2.7 Safeguarding and Domestic Abuse
- 2.7.1 Introduction(Jump to)
- 2.7.2 Understanding definitions of domestic abuse(Jump to)
- 2.7.3 Risk to Others(Jump to)
- 2.7.4 Working with people experiencing domestic abuse(Jump to)
- 2.7.5 Consent and capacity in relation to domestic abuse(Jump to)
- 2.7.6 Responding to disclosures and safe enquiries(Jump to)
- 2.7.7 Assessing and managing risks(Jump to)
- 2.7.8 Specialist services(Jump to)
This section contains information about the approaches and legal frameworks which can be used to support individuals who are experiencing domestic abuse.
No single agency can address all the needs of people experiencing, affected by, or perpetrating domestic abuse. For intervention to be effective, it is crucial that agencies work together in partnership to take timely action and adopt a shared responsibility for assessing and managing risk.
In situations in which domestic 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.
- Consider the support specialist services can provide to the adult. Please see 2.7.8 Specialist services.
The Domestic Abuse Act came into effect in April 2021 and gives police, local authorities and the courts wider powers and greater accountability concerning the protection of people experiencing domestic abuse.
The language in the Domestic Abuse Act has changed from domestic violence to domestic abuse and encourages people to consider that domestic abuse can present in many ways and is not just classified as physical abuse.
The Care Act 2014 specifies that freedom from abuse and neglect is a key aspect of a person’s wellbeing. The broad meaning of wellbeing, and clear inclusion within that of prevention and protection from abuse, emphasises the overlap between domestic abuse and safeguarding adult’s work.
There are specific adult safeguarding duties under section 42 that apply to any adult who is 18 years or over who:
- has care and support needs, and
- is experiencing, or is at risk of, abuse or neglect, and
- is unable to protect themselves because of their care and support needs.
Prevention is a key aspect of the Care Act, and it provides a discretionary power to raise a safeguarding concern for preventative work where other safeguarding concerns may be a factor, for example the impact of trauma from childhood or coercion and control.
‘Abusive behaviour’ is defined in the Act as any of the following:
- physical or sexual abuse
- violent or threatening behaviour
- controlling or coercive behaviour
- economic abuse
- psychological, emotional, or other abuse.
For the definition to apply, both parties must be aged 16 or over and ‘personally connected’.
‘Personally connected’ is defined in the Act as any of the following:
- are married to each other
- are civil partners of each other
- have agreed to marry one another (whether or not the agreement has been terminated)
- have entered into a civil partnership agreement (whether or not the agreement has been terminated)
- are or have been in an intimate personal relationship with each other
- have, or there has been a time when they each have had, a parental relationship in relation to the same child
- are relatives
The government has produced a statutory definition of domestic abuse factsheet which contains additional information.
‘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.
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.
Types of domestic abuse
Domestic abuse can include, but is not limited to:
- Sexual abuse – includes any sexual activity that the person lacks the capacity to consent to and also includes indecent exposure, intentional exposure to HIV or sexually transmitted infections and deception over the use of birth control or restricting access to birth control.
- Physical abuse, including violent or threatening behaviour – includes any assault, use of weapons or objects and non-fatal strangulation or suffocation. The new stand-alone offence of non-fatal strangulation was introduced through the Justice (Sexual Offences and Trafficking Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2022.
- Psychological or emotional abuse- can include withholding affection. Turning children and friends against the victim, keeping the victim awake or preventing them from sleeping. Persuading the victim to doubt their own sanity or version of events – known as ‘gaslighting’.
- Technological abuse - perpetrators can use technology and social media as a means of coercive control. It can include creating false social media and email accounts in the victim’s name, ‘trolling’ or ‘catfishing’ the victim online with abusive, offensive, or deliberately provocative messages, or messages to try to obtain details of whereabouts and threats and / or distribution of non-consensual private sexual images and films with the intent to cause the person distress (known as ‘revenge porn’). Hacking internet-enabled devices such as games consoles, tablets, smart watches, and smart home devices to gain access to accounts or trace information including location, with the aim of controlling and frightening the victim. Use of spyware or GPS locators on items such as phones, computers, wearable technology, in vehicles and on pets.
