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Domestic Abuse: A National Training Strategy


Domestic Abuse: A National Training Strategy


This Training Strategy is set out in six sections: Context, Aims of the Training Strategy, Requirements of the Training Strategy, Taking the Strategy Forward, Capacity Building and an Action Plan.

1 The Training Strategy in Context

The National Strategy to Address Domestic Abuse in Scotland1 recognises the important role of training in working towards the elimination of domestic abuse. As identified in the National Prevention Strategy, training can both improve service provision to women and children experiencing domestic abuse and impact on the prevention of abuse through conveying strong and unequivocal messages about its unacceptability. All public services should be aware that addressing domestic abuse is a national priority and that they have a responsibility to participate in taking forward a united strategy, including training as an integral element.

The focus of this strategy is on identifying training and development activity required to support improvement in services to women and children who are experiencing domestic abuse, and to men who use violence. It is based on increasing capacity to deliver training and providing national co-ordination of training on domestic abuse. Organisations will be expected to integrate training on domestic abuse into their overall training activities. As resources in support of the Training Strategy are finite, the Minister for Communities has determined that they will be dedicated to these activities rather than to funding training courses.

Domestic abuse training is essential to enable staff to provide a good service. There will therefore be a requirement for all sectors to view domestic abuse training as 'core business', to demonstrate their commitment to this change of culture through leadership and to take responsibility for ensuring that appropriate standards of training are met.

It is recognised that this Training Strategy is ambitious, and that a phased implementation will be required across departments to allow for collaboration and negotiation and to achieve sustainability. All partners will be expected to develop their own training strategies and produce their own assessments of skill gaps and costings to address these gaps.

Accountability will be addressed through the National Group to Address Violence Against Women and reporting mechanisms will be put in place by the Scottish Executive to ensure targets are met, building on existing accountability mechanisms. Two National Training Co-ordinators will be appointed to the Scottish Executive on temporary contract or on secondment. Their remits will include monitoring progress towards implementing the Training Strategy. An Action Plan for implementation is at annex 1 and fuller details of the proposed posts are in annex 2. A Steering Group will be set up to oversee the work of the Co-ordinators, which in turn will report to the National Group and the Scottish Parliament. Each sector will report to the National Group on their progress towards developing their own strategies and action plans.

However, because the implementation of the National Strategy to Address Domestic Abuse in Scotland requires a multi-agency approach, we must also consider how effectively agencies work together to deliver services which are both well co-ordinated and focused on the safety and needs of women and children.

In this context it is essential that this Training Strategy is supported by the development of attitudes and behaviour, skills and competencies which underpin effective collaborative working. This requires leadership to ensure that organisational cultures make joint working a key objective and that there is effective support to promote new ways of working across professional and institutional boundaries.

There are a number of recent developments in training which are relevant to this Training Strategy. Training programmes have been developed to support effective partnership working within Social Inclusion Partnerships (Working Together: Learning Together programme). The Community Planning Task Group has prepared good practice guidance in partnership working and has commissioned a report on capacity building for community planning partnerships. This activity is being supported by the Scottish Executive with a view to being developed further to support effective partnership working more generally including the Multi-Agency Partnerships addressing domestic abuse and violence against women.

This Training Strategy should be regarded as a "living" document which will evolve over time. Some of the detail remains to be finalised, which will be a task undertaken by the National Training Co-ordinators.

Definition of domestic abuse

It is clear from prevalence studies that violence against women is widespread throughout the world and cuts across class, age, religion and ethnic group. 2 Domestic abuse, is most commonly perpetrated by men against women. It is acknowledged that some men are abused by their women partners and same sex partners can also experience domestic abuse. 3 However, recent research 4 indicates that male victims experience of abuse is less frequent and less severe than that experienced by female victims and that there is little evidence that a specific agency is needed.

Nevertheless, abuse is never acceptable, regardless of the gender of the victim or the perpetrator. This should be emphasised at the beginning of any training on domestic abuse. But this Training Strategy focuses on domestic abuse as it affects women, children and young people as this is overwhelmingly the most common experience.

The National Strategy definition is:

Domestic abuse (as gender-based abuse), can be perpetrated by partners or ex-partners and can include physical abuse (assault and physical attack involving a range of behaviour), sexual abuse (acts which degrade and humiliate women and are perpetrated against their will, including rape) and mental and emotional abuse (such as threats, verbal abuse, racial abuse, withholding money and other types of controlling behaviour such as isolation from family and friends).

