Half of children who are assessed as “in need of extra help” by council child protection teams have experienced or witnessed domestic violence, the Local Government Authority (LGA) has warned.
The LGA, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, said the Government’s comprehensive package of reform around domestic violence 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 and to increase the number of Independent Domestic Violence Advisers in hospital settings.