- Economic abuse – limiting the victim’s access to their own income and requiring them to ask for money and controlling the family income. Economic abuse also includes financial abuse The Care Act defines financial abuse as: having money or other property stolen, being defrauded, being put under pressure in relation to money or other property and having money or other property misused.
- Stalking and harassment - persistent and unwanted attention that makes someone feel harassed. It includes behaviour that happens two or more times, directed at or towards a victim by another person, which causes feelings of alarm, distress, and fear. The Stalking Protection Act 2019 introduced Stalking Protection Orders (SPO), a civil order which police can apply for through the magistrate’s court.
Professionals or agencies working with adults have a key role in identifying others who may be at risk. 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.
The ‘Think Family’ agenda recognises and promotes the importance of a whole-family approach to safeguarding.
If a professional or agency working with 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.
Domestic abuse has a significant impact on children and young people of all ages (up to 18 years old). Section 3 of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 (‘the 2021 Act’) recognises children as victims of domestic abuse for the purposes of the Act if the child sees, hears, or experiences the effects of the abuse, and is related to, or falls under “parental responsibility” of, the victim and/or perpetrator of the domestic abuse.
A child might therefore be considered a victim of domestic abuse under the 2021 Act where one parent is abusing another parent, or where a parent is abusing, or being abused by, a partner or relative.
Where there are concerns for a child in the context of a family experiencing domestic abuse 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 as set out in the Sussex Child Protection and Safeguarding Procedures which includes a guidance section on Safeguarding Children impacted by Domestic Abuse.
If a child is in immediate danger, contact the police on 999.
Reporting a concern about a child to the local authority
West Sussex County Council
Integrated Front Door (IFD)
Anyone who has concerns about the welfare of a child can contact a single countywide phone number, known as the Integrated Front door (IFD). Monday to Friday between 9am-5pm: 01403 229900
At all other times, including nights, weekends, and bank holidays, contact the 'out of hours' emergency team: 0330 222 6664.
East Sussex County Council
Monday to Thursday 8:30am - 5pm and Friday 8:30am - 4:30pm
Contact the Single Point of Advice (SPOA) on 01323 464 222
| Brighton and Hove City Council
Contact on 01273 290 400
Online referral form - Refer a child or family to Front Door for Families (brighton-hove.gov.uk)
Please note that a contact with SPOA in East Sussex or Front Door For Families in Brighton can also cover early help and family help services.
For out of hours services for both East Sussex County Council and Brighton and Hove City Council contact the emergency duty service on 01273 335 905 / 01273 335 906.
Both the local arrangements for responding to domestic abuse and the safeguarding adult’s procedures will apply in situations where an adult who has care and support needs ( they do not need to be receiving support for those needs) that prevent them from safeguarding themselves is experiencing domestic 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.
Factors which may increase the risk for the person:
Disability (physical, learning disability and mental health, including substance and alcohol misuse)
- Disabled adults and women in particular are more likely to experience domestic abuse than non-disabled people and are twice as likely to have previously planned or attempted suicide (Disability and domestic abuse,risk, impacts and response 2015) .
- Research has highlighted women with learning disabilities are between four and eight times more likely to experience sexual abuse, mostly by people who provide their care.
- People with poor mental health are more likely to experience domestic abuse. Conversely, domestic abuse can have a detrimental effect on a victim’s mental health, which may be compounded by their abuser or others minimising this. Domestic violence: statistics | Mental Health Foundation.
- Individuals experiencing domestic abuse may use alcohol or drugs to try to cope with their situation or ‘block out’ what is happening to them. Access to treatment or prescribed medication may be withheld and adults may be forced into drug or alcohol misuse by the perpetrator to intensify control and dependency
- Research highlights there are significant levels of domestic abuse within the LGBTQ+ community but it is underreported. Furthermore, adults from the LGBTQ+ community are disproportionally underrepresented in domestic abuse services, including the criminal justice system.
- Assumptions regarding age and gender can mean injuries are considered the result of falls or unintentional rough handling while personal care is taking place. An adult presenting as unhappy or depressed may be seen as having health or social care needs, but this can result in domestic abuse being overlooked.
- Pregnancy increases the risk to the woman and her unborn baby. It is estimated 4 – 9 in every 100 pregnant women are abused during their pregnancy or soon after the birth (Angela Taft, 2002). There is also a link between abuse during pregnancy and a woman’s chance of being killed by her perpetrator (J. McFarlane et al. 2002).
