Victims/survivors of domestic abuse - multi-agency risk assessment and interventions: report
A report relating to the development of Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (Maracs) covering views, themes and recommendations identified at a series of stakeholder deep dive sessions in 2021.
9. Children and Young People (CYP)
41. Attendees were asked to consider
- - How current local systems, structures and processes maximise the safety and well-being of CYP affected by domestic abuse;
- - How to ensure that CYP are visible in our collective response, ensuring that their experience is not viewed only through their mother/parent;
- - What works well, and areas of good practice.
- How the voices of CYP are represented in your local Marac;
- How to ensure effective co-ordination between Maracs and other child protection processes;
- What works well, and areas of good practice.
iii. Risk and Needs Assessment
- How to manage and measure the needs of and risks posed to children and young people affected by domestic abuse as victims/survivors in their own right; and
- What works well, and areas of good practice.
42. Key messages from the deep dive included:
- It is important to take a 'whole family approach' to domestic abuse and to recognise children as victims/survivors affected by domestic abuse in their own right;
- Additional investment in advocacy services specifically for children and young people could help ensure their voices are heard at Marac and within other domestic abuse processes.
Key Discussion Points
43. When asked about current structures and responses to CYP, and the visibility of children as victims/survivors affected by domestic abuse in their own right, attendees noted:
- Processes and perspectives vary locally which can lead to varying inputs and outcomes in terms of support provision for children and young people;
- There is clear value in taking a holistic approach, but often services work in siloes rather than complementing each other;
- Gathering the views of children and young people, and hearing from children and young people themselves is crucial. Apps like Viewpoint and Mind of My Own can support this;
- The importance of engaging with practitioners like social workers to capture the nuances of what's happening and the dynamics within a family. Obtaining views from Education and others regularly in contact with children and young people is also important; and
- How to communicate with children is really important as they themselves may not understand what is really happening and the impact. Practitioners need to be skilled at asking the right questions in the right ways.
44. When asked to consider how the voices of children and young people are heard at Maracs, and more broadly, how their needs and the risks posed to them are measured, attendees reflected:
- There was a general recognition that representation of children's views within Marac could be better;
- More data and insight through speaking to victims/survivors, and journey mapping could be helpful, for example to map the journey children take locally, how they reach services and Marac;
- There may in some cases need to be a distinction between direct (adult) victims/survivors of domestic abuse, who can be referred to Marac, and children for whom the impact is generally more indirect, and in what circumstances Marac may not be helpful for children;
- Within Marac the voice of the child is strong where there are good existing relationships with children's workers and others. Where there is only shorter term engagement this is less meaningful;
- The incorporation journey of the UNCRC will further emphasise the role of authorities to ensure that the voice of the child, wherever appropriate, is integral to decisions made; and
- There is an inconsistency in terms of listening to the voice of the child in Scotland and what information is provided to Marac by relevant agencies and organisations.
Themes for Further Discussion
45. The following themes emerged from the deep dive session as key issues and possible actions to be explored. They will be considered as part of the Advisory Group's development of recommendations and an action/implementation plan:
i. What do we need to do to develop a holistic, whole family approach that recognises CYP as 'victims/survivors' affected by domestic abuse?
This could involve:
- Research on CYP's current journey/ experience of navigating local systems and services to identify areas for improvement
- Asking children & young people who have engaged with Marac how their voices could have been better heard, in circumstances where this is appropriate;
- Investigating, perhaps through a deep dive, the tensions between and across both civil and criminal justice systems in respect of parental rights and access to children where domestic abuse is a factor.
ii. How can we ensure CYP's views are heard as part of the Marac process?
This could be pursued through:
- Additional resources to support independent advocacy for children and young people;
- Working with stakeholders to come up with creative ways to engage with children in the Marac process, taking account for the risks arising when perpetrators use children as part of their abuse;
- Considering alternative methods of capturing the views of children and young people
- Greater training for social work/health/education staff on domestic abuse and Safe and Together principles
- Developing links with child protection processes.
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