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EIF report

Improving services for children affected by domestic abuse

With Covid-19 increasing pressure on domestic abuse support services and new legislation making its way through parliament, this report drives home the need to address critical gaps in evidence and evaluation of what works to support children who have experienced, or who are at risk of experiencing domestic abuse. It calls on government to establish a long-term, cross-departmental fund to facilitate robust programme evaluation to ensure children, young people and adult survivors of domestic abuse get the help and support they need.

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Evidence shows that domestic abuse is common. Around one in five children in the UK experience domestic abuse during their childhood. There is also emerging evidence that Covid-19 has made the situation worse for many children. We also know that experiencing domestic abuse can have wide-ranging and long-lasting impacts. 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 also be profound. 

This report identifies a significant lack of evidence of what works to support children who have experienced, or who are at risk of experiencing, domestic abuse. A lack of robust impact evaluation of promising or popular programmes or practices, coupled with local authority funding constraints and uncertainties, makes it extremely challenging for decision-makers to plan for these important and much-needed services. 

The Domestic Abuse Bill going through parliament recognises children as victims of domestic abuse in their own right. This is a step forward, but the challenge now is to make sure that every child and adult who experiences the trauma of domestic abuse, or who is at risk of experiencing this trauma, gets the support that they need, when they need it. 

We call on government to establish a long-term, cross-departmental fund dedicated to improving knowledge of what works to support child and adult victims of domestic abuse by:

  • investing in robust evaluation of promising and widely-used interventions
  • supporting consensus on a standard set of outcomes, and greater consistency in impact measurement approaches
  • building capacity to evaluate small-scale local interventions
  • supporting evaluation of support for minority groups
  • investing in the use of evaluation data to support professional practice and system improvement
  • expanding research into domestic abuse services beyond evaluating impact, including research on victims’ experiences, risk and protective factors, and the priorities of service users and local decision-makers.

About the editors

Stephanie Waddell

Steph is assistant director for impact and knowledge mobilisation at EIF.

Donna Molloy

Donna is director of policy & practice at EIF.

About the contributors

Grace Freeman

Grace is a policy adviser at EIF.

Tom McBride

Tom is director of evidence at EIF.

Dr Ian Moore

Ian is a research officer at EIF.