Early Intervention in Domestic Violence and Abuse

17 March 2014

This week the Early Intervention Foundation released our updated report on Early Intervention in Domestic violence and Abuse. It is the first in a series of reports which will aim to address key areas relating to Early Intervention.

Domestic Violence has featured heavily in the news recently: NICE issued their guidance on domestic violence which served as a “wake up call” to the scale of the problem, while parliamentary figures highlighted that although the number of reports of domestic violence to police increased, both the number of cases of domestic violence being referred to prosecutors and the conviction rate had dropped.

The EIF chose to focus on domestic violence and abuse in our first report because it is an important cause of long-term problems for children, families and communities. The damaging impacts of witnessing domestic violence and abuse on children can cast a long shadow with inter-generational consequences sometimes leading to a repetition of abusive and violent behaviours.

Our report finds that children who have witnessed Domestic Violence between their parents display increased fear, inhibition, depression, as well as high levels of aggression and antisocial behaviour which can last not only into their teenage years, but into adulthood too. The effect on a child of witnessing domestic violence between parents is similar to that of experiencing physical abuse themselves. And with 25% of young people witnessing domestic violence and abuse before the age of 18, the problem is not confined to a small section of the population.

Another overriding message from this report is the importance of evaluating promising programmes and practice on domestic violence and abuse prevention. Organisations currently delivering vital services or testing out new programmes are eager to measure their impact and improve their practice. But this requires investment and support from universities, research organisations, government and others.

It is no surprise that the cost of domestic violence and abuse is significant, with the estimated overall cost to society standing at £15.7bn. If we add to this the wider long-term impact on mental health and the intergenerational effects on child development, the case for a preventative approach becomes overwhelming.

We believe there must be a better, more effective way of protecting children and families and saving money in the long run.

Our full list of recommendations can be found here. We will advocate with central and local government, commissioners and others for:

1. Proven evidence-based programmes and practice
2. The Action plan on Violence against Women and Girls and a series of improvements to it.
3. More effective support to deliver school-based programmes to scale for example Personal, Social Health Education and Sex and Relationship Education.
4. Strengthening support for couple and family relationships where there is a risk or history of domestic violence and abuse.
5. A comprehensive workforce development plan on domestic violence and abuse for all Early Intervention workers.
6. Improved measurement, evaluation and research of domestic violence and abuse with a particular focus on the impact of Early Intervention in preventing it.

The full report is available here.