- Carers- can be informal or formal.
Formal care for adults usually refers to paid care services provided by a healthcare institution or individual for a person in need.
A formal carer is likely to be a person in a position of trust (PiPot) see 2.5.2 conduct of behaviours which may pose a risk to adults.
Informal care refers to unpaid care provided by family, close relatives, friends, and neighbours. Family and friends as carers may be involved in situations which require a safeguarding response, for example:
- A carer may witness, and report abuse is happening involving paid carers or family members.
- A carer may experience intentional or unintentional harm from the adult they are trying to support, or from professionals and organisations they are in contact with.
- A carer may be experiencing domestic abuse by the person they are caring for and should be offered an assessment if a need is identified.
- Culture, ethnicity, and race - Women’s Aid highlights while there is no evidence to suggest women from some ethnic or cultural communities are at higher risk of domestic abuse, the form of abuse experienced may vary, including forced marriage or female genital mutilation (FGM).
- Harmful Practices - are persistent practices and behaviours impacting all genders but particularly women and girls. Harmful practices are rooted in gendered social structures rather than individual and random acts; it cuts across age, socio-economic, educational, and geographic boundaries. Harmful 'traditional' practices are forms of violence which have been committed in communities and societies for so long that they are considered, or presented by perpetrators, as part of accepted 'cultural' practice. These can include virginity testing and hymenoplasty. The most common are forced or early marriage, so called 'honour' based violence, female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM) and other lesser reported forms such as faith-based abuse, menstrual huts, acid attacks, corrective rape, and others. Harmful traditional practices occur across all sexes, sexual identities, and genders. They are not unique to a culture or religion.
- Forced marriage- occurs when individuals, regardless of their age, have been forced to marry against their will. A forced marriage differs from an arranged marriage, in which both parties’ consent to their parents or a third party choosing a spouse. Forced marriage is illegal, and can happen in secret, but can also be planned within the community by parents, extended family, or religious leaders. Individuals may be trafficked to marry against their will, and individuals are also trafficked to and from the UK for sham marriages.
- Honour-based abuse (HBV)- is defined as ‘a violent incident or crime committed to protect or defend the perceived honour of the family or community’. It is designed to punish an individual for behaving in a way not in keeping with traditional or cultural beliefs, or refusal to agree to a marriage. It is often committed with some involvement or co-operation from the family and / or community.
- Spiritual abuse involving religion or beliefs - refers to the manipulation of religion or spirituality to perpetrate or justify abuse and mistreatment. Spiritual abuse can be perpetrated by a partner or family members, as well as community and religious leaders or figures.
- The impact of cultural norms and expectations - cultural norms and expectations often mean women are unaware they are experiencing abuse, and examples of coercion and control may include:
- Preventing the victim from learning a language or making friends outside of their ethnic or cultural background.
- Refusing to interpret, and / or hindering access to communication.
- Threatening the immigration status of the victim by withholding documents or giving false information to a victim about their visa or visa application or using immigration law to threaten the victim with potential deportation.
- Traveller communities- ethnic groups include gypsies, travellers and nomadic ethnic groups who have a separate identity, culture, language, and history. The experience of domestic abuse within traveller communities is more hidden and may be compounded as the community is often marginalised within wider society.
- Adults with multiple compound needs- people experiencing domestic abuse can face additional barriers in seeking help or accessing support services. It is therefore crucial professionals understand their daily lived experience and how domestic abuse affects them and their children or other family members. Multiple compound needs is defined by the national Changing Futures Programme as people who experience three or more of: homelessness, current or historical offending, substance misuse, domestic abuse, and mental ill health.
- Family and inter-generational abuse - abuse by family members can involve abuse by any relative or multiple family members. There is no requirement for the victim and perpetrator to live together within the Domestic Abuse Act.
In cases of alleged Child-to-Parent abuse (CPA), if the child is over 16 years of age, CPA is considered domestic abuse in accordance with the statutory definition under the 2021 Domestic Abuse Act.
When there is CPA, and the child is under 18 then it should be recorded as ‘young person engaged in harmful behaviour’ rather than alleged perpetrator.