In accepting this definition it must be recognised that children are witness to and subject to much of this abuse and that there is some correlation between domestic abuse and child abuse. It must also be recognised that, particularly among black and ethnic minority ethnic communities, other family members may be involved in or may participate in the abuse of the woman.

In tackling domestic abuse/violence against women, it is necessary to take account of the specific experiences of particular groups of women and to ensure that any action/provision is relevant and appropriate to them. The needs of women, children and young people who experience additional discriminations, e.g. black and minority ethnic women and children, women with no recourse to public funds, disabled women and children including those with learning disabilities, older women, lesbians, gypsy travellers, refugee women and children and asylum seekers, women and children living in rural areas, women with mental illness or mental health issues and women with addictions should be mainstreamed through all actions and provisions.

2 Aims of the Training Strategy

As with the National Strategy and the Prevention Strategy, the Training Strategy's ultimate aim is the elimination of domestic abuse. In working towards achieving this, the Training Strategy aims to ensure:

  • That all agencies, individually and working together, can make the required changes to ensure that the best possible service is provided to anyone affected by domestic abuse, anywhere in Scotland.
  • That all workers who come into contact with women, children and young people who have experienced domestic abuse, and men who have used violence, have the knowledge, understanding and skills required to realise the National Strategy.
  • That all relevant staff are equipped with the knowledge, understanding and skills necessary for working across professional boundaries.
3 Requirements of the Training Strategy

For the Training Strategy to succeed it must focus on attitudes and beliefs as well as information and procedures. Domestic abuse is a complex and sensitive issue, which cuts to the core of individuals' personal beliefs and experiences of intimate relationships. It is also the subject of many myths and misconceptions, many of which are widely accepted as reality, but are potentially dangerous to women, children and young people if used to inform practice.

A shared analysis of the causes of domestic abuse is therefore essential to achieve consistency of approach. In line with the National Strategy, the Training Strategy recognises that "domestic abuse is associated with broader gender inequality and should be understood in its historical context, whereby societies have given greater status, wealth, influence, control and power to men. It is part of a range of behaviours constituting male abuse of power, and is linked to other forms of male violence". It is also important to acknowledge that the attitudes and structures which have supported abuse to date can be changed.

All domestic abuse training should therefore be underpinned by the above theoretical framework. It should value diversity and acknowledge respect for the individual and their right to live free from the fear of domestic abuse. It should avoid any inferences that domestic abuse is caused by alcohol or drug misuse, poverty, unemployment, stress, or mental illness, although they can contribute to or exacerbate the abuse. In addition, the cultural or religious background of the abuser is not an excuse for their abuse, and women and children who experience abuse are not responsible.

Improving multi- and single-agency responses and individual workers' practices requires more than simply training. In order to ensure that improvements are maintained, a number of other inter-related initiatives is required, e.g. effective policies and protocols, screening tools, intra- and inter-agency communication systems and worker support systems. Developing and maintaining these systems is therefore an integral part of the Training Strategy.

It is recognised that there is already a substantial amount of domestic abuse training underway. The Action Plan at section 6 is intended to ensure that all areas of Scotland develop a domestic abuse training strategy consistent with the national focus and that all areas reach an appropriate level of training activity.

Content of Training

The Training Strategy recognises the need for a comprehensive package of training courses. The following areas have been identified but do not provide an exhaustive list. A full package will be developed by the training co-ordinators.

Nature, extent, effects and causes of domestic abuse

Children and young people's experiences of domestic abuse

Multi-agency training

Joint working training

Specific issues relating to women, children and young people who experience additional discriminations/difficulties (including black and minority ethnic women, children and young people, disabled women, women in rural areas, children and young people, lesbians and older women)

Links between different forms of violence against women

Awareness about men who use violence and how they "explain" their behaviour

Responding to men who use violence

Awareness of/attitudes to gender issues

Importance of/reasons for confidentiality

Relevant agency protocols/systems

Child protection

Empowerment of women, children and young people

Identifying local services

Developing self-awareness, looking at prejudices, assumptions and attitudes.

