Archive for October, 2011

October 31, 2011

Don’t think – even think – about putting up your Christmas tree unless you’ve got that plan – not a single bauble.

If Santa’s already come calling then it’s too late.

So said Eric Pickles in his speech to the LGA conference earlier this month about the 120,000 ‘problem’ families whose lives the Prime Minister has said he aims to turn around by the end of this parliament (For the full speech which makes interesting reading see ).  He was calling on local authorities to come up with a plan by Christmas that includes (I quote):

“You need to know:

  • Who are your families?
  • What do they cost?
  • What are your interventions?
  • What is working?

You won’t get off a first base if you don’t know this.

You’ve got to dare to share.

That’s what they say in Salford. Where you’ve got the doctors, the dentists, the social workers, the Job Centres, the police all agreeing to share key information.

This is a massive, crucial culture change – sharing data automatically. And it’s got to be driven from the top.

And don’t moan to me that people won’t co-operate, just do it. Don’t say there are bureaucratic obstacles – we’ll remove them.

For too long everyone from the police to the social workers to health care professionals have worked in isolation.”

Our answer is – look at your M-A-R-A-C.  That is where information is being shared, plans are being co-ordinated and lives being turned around.  But crucially, this works because of dedicated support – the I-D-V-A – and the work of the MARAC co-ordinator to bring it all together.  Mr Pickles – we have a working example.  Let’s build on it – using community budgets as you suggest. And then put up a Christmas tree – with as many baubles as you wish.

October 26, 2011

Doubly depressing this time?

I have just finished reading the IPCC report into the police handling of the domestic abuse incidents involving Casey Brittle prior to her murder in October 2010.  It is pretty depressing reading in any context – a litany of missed opportunities to identify the risks she faced as a woman of 21, with a small child.  There were 11 incidents of domestic abuse involving her ex partner Sanchez Williams – who had ‘an extensive criminal record and warnings on the Police National Computer for violence’ – interesting in the context of the DV Disclosure Scheme proposal (see earlier post on Clare’s Law). Would these convictions meet the criteria for disclosure?

Other than a feeling of puzzlement that such apparently obvious signs were missed – Casey Brittle’s own expression of fear, multiple incidents, assaults in a public place with CCTV footage – and a reality check about being wise after the event, I am left with three other thoughts – none very uplifting.

Firstly, we do get some pushback on the guidance we give about using the CAADA DASH risk checklist in every case involving domestic abuse.  People ask us – every case?  Really?  Reading the IPCC report the answer is yes.  There is an understandable effort on the part of the police, led by ACPO, to reduce bureaucracy and use of the domestic abuse risk checklist has been highlighted as an area where ‘streamlining’ could be brought in.  Streamlining is being piloted in a few force areas at the moment.  It involves use of the checklist only in case involving intimate partner violence – or ex-intimate partner, and only when a crime has been committed or where there is a repeat incident of domestic abuse.  We can see the logic of the first point but have major concerns about the second two elements.  You only need to read the IPCC report to see why.  In a case like Casey Brittle, there are numerous examples of the victim not disclosing the full extent of the situation to the attending officer, and thus no crime being recorded and even failing to log it as a domestic abuse incident.  This means that the ‘repeat’ safety net does not work either.  It feels like we might be about to take a giant step backwards if this is adopted nationally.

The second thought is that there is no record in the IPCC report of Casey Brittle being offered specialist support from an IDVA, or other trained DV practitioner until the very end when Victim Support are recorded as checking whether she had given consent to be contacted.  There should be no confusion about this – there is so much research stressing the need to offer victims independent support and that this can make all the difference in terms of their safety.  Especially, in high risk cases, the contact should be speedy and proactive.

Finally, the report comments on the gatekeeping that took place to contain the number of cases that went to MARAC at no more than 40 per month.  Those of you who have undertaken our MARAC Quality Assurance process will know what we feel about this!  It is essential that we find the resources to allow all high risk victims to have their cases heard at MARAC – although extraordinarily, Casey Brittle was never categorised as high risk despite her expressions of fear, her partner’s criminal record, use of weapons, separation, and threats to kill…

And that just brings me back to using the risk checklist systematically again.  It is just a series of prompts to check on the main risk factors for repeat victimisation and homicide.  No more – no less.  But very important.

October 26, 2011

Clare’s Law – consultation open – what do you think?