Children and young people should be offered support based on their individual needs, with a range of interventions so that each child and young person is able to access the specialised help they require, avoiding unnecessary criminalisation.
The parent victim should also receive appropriate domestic abuse response and support. It is important that a young person using abusive behaviour against a parent or family member receives a safeguarding response, which should include referral to a Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) (or local equivalent) in the first instance where a parent advocate can attend, followed by referral to MARAC (Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference) if necessary, regardless of whether there is any police action taken. Responders should use their discretion and professional judgement when addressing cases of CPA, and work with the parent to identify the appropriate response.
Adult Family Homicide is where a parent is murdered by adult child. Cases which have been reviewed following incidents indicate a higher proportion of these involve mental health challenges for male family members.https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/key-findings-from-analysis-of-domestic-homicide-reviews/key-findings-from-analysis-of-domestic-homicide-reviews
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 or Honour based abuse.
- Other vulnerable adults - there may be need to consider the safety and wellbeing of other vulnerable adults for example – if the cause of the risk is perpetrating the abuse at the victim’s place of work. Or if the victim is not able (for whatever reason) to take the appropriate action or see the risks and they themselves work in a position of trust.
The Mental Capacity Act 2005 contains a range of safeguards and legal approaches, which can be used to support people experiencing domestic abuse.
Assessing capacity can be particularly challenging in situations involving domestic abuse 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.
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.
Some adults experiencing domestic abuse 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 abuse and abuse then any decision made by professionals on behalf of that adult must be made in their best interests.
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 abuse 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 Abuse Protection Orders.
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.
When a person stays in an abusive relationship skilled 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. Consideration that impaired mental capacity may be a consequence of cumulative trauma and abuse is required, and a skilled assessment taken to establish whether a person is making unwise or unsafe decisions, or whether decisions are taken under duress, coercion, and control.
The impact of coercion on decision making
In circumstances where there are concerns that an adult may be experiencing coercion and control that may be impacting on the decisions they make about their safety, the adult must be offered an opportunity to meet with a practitioner in private and separately from family members / carers. For further information please see Research in Practice: mental capacity and coercion.
Adults experiencing domestic abuse and abuse may be reluctant to make disclosures or give consent for information about the concerns being shared with other agencies. This can be due to a number of reasons, including fear of the abuser and what they may do, fear of not being believed, and / or shame. Situations in which a person may not give consent to information being shared and safety measures being taken, may require practitioners to override their consent and share information given the significance of the risks to the adult.
Substance Misuse and capacity
Adults may be temporarily unable to make decisions because of their drug or alcohol misuse and this may compound fluctuations in capacity and ability to make safe decisions. For further information please see 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.
There is also scope for practitioners to consider using inherent jurisdiction to safeguard people who do not lack capacity but whose ability to make decisions is compromised because of constraints in their circumstances, coercion, or undue influence. Inherent jurisdiction describes the power that the High Court has to make orders and grant injunctions in particular situations where there is no other power to intervene in law, such as under the Mental Capacity Act.
As outlined above advocacy is an additional resource that can be used to support people experiencing domestic abuse 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 Abuse Advisors (IDVAs) to support people at high risk from domestic abuse and abuse.
IDVAs help to keep adults who are experiencing domestic abuse 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 the 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.
Responding to disclosures
Where domestic abuse is disclosed, it is important to deal with any immediate needs the person may have such as seeking medical help, police assistance, and access to domestic abuse services that can provide immediate support.
If a person is in immediate danger, dial 999 and ask for the police.
How to make a silent 999 call from a mobile phone or a landline: if the victim is unable to talk, they may be asked to cough or tap the keys on their phone to answer questions.
The Sussex Safeguarding Adults Thresholds Guidance contains information on signs and indicators of abuse and neglect and what should be reported as a safeguarding concern.
Enabling the person to talk about their experience
Ask direct questions about the abuse but only ask when the victim is on their own and in a private place. Don’t assume someone else will ask at another time as it may be the victim’s only opportunity to tell someone about what’s happening to them.
When a disclosure is made, care is needed not to ask leading questions and to give the person time to talk about what has happened. It is important to gather an account so appropriate support can be offered, and to avoid compromising any criminal investigations. Open questions in response to a disclosure or potential disclosure should follow the principle of ‘tell me what happened’ or ‘what, when, why, where and how’.
