Improving the future for families with domestic abuse
In the fourth of our series of Improving Futures blogs, David Taylor, Knowledge Manager at the Big Lottery Fund, discusses the impact on domestic abuse victims in the programme, which recently published its year two evaluation.
Domestic abuse is an issue that has recently affected 17% of Improving Futures participants, with another 7.9% affected within the previous 12 months – making it nearly four times as prevalent as the British Crime Survey’s estimate for the UK.
Domestic abuse damages victims’ long term physical and mental health and appears to be as harmful for children witnessing it as it is for the victims, placing them at increased risk of behavioural problems, emotional trauma and mental health difficulties in adult life.
The Improving Futures projects adopted a whole family, early intervention approach to tackle the issue from multiple angles which also aims to raise each family member’s awareness of how their own circumstances affect other family members.
Specific approaches have included:
- Tackling Domestic Violence, Belfast, is bringing multiple agencies together by having Women’s Aid workers with Health and Social Care Trust professionals as a Gateway Support Team at a range of locations.
- Brighter Futures, Wandsworth, runs a 12-week course supporting mothers and their children in separate groups run in parallel. The course is about healing from abuse and safety planning. Outreach workers support people before and after the course as a family.
The projects have also learnt a lot about the most effective approaches for tackling domestic abuse. At a learning event in February 2014, Improving Futures projects identified the following pieces of learning:
► Use of language can be important, e.g. using ‘application’ rather than ‘referral’, to make families more likely to seek the support services on offer
► Flexibility of funding is key, e.g. one service offered driving lessons to some women which helped boost their confidence and offered them greater freedom
► Giving families a sense of empowerment, i.e. supporting them to help themselves once the service is no longer supporting them
► Power of learning – benefit to families when offered courses that boost confidence, skills, employability and gets them out in the community
► Safeguarding– social workers were an important element within projects, specifically supporting families experiencing domestic abuse
Across the 26 projects, the Year 2 evaluation report has identified clear improvements for families with domestic abuse. Despite not being a specific aim for most projects, the whole family approach has reduced child harm by domestic violence by 43.4% and adult harm by 29.5%. The Belfast project, with its focus on domestic violence, reduced adult harm from 83% at entry to 43% at exit.
The evaluation shows that the programme has been particularly successful in reducing domestic abuse in lone parent families. The most effective domestic abuse interventions are those that have worked with families for more than 12 months. The evaluation will continue to look at common factors in the most effective approaches for reducing domestic abuse as the programme continues.