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Government urged to bring to bear the power of every public service to respond to perpetrators of domestic abuse

Organisations have come together calling on government to reach beyond the criminal justice system to better hold domestic abuse perpetrators to account and manage the risk they pose.  Every public service must take action. These calls are set out in the paper: “Building a robust response to perpetrators: recommendations for the new Domestic Abuse Strategy”

Published by the Drive Partnership, as the government is preparing a new Domestic Abuse Strategy, the paper has been created in consultation with survivors and professionals from statutory, voluntary and academic sectors.

It follows the revelation that in 44% of domestic homicides and suspected domestic abuse victim suicides, the perpetrator was not known to the police but either the perpetrator or associated victim were known to other agencies– most commonly children’s social services, adult social services, or mental health services[1]. With more support these services might have been able to contribute towards preventing the devastating death toll of domestic abuse.

Drive Partnership Director Kyla Kirkpatrick said:

When fewer than a third of victims report abuse to the police, perpetrator policy based solely on criminal justice approaches will allow the vast majority of perpetrators to fly under the radar. We know there are 2 million adults in the UK affected by domestic each year. This means there are a large number of perpetrators in our society, most of whom will never come into contact with the criminal justice system. We therefore need to support a whole range of professionals to recognise abusive behaviour and take appropriate action.”

The new paper published by the Drive Partnership, is also informed by the views of 470 victims and survivors of domestic abuse who responded to a recent survey. It highlights the need for the government response to domestic abuse perpetrators to go far beyond the criminal justice system.

Shana, survivor and advocate said:

“There’s so much that agencies like health and children’s social care can do to help hold perpetrators to account. Domestic abuse is an issue for our whole society, and we need key sectors to be supported in challenging it. It would have been a huge help if some of these services could have had the confidence to safely challenge what was happening to me.”

Signatories to the paper would like to see the following commitments in the new Home Office Domestic Abuse Strategy:

  • The NHS, as the service that bears the greatest costs of domestic abuse[2], should step up to its potential to be part of a more proactive and early response to perpetrators to keep victims safer. A survey of survivor views on perpetrator work showed that health was one of the most likely professions to be considered helpful regard to their response to perpetrators – although there was still significant room for improvement. Most perpetrators will come into contact with the NHS at some point. Training for NHS staff on how to identify and respond to the perpetrator has the potential to significantly contribute to government’s ambition to identify more perpetrators and hold them accountable.

  • Responses from Children’s Social Care are also key, as domestic abuse is the most common risk factor identified by social workers in assessments[3]. There is a need for Children’s Social Care professionals to receive more training, delivered by specialist domestic abuse organisations, on responding to perpetrators.

  • High quality policing is also crucial. The report recommends that the Police continue to invest in domestic abuse training at all levels to embed an understanding of coercive control and perpetrator behaviour and develop a stronger understanding of the various tools at their disposal to protect victims.

  • Commissioners need to ensure that any perpetrator intervention – such as behaviour change work – should have a victim-survivor support element, whether it is integrated or provided in partnership with an external provider. There should be no assumption that there is existing capacity in victim-survivor support services to provide this and funding will need to be built in for this.

Drive thanks all the survivors who took the time to respond to the survey and the organisations who have contributed to this report.

You can read the full report here.

You can read our Call to Action for a Perpetrator Strategy here, which explains why there is an urgent need for a more strategic approach to DAS perpetrators.

Notes for editors

 The Drive Partnership

The Drive Partnership comprises Respect, SafeLives and Social Finance.  We believe that domestic abuse is not acceptable or inevitable. The Drive Partnership advocates for changes to national systems so that perpetrators posing all levels of risk can no longer get away with abusive behaviour and can access the help they need to stop.  It also co-ordinates delivery of the Drive Project, working with high-harm, high-risk and serial perpetrators of domestic abuse to prevent their abusive behaviour and protect victims. Drive challenges these perpetrators to change and works with partner agencies – like the police and social services – to disrupt any ongoing abuse.

The Drive Project was developed in 2015 – to address a gap in work with high-harm perpetrators of domestic abuse. Drive works across England and Wales with local service providers delivering the intervention in local areas. In every site, we partner with local specialist domestic abuse organisations to design and deliver a programme tailored for the locality. This work is done in partnership with statutory agencies such as the police, public health, and children’s social care.

Reduction in abuse. The University of Bristol’s evaluation of the project found the number of Drive service users perpetrating abuse types reduced as follows:

• physical abuse reduced by 82%;

• sexual abuse reduced by 88%,

• harassment and stalking behaviours reduced by 75%;

• and jealous and controlling behaviours reduced by 73%.

Reduction of risk: Independent Domestic Violence Advisers (IDVAs), who are trained to work with victims-survivors and assess the level of domestic abuse risk they face, recorded reduction in risk to victims in 82% of cases.

Drive is a partnership between Respect, SafeLives and Social Finance:

Respect – Respect is the UK membership organisation for work with domestic violence perpetrators, male victims and young people using violence in their close relationships. Respect has developed standards and accreditation and provides training and support to improve responses to adults using violence and abuse in intimate relationships. Respect accreditation is the benchmark for the provision of quality interventions working with perpetrators of domestic abuse.

SafeLives – SafeLives is the UK-wide charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse, for everyone and for good. SafeLives work with organisations across the UK to transform the response to domestic abuse.

Social Finance – Social Finance is a not-for-profit organisation that partners with the government, the social sector and the financial community to find better ways of tackling social problems in the UK and beyond. They have raised over £100 million of social investment and designed a series of programmes to tackle social challenges including supporting vulnerable adolescents to avoid being taken into care, supporting older people reduce their level of loneliness and helping people with health conditions and disabilities access employment.

Funding and Commissioning partners 

Drive is funded by a mix of grant making trusts, central government grants and local government commissioning from policing, public health and local authorities. Local commissioners play a particularly important leadership role in Drive Project sites. The National Lottery Community Fund is a key funder, supporting the delivery of the Drive Project in certain sites and funding the Drive Partnership National Systems Change work until March 2023. The UK government is another key funder and is supporting some sites to adopt the Drive Project. Find out more information at: http://driveproject.org.uk/ and follow us on Twitter: @DriveProjectUK

[1] 02d412c416154010b5cebaf8f8965030.pdf (prgloo.com)

[2] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/ 918897/horr107.pdf

[3] https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/characteristics-of-children-in-need/2020