Research indicates those who experience abuse, including coercion and control, and are finding it difficult to disclose their experiences, may want practitioners to ask direct questions as it can be easier to respond to a direct question than offer information independently. It is important to ensure questions are open, so the person is able to provide an account in their own words.
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.
Communication and information sharing
Effective communication and information-sharing enables professionals to develop strong working relationships and networks, trust, and shared ownership of decisions and risk management.
When working together, professionals from across different organisations should seek to understand and respect each other’s roles in supporting the person, as well as offering the flexibility which may be required to gain the best possible outcome for the adult. This will help to set expectations, clarify responsibilities; and avoid any misunderstanding when sharing work.
Confidentiality is an important principle that enables people enables people to feel safe but the right to confidentiality is not absolute. If an adult refuses consent to share information, their wishes should be respected but there are instances where the sharing of information can still legally take place when it is necessary to do so, and there are adequate safeguards in place to protect the security of the information.
Brighton and Hove, East Sussex and West Sussex SABs have developed a pan-Sussex Information Sharing Guide and Protocol, which provides further information in relation to information sharing Sussex Information Sharing Guide and Protocol - East Sussex SAB.
Multi-agency meetings help to ensure co-ordination of distinct aspects of an enquiry that relate directly to the adult or a decision that will affect them. Information and intelligence can be shared to determine what the appropriate actions should be to “sufficiently reduce or remove the risk to the adult”.
The principles of person-centred working and empowerment are central to undertaking section 42 enquiries or other safeguarding enquiries. This includes assessment, intervention, and multi-agency meetings to help co-ordinate responses for individuals even if services are not able to engage with them. This may be particularly important for adults with multiple and compound needs experiencing domestic abuse who may find it difficult to engage with services and where a co-ordinated response is required to maximise opportunities to keep individuals safe.
Please see 1.1.3 Multi-agency working section.
Professional curiosity and critical thinking
Professional curiosity is the capacity and communication skills to explore and understand what is happening rather than making assumptions or accepting things at face value. Professionals also need to manage uncertainty, consider, and analyse all possible explanations, and be prepared to ‘think the unthinkable’.
It is important to ascertain whether information aligns with known details or is contradictory, and whether information can be verified by other professionals involved. Triangulating information will help to provide a coherent account of what is happening in a person’s life and will support the process of risk assessment and safety planning.
Trauma can be defined as “an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional or spiritual wellbeing.” (Substance Misuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2014).
Adults who have been exposed to repeated traumatic events and may be unable to engage with professionals because their threat perception system is heightened, and they may be in a constant flight or fight mode.
The four Rs of trauma informed care. SAMHSA (2014).
- Realising how common the experience of trauma and adversity is.
- Recognising the different ways that trauma can affect people.
- Responding by taking account of the ways that people can be affected by trauma to support recovery.
- Opportunities to Resist re-traumatisation and offer a greater sense of choice and control, empowerment, collaboration, and safety with everyone that you have contact with.
Making Safeguarding Personal (MSP)
Clear and transparent communication with the adult is key to building trust and confidence in the support that can be offered, and in maximising opportunities for participation. Important principles in MSP include:
- Showing a disclosure is believed.
- Clarifying which other agencies are involved and trusted professionals who know most about the person’s situation, so they do not have to repeat information.
- Asking the adult or their advocate about next steps and desired outcomes.
- Ensuring safe contact arrangements are established from the start.
- Providing information and advice about the range of services available, including work-based support.
- Keeping the adult or their advocate informed throughout a professional’s involvement.
An assessment of risk should take place in all situations where an adult with care and support needs is experiencing domestic abuse 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 abuse 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.
- The presence of children (particularly stepchildren) or other vulnerable adults increases the wider risks of domestic abuse.
- Separation -although the risk of intimate partner homicide is highest in the first three months after a separation, separation still lowers the risk of intimate partner homicide overall (Spencer & Stith, 2020).
Involving the adult experiencing domestic abuse 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.
In research published in 2018 Dr Monckton Smith reviewed domestic violence killings in the UK which showed an 8-stage timeline of events before a homicide takes place.