Content of Training - Working with Men

In working with all agencies to raise awareness about men who abuse, the following areas should be addressed:

History and extent of the problem

Understanding why men are the main abusers and women the main victims

Violence within same sex relationships or from women to men is neither the same as, nor symmetrically opposite to, men's violence to women

Theory and perspective - why men's violence to partners and ex-partners is largely about the misuse of power and control in the context of male expectations of authority over, and services from, women

The role played by alcohol (it's not a "cause")

How men "excuse" abuse: the use of denial, blame and minimisation

How intervention programmes work

The importance of parallel services for women when working with men

Men are responsible for their use of violence

Men can change

Agreed Standards and Good Practice for Training

There has been considerable development in recent years of training on domestic abuse. Other initiatives, such as the implementation of this Training Strategy, will greatly increase the demand for trainers. Due to the sensitive and complex nature of domestic abuse, it is important that the training is consistent with the analysis of abuse in the National Strategy. There is therefore an absolute requirement to develop agreed standards and good practice.

4 Taking the Strategy Forward

The appropriate delivery of training will be crucial to the success of the Training Strategy. It is therefore essential that only suitably trained personnel carry out this task. If there is a Domestic Abuse Trainer in post, they should deliver the training, involving Women's Aid and other specialist organisations as appropriate in planning and co-facilitating. Where there is no Domestic Abuse Trainer, training should be provided by Women's Aid and other organisations with suitable skills.

It is essential that all sectors take responsibility for ensuring that training delivered in their area conforms with the agreed standards and good practice to be developed. Local Training Consortia will also have a role to assist in ensuring that trainers used locally can comply with the agreed standards and good practice. The National Co-ordinators will provide advice/support to Partnerships about trainers if required.

Even when a significant proportion of key workers have attended training, sessions should be repeated at regular intervals to take account of staff turnover and updates provided to ensure levels of knowledge are maintained.

This Training Strategy must not be seen in isolation. It should be implemented alongside related work to develop domestic abuse policies and protocols.

Public Sector

In order that the aims of the Training Strategy can be achieved, all public sector agencies will require to review their approach to domestic abuse training. Accordingly, continuing support for this process will be required from relevant Scottish Executive Ministers to ensure that the agencies they are responsible for comply.

There is a need for generic training covering the topics listed above in the section on Content of Training. In addition, there is a need for sector specific training for all staff who may come into contact with women, children and young people experiencing abuse or men who use violence. Human resources personnel should receive training to enable them to respond appropriately to members of staff who are experiencing, or indeed, perpetrating abuse. Policy makers and senior practitioners should also participate in training, to ensure that their knowledge and understanding is up-to-date.

Each sector will therefore require to develop a training strategy, carrying out an assessment of the skills required to provide an effective service, and an audit of training needs. The resource implications of this work should also be addressed, and may require either re-allocation and re-prioritising of existing resources or additional funding. Planning time should also be allocated to this process, including costings and the implications of releasing staff for training. Reporting mechanisms should be built in to ensure the Training Strategy is progressed.

Local multi-agency domestic abuse partnerships will produce their own training strategies following the principles and aims of this National Training Strategy. Member agencies and organisations will participate in the organisation of multi-agency training as well as ensuring that their own agency/organisation undertakes training, develops intra-agency communication protocols, etc. Members will also participate in the development of inter- agency communication policies and other related protocols.

Multi-Agency Training

In addition to service specific training, there is a need for multi-agency training to bring together representatives of all the partner agencies and determine how an effective response can be provided across agency boundaries. This should also include training on joint working. Multi-agency training is required in addition to training in each sector, and neither is an alternative to the other.

It is recognised that multi-agency and sector specific training is already underway in many areas. However, existing training should be reviewed in the light of this National Training Strategy, in particular to ensure compliance with the agreed standards and good practice.

More information about training in each sector is to be found in annex 3.

Professional Education and Training

Mainstreaming domestic abuse training in pre- and post-qualification professional training is one of the keys to making the Training Strategy sustainable. As a longer-term goal, there is therefore a need for pre-qualification and post-qualification core modules for professional training courses in health, social work, all education sectors, housing and the legal profession. These modules should cover all of the elements identified in the section on Content of Training, in addition to being tailored to each profession. In time, all members of the above professions should receive training in domestic abuse prior to qualification.

Post-qualification training should include further detail on the core elements, as well as more specialist training on, e.g. long-term effects of child sexual abuse, needs of minority ethnic, disabled, older, gypsy traveller, refugee, asylum seeker, rural women, children and young people, lesbians and those with mental illness or mental health issues. All members of the above professions should undertake post-qualification modules through Continuing Professional Development schemes.

It is envisaged that the National Training Co-ordinators will work with the relevant awarding bodies to develop the required modules and ensure mainstreaming.

