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Half of children in need referred to councils experience domestic violence

Half of children who are assessed as “in need of extra help” by council child protection teams have experienced or witnessed domestic violence, the LGA warns today.

The LGA, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, said the Government’s comprehensive package of reform around domestic violence announced in the Queen’s Speech must be centred on a shift from dealing with the aftermath of abuse to focusing on early intervention and preventing it occurring in the first place.

Children’s services are facing unprecedented demand. The LGA has warned that a child is being referred to council children’s services every 49 seconds on a daily basis and councils started more than 500 child protection investigations every day last year – up from 200 a decade ago.

This means councils are increasingly being forced to prioritise spending for children at immediate risk of harm, rather than on earlier support services that can help families to address harmful behaviours, and support children and young people to recover from earlier experiences.

With children’s services facing a £2 billion funding gap by 2020, the LGA said councils need the resources in order to cope with the challenges of domestic abuse on a local level. Initiatives that allow victims to remain in their own homes as long as it is safe to do so, focus on early interventions to prevent perpetrators re-offending, and educate young people about healthy relationships are required to tackle domestic abuse and give our children a future free of harm.

Domestic abuse has a devastating impact on children, whatever their age. Evidence shows that children exposed to domestic violence are at greater risk of being involved in youth crime, or to experience behavioural problems in later in life. Thirty-four per cent of adults who witnessed domestic abuse in their home as a child have experienced abuse by a partner in later life, compared with 11 per cent of those who did not.

The LGA is calling for the Government to:

  • Adequately fund children’s services so councils are able to support children who are in the highest level of need and invest in early intervention initiatives that provide support for children experiencing domestic violence.
  • Increase the number of Independent Domestic Violence Advisers in hospital settings, as charities such as Safe Lives have advocated – currently, only around 10 per cent of hospitals have access to these practitioners who can spot abuse early, track behavioural red warning flags, and help victims get the support they need.

Cllr Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said:

“Domestic abuse is a horrendous crime which takes place behind the curtains in our communities, and can be psychological, physical, emotional and sometimes even life-threatening. It’s awful to imagine the pain and hurt that perpetrators inflict on victims and to think of children witnessing or even being victims of abuse.

“With almost two million victims of domestic abuse in the last year alone, we need the Government to include early intervention and preventative measures in its comprehensive package of reforms to address domestic abuse as the best way to tackle this issue.

“The Government needs to close the funding gap facing children’s services, which will reach at least £2 billion by 2020. An urgent injection of funding is also needed to protect the services that families rely on to tackle problems or recover from previous abuse.

“All children deserve the chance of a bright future and we have a moral duty to do more than just pick up the pieces when things go wrong. Failure to invest in these services will have long term consequences for our country’s children and families and create crises which are much more expensive to solve in the long run.”

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