The eight steps that were identified to be present in almost all of the murders studied were:
- A pre-relationship history of stalking or abuse by the perpetrator
- The romance develops quickly into a serious relationship
- The relationship becomes dominated by coercive control
- A trigger threatens the perpetrator's control - for example, the relationship ends, or the perpetrator gets into financial difficulty
- Escalation - an increase in the intensity or frequency of the partner's control tactics, such as stalking or threatening suicide
- The perpetrator has a change in thinking - choosing to move on, either through revenge or by homicide
- Planning - the perpetrator might buy weapons or seek opportunities to get the victim alone
- Homicide - the perpetrator kills his or her partner and possibly hurts others such as the victim's children
The only instance where a stage in the model was not followed was when men did not meet stage one - but this was normally because they had not previously had a relationship.
The Domestic Abuse Stalking and Harassment Risk Identification Checklist (DASH RIC)
When a concern is raised about domestic abuse 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’.
The DASH form is a tool used to assess risk, and to make referrals to appropriate agencies. The form has two sections: the referral form, and a Domestic Abuse Risk Indicator Checklist (RIC). This is a universal checklist used by agencies which identifies and assesses the risks posed to an individual. There are 24 questions, each question has a tick box for a ‘Yes’, ‘No’ or ‘Don’t know’ response
Diagram: Risk themes included in the DASH RIC
The DASH RIC is available on these local sites:
- Brighton & Hove and East Sussex- DASH Risk Identification Checklist (DASH RIC)
- West Sussex - Domestic abuse information for professionals - West Sussex County Council
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 Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference (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.
Safety of professionals working with domestic abuse victims
Risk assessments should be considered for the professional network as there may be times when threats are made to specific members of staff or there is a risk this could happen. The following should be considered to minimise the risk of harm occurring:
- General risk assessments and allocation of workers when referrals are accepted.
- Considering joint working, including the need for police attendance during visits.
- Risk markers or warning flags on recording systems identifying any risks to staff.
- Individual risk assessments and safety plans if threats have been made.
- Police warning markers on home addresses and office locations.
- Time for debriefs following visits and during supervision, including the impact of vicarious trauma and individual triggers affecting staff working with high-risk domestic abuse cases.
Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC)
The MARAC is a multi-agency meeting that brings together representatives from a number of statutory and voluntary sector agencies to discuss the safety, health, and wellbeing of people over the age of 16 who are experiencing domestic abuse. This includes their children and wider networks.
It is important to remember that MARACs are not substitutes for safeguarding enquiries and consideration should always be given to raising a safeguarding concern where it is identified that an adult is experiencing domestic abuse.
- A named professional may be asked to attend MARAC to provide updates, or information may be shared by a MARAC representative on behalf of their agency.
- It is important to remember that the adult is not invited to these meetings but is likely to be represented by an Independent Domestic Abuse Advocate (IDVA).
- Meetings will focus on a discussion of key concerns and risks followed by safety planning including individual agency actions to minimise or remove risk.
- Information sharing with other agencies, including consideration of other adults at risk will need to be agreed by MARAC.
- MARAC will identify which agency is the lead professional and will make a number of recommendations for referrals to additional support services where required.
- Where people who are moving across Local Authority areas it is crucial for there to a be a discussion between agencies regarding who is making the referral across to the new area and ensure that information sharing is completed.
- There is no formal review process unless a repeat referral is made.
- Consideration should be given to whether an application for a Domestic Abuse Disclosure Scheme (DVDS) is made to Sussex Police. 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 abuse or abuse. If a MARAC referral is made practitioners are prompted to consider this as part of the referral, but an application for a DVDS should be made separately to Sussex Police.
Full details on this scheme is available: Clare's Law - Domestic Abuse Disclosure Scheme (DVDS) | Sussex Police.
Making a referral
Any agency can make a referral to MARAC if a DASH form highlights domestic abuse is high risk, that is with a DASH score of 14 and above, or where a worker involved makes a professional judgement that the risks are high enough for MARAC to consider the need for additional safety planning.
Where an adult is the subject of a safeguarding enquiry, the MARAC referral should include information on relevant history, progress of the enquiry, and clarify additional support being sought.
