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Press release

Nearly two-thirds of UK adults do not know that children are now recognised as victims of domestic abuse

Government’s domestic abuse plan is important start to providing more effective support to child victims

Published

15 Apr 2022

Contributor

This release highlights the need for evaluation of domestic abuse support for victims following on from the launch of the government's domestic abuse plan at the end of March 2022.

Polling for the children’s charity, the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF), has revealed a general lack of awareness that children are considered to be victims of domestic abuse in their own right – even when the intended target of the abuse is an adult, such as the perpetrator’s partner or a relative.   

According to the survey, nearly two-thirds (62%) of the public aren’t aware that children are victims of domestic abuse if they see, hear or experience the effects of the abuse. Children were formally recognised as victims of domestic abuse for the first time, in the Domestic Abuse Act 2021.   

Publication of the survey follows the release last month of the Home Office’s domestic abuse plan.  

Dr Jo Casebourne, chief executive of the Early Intervention Foundation, said: “It is well established that domestic abuse – whether coercive or physical or both – can have a devastating long-term impact on a child’s life chances and quality of life, including their education, mental health and their own adult relationships when they grow up.  

“We welcome the fact that through its new domestic abuse plan, the government has committed to increasing the amount of support available to victims of domestic abuse, including children, but it’s crucial this is done in a way that allows us to build knowledge about which types of support work best.”    

Research by EIF has identified significant gaps in existing support, such as therapeutic services for children dealing with trauma, support for very young children and babies, and direct support for children whose parents are not engaging with services.   

The charity says that the government’s domestic abuse plan is welcome, but to make lasting positive change, there needs to be cross-government commitment to developing and testing the most promising models of support, so help that makes the most difference can be provided to children.  

The Early Intervention Foundation is calling for a focus from government on building the evidence about what works most effectively to support children affected by domestic abuse through new national studies. The studies should then be turned into advice for those developing services locally.   

Dr Casebourne added: “There is no current consensus on which interventions should be offered by children’s services, or what the appropriate outcomes of interventions are that can be measured. It’s good to see that the government has committed to developing a framework for measuring the impact of domestic abuse interventions on the youngest victims. This will be important as a way of improving learning about what works to support children suffering from the impacts of domestic abuse. In such a critical area, we cannot afford to be operating in the dark about what support works best and should be prioritised.”  

The YouGov poll also highlights other barriers to ensuring victims have access to suitable support. More than half (51%) of those surveyed said they would not be confident knowing where to go, or who to speak to, to help someone they knew, if that person told them they are a victim of domestic abuse. Fewer than one in 10 (9%) were very confident they’d know how to help a victim.   

71% of those polled said that more support is needed for victims of domestic violence, with women significantly more likely than men to feel that way – at 77% versus 65% respectively. Only 11% of those surveyed thought there is enough support currently available for victims of domestic abuse.  

-ENDS-  

ABOUT EIF:  

The Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) is an independent charity that champions and supports the use of effective early intervention to improve the lives of children and young people at risk of experiencing negative outcomes. For more information, see: www.eif.org.uk         

MEDIA CONTACTS:      

Andy Ross, Senior Press Officer – 07949 339 975 / andy.ross@eif.org.uk     

METHODOLOGY:   

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,765 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 10th-11th March 2022. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).    

FURTHER INFORMATION:   

Devastating impact of domestic abuse on children    

Children who have experienced domestic abuse are significantly more likely to experience abuse in their own adult relationships, to misuse drugs or alcohol, and to have lower levels of wellbeing.    

The impact on children and young people’s mental health can be profound. Children who live with domestic abuse are more likely to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and emotional and behavioural difficulties.    

ONS statistics on prevalence of domestic abuse   

About the contributor

Dr Jo Casebourne

Jo is chief executive at EIF.