As a very long-term goal, a course in violence against women studies should be developed in conjunction with the tertiary education sector. Higher level education, possibly to degree standard, will provide leading practitioners with appropriate expertise, and will have a positive impact in many areas, for example further developments in research. In addition, post graduate professional education, e.g. housing studies diploma courses, should contain a module on domestic abuse.

5 Capacity Building

Co-ordinating and Resourcing the Training Strategy

There are obviously considerable resource implications involved in implementing the Training Strategy. In recognition of the important role of training in improving services and working to prevent domestic abuse, the Scottish Executive will commit 700,000 per annum over the next 3 years to funding training. However, it is recognised that providing resources is not the end of the matter, but rather a partial step towards implementing the Training Strategy.

The implementation of the Training Strategy will require commitment of resources and worker time. In order to make the best use of limited financial resources, the Training Working Group determined that these should be allocated to capacity building for the delivery of training, rather than to underwriting training courses. As a result, all participating agencies will be required to view domestic abuse training as "core business" and cover any additional costs incurred.

It is recognised that some sectors, in particular social work, health and education, may experience particular difficulties in releasing staff to attend training. The Training Working Group recommends that managers take a flexible approach to these difficulties and try to find effective local solutions. For example, in Fife, training for teachers has been brought to the schools to overcome constraints on releasing teachers.

The Training Working Group has identified a role for National Training Co-ordinators to ensure that the Training Strategy is implemented, liaise with awarding bodies to ensure mainstreaming of domestic abuse training in professional training, and liaise with Multi-Agency Partnerships to provide co-ordination of training activities. The National Training Co-ordinators will be responsible for monitoring the funding provided to the Consortia and ensuring standards are met. The National Training Co-ordinators will be accountable to the National Group to Address Violence Against Women and will be assets to ensure the success of the Training Strategy.

A number of Domestic Abuse Training Consortia will be established throughout Scotland to facilitate implementation of the Strategy. Membership of the Consortia will be drawn from local Women's Aid groups, members of the Multi-Agency Partnerships with relevant experience, including the domestic abuse co-ordinator if applicable, local freelance trainers and other relevant local organisations, e.g. Women's Rape and Sexual Abuse Centres, Women's Support Project. The Consortium will draw on its members as appropriate to provide training in its area.

Each Consortium will receive funding towards the costs of resourcing training, according to a formula based on local need with weighting for rurality This funding may be used towards the costs of providing a training worker, if there is not one in post already. The training worker could be employed through the local Women's Aid group or by the Consortium, with one body taking the lead role and providing the employing function. The training worker would provide training for trainers as well as delivering training. Alternatively, the funding could be used to "buy in" training from a pool of independent trainers. Any additional resourcing required should be provided by member agencies.

The National Training Co-ordinators will set up the Consortia, taking into account geographical distribution and population, and determine the finer details of their role and financing ( see annex 2).

In addition, there is a need for a National Training Worker post within Scottish Women's Aid to support the implementation of the Strategy, to oversee further development of training materials, and work with existing Women's Aid trainers, including training for trainers. This post would also provide training for trainers to outside agencies in order to maximise training resources at a local level. Through undertaking such training local groups would also gain access to a comprehensive toolkit developed by SWA and supported by the Executive.

Training materials

Annex 4 provides examples of training materials currently in use throughout Scotland. In addition, new training packs have been developed by Scottish Women's Aid for health, housing, legal and social workers and managers. These training materials will only be accessible through a training for trainers course provided by Scottish Women's Aid.

It will be clear from annex 4 that a range of materials is in use. While local adaptation of materials is clearly advisable, it would be preferable if there was not a proliferation of different, and possibly contradictory, materials in use. It is recommended that trainers look at a range of materials from the list in annex 2 in order to compare them and decide which are most appropriate for them.

6 Conclusion

There is no doubt that this Training Strategy is ambitious. It has to be, as there is such a widespread need for domestic abuse training to drive the implementation of the National Strategy. The Training Strategy builds on work and good practice already in place, and ensures that it is consistent throughout Scotland. Although it will require a considerable commitment in resources, time and effort from many partners, this work is essential. To achieve a Scotland where women, children and young people who have experienced domestic abuse receive an effective and appropriate response from everyone they contact will not be easy. It will be a huge achievement which will change, and save, lives.

Further copies

Requests for further copies of the Training Strategy should be addressed to:

The Violence Against Women Unit
Scottish Executive
St Andrew's House
Regent Road
EH 1 3DG
Telephone 0131 244 3197