A MARAC referral does not eliminate the risks faced by the individual and does not replace the interventions carried out as part of a safeguarding enquiry. While referrals should not be made for resolving an immediate crisis, high risk cases should always be referred for consideration.
Consent is not always sought to make a referral, but action may be taken afterwards to ensure the victim is informed. This may include raising a new safeguarding concern.
SafeLives defines a ‘repeat’ as any instance of abuse between the same victim and perpetrator(s), within 12 months of the last referral to MARAC. The individual act of abuse does not need to be ‘criminal’, violent or threatening but should be viewed within the context of a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour.
It should be noted that the requirements around MARAC repeat referrals apply regardless of any ongoing safeguarding S42 enquiry or plan that partner agencies may be supporting the person/their representative with.
Further information on MARAC can be found at:
- Safe in East Sussex - www.safeineastsussex.org.uk/MARAC-help.html
- Safe in the City - www.safeinthecity.info (Brighton & Hove)
- Safe in Sussex - www.safeinsussex.org (West Sussex)
Victim Support - Brighton and Hove
The specialist domestic abuse service in Brighton and Hove is provided by Victim Support.
Telephone: 0300 323 9985
Change, Grow, Live (CGL) – East Sussex
CGL deliver the specialist domestic abuse service in 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
Survivors Network - Specialist Rape and Sexual Abuse and Abuse Service for Sussex
Across Sussex the specialist rape and sexual abuse and abuse service is provided by Survivor’s Network.
Telephone: 01273 203 380
Email for general enquiries: email@example.com
Veritas - Specialist Stalking Advocacy Service for Sussex
Telephone: 01273 234 773
Hourglass Specialist support for older victims/survivors of domestic abuse:
Hourglass provide advice and support for older people at risk of, experiencing or recovering from any form of abuse, including domestic abuse including economic abuse. Independent Domestic abuse advisor’s and Community response hub:
South of England Sussex IDVA Service: Hourglass offers a freephone and confidential helpline service Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm as well as options for SMS text, email, and instant messaging. The helpline can refer you to our Sussex based IDVA service who will contact you to support you with your concerns or queries. Find out how to get support here.
Refuge from domestic abuse
East Sussex - Clarion Housing Association provides safe refuge accommodation for women and children fleeing domestic violence across East Sussex. If you are seeking refuge in East Sussex, email Clarion at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brighton and Hove –the Brighton Refuge is a safe space providing accommodation and support for women and their children who are fleeing domestic abuse and is run by Stonewater. Email email@example.com
Domestic Abuse service for LGBTQ people affected by domestic abuse. They provide support to survivors through their Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs) who can help support you.
They can help you with housing and accessing refuge services, financial issues, and benefits, navigating the criminal justice system, and assist with mental and physical health needs. Call them on 01273 359042 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Providing Black femme survivors with support, access to justice and counselling on all forms of gender-based violence.
Mankind offers a confidential helpline for male victims of domestic abuse and sexual abuse across the UK with a local point of contact in Brighton and Hove.
Telephone: 01273 911680
National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV)
Service for survivors of domestic abuse who are seeking an injunction.
Telephone: 0800 9702070
Victim Support provides free and confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week for people affected by crime and traumatic events.
Telephone: 0808 1689 111
Home Office Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Unit
The FGM Unit provides outreach support to local areas to support them in developing their response to fighting FGM.
Forced Marriage Unit
The Forced Marriage Unit offers information and support to those who fear they will be forced into marriage and can talk with them about their options.
Telephone: 0207 0080151
Domestic Abuse Information and Guidance
Adult Safeguarding and Domestic Abuse
A Guide to Support Practitioners and Managers (Local Government Association and ADASS, 2015) sets out the overlap between safeguarding and domestic abuse and the approaches and legal frameworks for domestic abuse that can be used in the safeguarding context.
Coercive Control (Research in Practice for Adults)
The Coercive Control website is for social workers and other health and social care practitioners to develop their knowledge and skills in working in situations of coercive control.
SafeLives is a National Charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse and contains information about the UK’s response to domestic abuse. The site includes information for professionals on resources including MARAC and the IDVA service.
Domestic Abuse Strategy Guidance
This statutory guidance is issued under section 84 of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 (‘the 2021 Act’). It is intended to increase awareness and inform the response to domestic abuse. It also conveys standards and promotes best practice.