Skip to main content

Children and families experiencing domestic violence: Police and children’s social services’ responses

In England and Wales, the Adoption and Children Act 2002 amended the definition of significant harm provided by the Children Act 1989, adding a new category of “impairment suffered from seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another”. Since domestic violence and children’s exposure to it represent a widespread social problem, this amendment has acted to draw a potentially large group of families within the remit of children’s social services. The growing mountain of police notifications to children’s social services of domestic violence incidents where children are involved and the pressures that this has created have been noted by a range of commentators in the UK, North America and Australia.

The notification system has emerged against what is acknowledged to be a background of fragmented services for children and families experiencing domestic violence. It represents an attempt to improve communication and coordination between universal and highly-targeted services. This research examined both the notification process itself and the subsequent service pathways followed by families brought to the attention of children’s social services in this way. It also explored which other agencies contributed to services for families experiencing domestic violence and captured young people’s, survivors’ and perpetrators’ views of services.