experiencing domestic violence and abuse. As well as support from IMCA’s for people who are assessed as lacking mental capacity, consideration can be given to referring to specialist Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs) to support people at high risk from domestic violence and abuse. IDVAs help to keep adults who are experiencing domestic violence and abuse and their children safe from harm, and serve as a victim’s primary point of contact. IDVAs provide support to discuss a range of options, sanctions and criminal or civil remedies with the adult. They help then adult to develop a safety plan (which looks at immediate safety and longer-term measures), as well as representing their clients at Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (MARAC). The role and function of the MARAC is covered further within this chapter.
2.7.6 Responding to disclosures and safe enquiries
When working with adults experiencing domestic violence and abuse, it is important to make enquiries that do not put the adult at further risk. Whilst some people will have good and trusting relationships with professionals who can support them to report and deal with domestic violence and abuse, others will not trust agencies to respond effectively or will fear potential repercussions of making a disclosure, and feel powerless to make any changes to their situation.
There is a responsibility of professionals to provide opportunities for disclosure, and this is not a responsibility that should rest with victims. Research shows that women experiencing domestic abuse will not usually voluntarily disclose domestic abuse to a professional unless they are directly asked. However, whilst victims may be reluctant to disclose, many report that they hope someone will ask them.
It is crucial that any enquiries with victims are made when the person is safe to disclose and in a situation which will not increase the risk to them. A ‘safe enquiry’ means ensuring the potential perpetrator is not and will not easily become aware of the enquiry, if it is assessed this would be a risk to the adult, or others. The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) ‘Adult safeguarding and domestic abuse guide to support practitioners and managers’ contains good practice guidance on undertaking a safe enquiry including a range of direct questions practitioners can use to give opportunities for people to disclose abuse.
2.7.7 Assessing and managing risks
An assessment of risk should take place in all situations where an adult with care and support needs is experiencing domestic violence and abuse. Comprehensive, accurate and well-informed risk assessments are fundamental to good practice. A thorough risk assessment enables the adult concerned and practitioners to understand and be confident about the interventions and decisions to share information with other professionals as part of a multi-agency response.
Numerous services may be working with an adult experiencing domestic violence and abuse, and it is essential that professionals across agencies work together in a coordinated manner to ensure a consistent response to assessing a victim’s risks and needs, as well as managing and reducing the risk posed by an alleged perpetrator.
Involving the adult experiencing domestic violence and abuse (and / or their advocate if necessary) in the risk assessment is often the most effective practice as assessments carried out in this way are more likely to:
- Produce an accurate, comprehensive and better-evidenced risk assessment.
- Give the adult an opportunity and support to identify, describe and understand the risks for themselves, keeping their wishes central to the safeguarding process.
Using the Domestic Abuse Stalking and Harassment Risk Identification Checklist (DASH RIC)
When a concern is raised about domestic violence and abuse, or a disclosure is made, a Domestic Abuse Stalking and Harassment Risk Identification Checklist (DASH RIC) should be completed. This is commonly known as the ‘DASH RIC’.
Diagram 6: Risk themes included in the DASH RIC
The DASH RIC is available at these sites:
- For East Sussex and Brighton and Hove - http://theportal.org.uk/
- For West Sussex - http://www.worthservices.org/
Some organisations have the form embedded in their systems for their staff to access.
The DASH RIC is designed to help professionals make an accurate and timely assessment of risk. The tool is also used for professionals from any agency to refer to the local MARAC if the assessment identifies the person is at high risk or there are significant concerns that a multi-agency response is warranted.
The DASH RIC is an evidence-based list covering six areas of risk, about what factors are present in a domestic abuse situation. This should be completed with the victim, although in situations where this may not be possible the tool can be completed by the practitioner using their professional judgement.
Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC)
MARAC’s are regular meetings which take place in each local area and bring together representatives from a number of relevant agencies to share information and discuss the safety, health and well-being of people experiencing domestic abuse. MARAC considers cases which are identified as ‘high risk’ by use of the DASH RIC, and develops a coordinated safety plan to protect each victim and their children. Actions can also be agreed in respect of the perpetrators.
Several cases can be considered at each MARAC and as such discussion of cases is time-limited with case referral information being shared with attendees prior to the meeting, and an expectation for each agency to bring information they have about the adult at risk, their children, the perpetrator and any other relevant information.
Victims of domestic violence and abuse are not invited to these meetings but are represented by an Independent Domestic Violence Advocate (IDVA). There is no formal review process unless a repeat referral is made following a further incident of domestic violence and abuse being reported and referred to the MARAC.
The referral to MARAC is usually carried out with the consent of the victim. However, if that is not forthcoming or impossible to obtain, then the MARAC will still consider cases of high risk without consent, with the justification of preventing serious harm.
The interface between MARAC and safeguarding enquiries
- MARAC’s are not a substitute for safeguarding enquiries.
- High risk cases must always be referred to MARAC - where an adult is the subject of a safeguarding enquiry, the MARAC referral should include information on the progress of the enquiry, and what information or support is being sought from agencies at the MARAC.
In each area of Sussex, the local MARAC also has arrangements for managing cases with Multiple and Complex Needs, or where there are frequent repeat referrals to MARAC. These are known as ‘Multi Agency Complex Case Panels’ (MCCPS) in Brighton & Hove and East Sussex or the ‘MARAC Plus’ in West Sussex.
Further information on MARAC can be found at:
- Safe in East Sussex - http://www.safeineastsussex.org.uk/
- Safe in the City - http://www.safeinthecity.info/ (Brighton & Hove)
- Safe in Sussex - http://www.safeinsussex.org/ (West Sussex)
Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS)
Under the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS), which is sometimes referred to as ‘Clare’s Law’, a person who is experiencing domestic violence and abuse has a ‘right to ask’ the police about a partner’s previous history of domestic abuse or violent acts. The aim of the scheme is to enable potential victims to make an informed choice about whether to continue with a relationship if a new or current partner has a history of violence or abuse. If a MARAC referral is made practitioners are prompted to consider this as part of the referral.
2.7.8 Specialist services
The Portal - Brighton and Hove and East Sussex
The Portal offers advice and support to anyone who has been affected by domestic or sexual abuse or violence in Brighton & Hove, or East Sussex.
Telephone: 0300 323 9985
Worth Services - West Sussex
In West Sussex the specialist domestic abuse support and advice service is provided by Worth Services. Anyone can refer to Worth, which works with clients aged 16 or over regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, religion or disability.
Telephone: 0330 2228181
Safe: Space Sussex
SAFE: SPACE Sussex helps local citizens deal with the before and after effects of crime and includes information on other local support organisation including Victim Support.