Archive for ‘Leading Lights’

September 9, 2013

APPG – All Pretty Pessimistic (and) Gloomy

I attended the APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group) this afternoon which focused on commissioning and the impact of localism on the VAWG sector.  Chaired by Bridget Phillipson, MP, we had three excellent presentations from Polly Neate, CEO of Women’s Aid, Mary Mason, CEO of Solace Women’s Aid and Anthony Wills, CEO of Standing Together.  Polly reminded us of the Government’s commitment to strengthening the commissioning framework and improving support for women and girls locally.  The picture that all three painted of what is happening in practice seemed a far cry from this.

The themes that emerged included the fact that many parts of the sector didn’t have the capacity to respond to the new commissioning requirements with often inconsistent standards and outcome frameworks, small specialist organisations and the need for them to have pretty sophisticated business development teams which simply don’t exist widely.  Concerns were expressed about too much focus on high risk at the expense of early intervention and long term support.  [It will amaze you to know, that we don’t think that the two are mutually exclusive – see previous blogs on Themis].  Other points included a lack of input from service users, the loss of self help and activism and the loss of former service users ending up working in, and often leading, specialist services as generic providers win contracts. All the speakers rightly stressed the importance of specialist services and were worried that commissioning processes often ended up with the wrong provider winning the contract with too much focus on cost versus quality.  There was a call for a commissioning framework for the sector, and for longer term contracts as well as clear and simple indicators and outcome measures.  The tone of the meeting was indeed APPG, All Pretty Pessimistic and Gloomy.

Probably the most positive part of the meeting was the call for our sector to speak with one voice on these issues.  We certainly would like to see this happen.

Within CAADA we are trying to address some of these points as they relate to IDVA provision in particular, but also more widely to build the evidence base for other services to demonstrate their impact.   Our Shared Insights – Shared Outcomes programme aims to link specialist providers with their local commissioner(s) to ensure that these specialisms are not lost, their value is quantified and the experience of service users drives decisions by commissioners, service managers and practitioners.  We can provide output and outcome data for all the key community based services that are delivered by specialist providers.  If you think that this might be useful to your service, please see

Similarly, we are starting to develop materials for commissioners so that they can commission to the standards that we would all hope to see.  You can help us by making sure that your local commissioner is aware of these and please contact us if you think we can support you in this area.  There is more information about this at

Finally, we believe our Leading Lights accreditation provides IDVA services with independent verification of the quality of their provision and demonstrates this objectively to commissioners.

We share the deep concerns expressed by all attending the meeting about what is happening with commissioning in some areas and certainly would love to see the whole sector advocate for a model of support that includes both immediate practical help and longer term therapeutic support for victims and their children.  We really don’t feel that it is an either/or debate between high risk and other services, but rather that we should all be pulling in one direction to create a model that delivers safety and well being outcomes as well genuine value for money with a relentless focus on earlier intervention.  So would that be a different sort of APPG? A Possible Path to Growth?  Maybe that is stretching things too far….

July 22, 2012

Leading Lights Lunch – 2

About six months ago, we held the first working lunch for the managers of the Leading Lights accredited IDVA services.  It was an experiment based on your feedback, that it would be a good idea to bring service managers together, to share their experiences, hear about each other’s plans, and feed in to shaping CAADA’s plans.  I wrote at the time about how energising and uplifting it was to be in the same room with a group of such committed and competent people.  Everyone agreed that we had all benefited from the time together and that we should meet again in 6 months.

So this week, we had LL2 – the sequel….and it was as good, if not better than LL1.  There were four official things on the agenda – an update from CAADA (including an introduction to our new Director of Services, Christine Christie), contributions from two of the managers present, and an outside speaker to give us all a better picture of how the Police and Crime Commissioners will work in practice.  There were lots of contributions from all who attended.

Christine focused mainly on the launch of the revised MARAC programme (see my last post for more on this) and I talked a bit about some of the policy work that we are involved with.  I also mentioned our National Dataset report which will be launched in the autumn, and will include information from the Insights data that we collect.  We are really hopeful that this will have some strong policy and practice messages which will be relevant to practitioners, managers, and of course commissioners.  We also discussed the new Ofsted consultation about multi agency inspections of Safeguarding arrangements, which includes a proposal that the MARAC should be inspected.  I will write more about this in a future post, but suffice to say that in combination with the Domestic Homicide Reviews, we believe that this represents a helpful and important lever to help ensure that the quality of MARAC work is as high as possible.

Becky Rogerson, Director of My Sister’s Place in Middlesbrough ( ) gave us a fascinating presentation about her trip around North, Central and South America as part of her research as a Winston Churchill fellow.  You can read the whole report here  Personally, my ability to take in the whole thing was slightly hampered by my jealousy at having such a great opportunity!  It was really interesting to hear about the differences in approach both between individual States, the role of the IDVA (or equivalent), the availability of perpetrator work and the simply the amount of resource in the US compared to the UK.  We have a way to go.  Conversely of course, central and south America highlighted a complete lack of resource in every sense and quite different relationships with the police and courts.  Absence of electricity, cars and perhaps most importantly trust, acted as a big barrier to getting help.  However, Becky did highlight the strength of more grass roots women’s initiatives which perhaps we have lost in some ways.

Caitlyn McCarthy, who manages learning and development at the Worth Project in West Sussex talked about the important work that she has led in relation to two projects.  The first is the 2020 Think Tank (see ) which has been a two year project to set the vision, strategy and action plan for domestic and sexual violence services for West Sussex.  Caitlyn talked about the time it had taken to get everyone’s buy in to the importance of setting a common set of goals and objectives – but by now there are literally hundreds of signatories for all agencies across the county and the project has uncovered both new approaches, and the existence of more resources to support victims of both forms of abuse – both adults and children.  It was instructive since so many of us are struggling to get domestic abuse given the importance it warrants in local strategies.

Caitlyn also talked about the new questions we have been working on to use with mothers to establish any additional needs of their children which some of her colleagues have been piloting.  The aim of this is to be used across disciplines (DV, mental health, substance misuse) as an early identification tool to highlight children at risk of harm.  The reality is that asking these questions is time consuming and practitioners need to be very clear about who the support agencies are in their area to whom they can make referrals for the children before starting.  However, the feedback overall was that almost all the mothers in the initial small sample welcomed being asked and felt that it cemented their relationship with their IDVA, as well as identifying a group of children who were getting no support and who needed it.  We hope to pilot this formally but would like to make sure we capture the information in a robust way – so just need time to think that bit through.

Finally, Linda Pizani-Williams from CLINKS came and spoke about the role of the Police and Crime Commissioners.  They will obviously be very important for all of us going forward and she set out clearly the extent of their remit and gave resources which you can find at

So a real mixture of inputs.  I think I am fair in saying that just as valuable as the formal parts of the meeting, are the informal ones and the networking between everyone.  To all of you, especially our speakers and those of you how crossed half the country to be there, thank you.