Following the tragic murder of Clare Wood, calls have come about for the right of victims to ask for information about the ‘history’ of their new partners in terms of whether they have been abusive in a previous relationship and for the police to proactively disclose information about their partner’s previous DV history.  The Home Office announced yesterday that there will be a consultation to pilot a new Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme.  The options for consideration include:

  1. Continuing with the current arrangements – these allow any member of the public to ask the police for information about a third party’s violent history, and the police have the discretion to share this information if it is proportionate to prevent further crime.
  2. ‘Right to Ask’ – this could potentially create a statutory right for the public to ask for information about a partner’s previous history.  In these cases, the case would be referred to MARAC where a decision could be made about disclosure and the offer of support from an IDVA would be made.
  3. ‘Right to Know’ – in this option, the police would take information about an alleged perpetrator to MARAC, where a decision would be taken about disclosure to a new partner, or other vulnerable parties such as family members.  Again, support would be offered from the IDVA.

The proposed shape of the DV Disclosure rules has changed and we think for the better.  The focus is now on ensuring that disclosures are based on risk, that they cover the victim and other vulnerable people (children, other family members), that support is consistently offered to the victim when a disclosure is made and that consideration is given in a multi agency setting.  For those of you who loyally follow our MARAC guidance on information sharing, you will know that we have always included sharing information with new partners and other family members as an action to consider for MARACs.  (More on this on our website ).

Our concerns about the initial proposal was that it was too focused on the criminal justice system – we know that victims of abuse will often not contact the CJS – and that there was a real risk of false ‘positives’, i.e. that victims would gain false reassurance if someone had no convictions.  Many of the most serious DV offenders do not have convictions for a DV related offence.  We will obviously be thinking more about this and will publish our response to the consultation on our website.

But your thoughts and reflections would be most welcome.  You can find out more at

October 12, 2011

Are you a metric head or a story hugger?

If only I had read the post from Social Edge BEFORE I gave my speech at the Third Sector conference on Impact Measurement…I did talk a bit about which is more effective in communicating with funders and stakeholders – impact measurement or the emotional pull of a strong story.  But I didn’t use the funkier language of ‘metric head’ or ‘story hugger’, and most annoyingly I didn’t say the obvious thing which is…..that it isn’t either/or but it should be both.

I was asked to talk about using impact analysis to inform one’s strategic planning.  Colleagues who watched me make writing a simple document last year into the planning equivalent of walking up Mt Everest backwards without oxygen, might be forgiven for rolling their eyes, and asking ‘why her’?  I did find preparing this speech genuinely hard, and thought provoking.  However hard I tried to answer the question, I kept coming back to the idea that it was the wrong question – or rather that one needed to answer another question first.

The other question, is how are you going to use your understanding of the impact of your work based on your ‘theory of change’ every day for every colleague?  Impact analysis is not primarily about presenting great results to outside stakeholders, funders, commissioners etc.  It is about achieving real change for one’s beneficiaries, understanding how we achieve that change and capturing it in some ‘metric head’ sort of way.  But if we really believe our own results, then our primary focus must be on implementing them in our organisations.  I really believe that all those external stakeholders will spot pretty quickly if we are doing that and continuing to achieve real change.  The challenge is to make it real, keep it simple and implement it every day.  One of my wisest friends said that every organisation should be able to look at just three things to know whether they were on track and achieving their goals.  Three things…not thirty three.  For us they are engagement (are people engaging with our programmes), implementation (are they doing what we believe works) and learning (are we capturing best practice and sharing it around the country).  It focuses the mind.

And now I will get off my soap box!

October 12, 2011

New Funding for Young people with irregular immigration status – Supported Options Fund

I received this information about new funding which might be of interest to IDVA services.  See below for details about how to apply.

The Supported Options Fund has been established by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Unbound Philanthropy as a ‘Special Initiative’ to provide support and advice to young people and children in the UK who have irregular immigration status.

We are now inviting expressions of interest from organisations who may wish to apply to this Fund, which is open to those anywhere in the UK.

The closing date for expressions of interest, which should be a maximum of 6 pages, is 5 pm on 15th November 2011.

Full details of the aims and approach, and how to apply, are attached.

If you have queries or need more information, please email Sarah Cutler, Initiative Coordinator at





October 2, 2011

What is the opposite of early intervention?

Sadly, it is a homicide review – in this case child death reviews.  So it is really depressing to read that one of the biggest increases in council budgets this year is for child death reviews – up 141% to £16.3 million.  That is an increase of about £10 million.  And £10 million clearly wouldn’t transform early intervention, but somewhere all this is false economy.