The Drive Partnership, of which Respect is a member, has published a series of recommendations to inform the government’s imminent Domestic Abuse Strategy. The paper, 'Building a robust Perpetrator Pillar', was created in consultation with survivors and professionals from statutory, voluntary and academic sectors, and was informed by the views of 470 victims and survivors of domestic abuse who responded to a recent survey.
The paper calls on the government to reach beyond the criminal justice system to better hold domestic abuse perpetrators to account and manage the risk they pose.
It follows the revelation that in 44% of cases of domestic homicide or suspected victim suicides, where the suspect was not already known to the police, the suspect or the associated victim were known to other agencies – most commonly children’s social services, adult social services, or mental health services. With more support these services might have been able to contribute towards preventing the devastating death toll of domestic abuse.
Signatories to the paper support a range of recommendations across multiple sectors to make victims and survivors of domestic abuse safer:
- The NHS, as the service that bears the greatest costs of domestic abuse, should be part of a more proactive/early response approach to perpetrators. Most perpetrators will come into contact with the NHS at some point, and the Drive Partnership Survey of Survivor Views on DA Perpetrator Work showed that victims often deemed health professionals to be most helpful in terms of their response to perpetrators – although there was significant room for improvement. Training for doctors on how to respond when a perpetrator discloses has the potential to significantly contribute to the government’s ambition to identify more perpetrators.
- Responses from children’s social care are also key, as domestic abuse is the most common risk factor identified by social workers in assessments. There is a need for children’s social care professionals to receive more training on working with perpetrators, delivered by specialist domestic abuse organisations.
- 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, as well as developing an 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.
- The government needs to prioritise quality assurance. There are already voluntary sector existing standards for working with perpetrators, in the form of Respect, and statutory standards such as HMPPS. Government should consult with these bodies to put in place an overarching national framework of standards and guidance for behaviour change work for both voluntary sector and statutory public services and a system for ensuring such standards are met.
Read the full report here.