Children, young people and their families in Doncaster have traditionally experienced significantly higher levels of DVA in comparison with neighbouring areas, indicating a disproportionate cultural acceptance of family DVA amongst some communities. Systems of safeguarding children, services for adults and responses to DVA do not work together or have a shared understanding of the issues facing families. This manifests in services reluctant to work with perpetrators, victims (usually mothers) being re-victimised by services that make unrealistic demands of them and fragmented provision of DVA services with limited therapeutic work for children and young people who have experienced DVA.
Growing Futures has developed a partnership response and ‘way of working’ to improve outcomes for the whole family.
Central to this transformation approach are Domestic Abuse Navigators (DANs). Although DANs have a range of tools and therapies that can be applied to a range of situations, the role is distinct when applied to cases where DVA is present as they bring specific insight, knowledge and experience of DVA.
Project funding ended in December 2016 but the programme of change is supported as a key element of Doncaster’s DVA Strategy, with the DAN role continuing to deliver direct therapeutic support, support to mainstream family support work and social care practice and challenge for partner agencies traditional working practice and behaviours which fragment and lessen the impact of joint working.
The DfE-funded independent evaluation published in 2017 found that
- Whole family working – that is, working with all family members to support them to overcome DVA and develop healthy relationships in future – appears to enhance professionals’ capacity to develop in-depth understanding of the main problems facing a family and to support them to change entrenched behaviours and attitudes.
- Having one DAN as the key worker for a family has facilitated families’ trust and motivation to engage. This style of working requires limited caseloads and flexibility to allow DANs to work intensively with families, often over a prolonged period.
- Work with perpetrators is a vital element of the model as well as support to victims and their children.
- There was a 15.6% decrease in repeat referrals to MARAC • The percentage of Children in Need where DVA was a factor decreased from 44.8% of cases in March 2015 to 36.4% of cases in March 2016. However, it should be noted that these changes do not necessarily indicate better outcomes for children.