Posts tagged ‘IDVA’

January 24, 2015

Inspired by the Reith lectures

One doesn’t immediately expect that the distinguished thoughts of a Reith lecturer would have immediate relevance to our work to address domestic abuse – but this year’s lecturer, Atul Gawande, who spoke so eloquently about different issues affecting the future of healthcare, mentioned three points that felt highly relevant. You can listen to the lectures which are brilliant at

His second lecture talks about systems – how medicine is moving from the ‘magic bullet’ of penicillin to complex systems involving many practitioners, technology and inter-related problems. You will see the link with making a proper safety plan for a victim and children – it involves the resources of several agencies, clear communication and attention to detail as every case is different and the risk of getting it wrong is high. He suggests (I hope I do his lecture justice) that not only do the really complex aspects of a surgical procedure need to be done well, but also all the mundane but vital (literally) elements such as hand washing by nursing staff. To ensure consistency of practice he recommends….using a checklist. Does this sound familiar? And just like the CAADA-DASH risk checklist which was not/is not uniformly popular, nor was his checklist for medical staff. While many practitioners did not welcome the new medical checklist, nearly all of them said that they would want the procedure to be followed in exactly this way if they were undergoing an operation. Why didn’t we think to ask that about the risk checklist?! Of course any sensible person would want to have all those elements covered by an IDVA or police officer before a safety plan was made. The types of abuse suffered, the additional vulnerabilities and needs of a victim or particular risks associated with a perpetrator need to be identified if they are present. You can read more about his thoughts on this at

Secondly, in a later talk, he comes back to the idea of how we implement systems. He talks about developing standards, writing guidance, and last of all when there is still a lack of consistent quality, he notes that there are sanctions for individuals who do not ‘follow the guidelines’. Again, this sounds all too familiar. In fact, we have done our fair share of guideline writing… Rather he argues, we should reward good practice and encourage those who are doing it right. A message for those responsible for driving culture change following the HMIC inspection?

Finally, and most importantly, he argues eloquently that the medical profession needs to listen to the patient. Radical. The same is true as we develop our response to domestic abuse – ensuring that lived experience is at the heart of what we do. For the group of victims, family members, survivors and thrivers who are helping us to shape our thinking at CAADA, I can only say, ‘Thank you – your input is vital – literally’.

Tags: , , ,
August 14, 2014

Coercive Control – how should MARACs respond?

Last month we held our regular national MARAC Scrutiny Panel where we examined a number of anonymised cases which involved high levels of coercive control and risk.  Tomorrow we will publish on our website (and I am sure on Twitter as well) the guidance that we prepared together with all the experts who attended the Panel.  There is advice for IDVAs, MARAC chairs and partner agencies both before and at the MARAC.

Coercive control may be part of the vast majority of cases that IDVAs and other DV specialists deal with (it is called the Power and Control Wheel after all), but it is not so obvious to other agencies who might deal with cases on an incident based approach rather than looking at patterns of behaviour.  Equally, the impact of growing up in a climate of coercion and fear is sometimes missed by those focusing on the adult victim of abuse (Marianne Hester’s planets sneak in again…).

Our briefing seeks to address this in just 2 pages.  Ok, the font is very small….

Go to our website tomorrow to download it.  As ever, all feedback welcome – we really want every MARAC in the country to use it.  Any questions, please ask your MARAC Development Officer.  To remind yourself who they are go to: 

August 13, 2014

Please answer our call


Pretty much every year for the past 9 years we have promised ourselves that we will do a proper count of how many practising IDVAs there are across the country.  The terms ‘back of the envelope calculation’ and ‘guesstimate’ are beginning to wear a bit thin, so we have finally decided to take a step forwards and actually find out exactly the figure.

Over the next week, every member of the CAADA team will be calling every single IDVA service in the country to find out how many IDVAs they employ, how many are qualified and some brief details about the profile of victims that they work with.  We will be reporting this back to the Home Secretary in September as part of her HMIC National Oversight Group.  So if you get a call from CAADA in the next week….please answer.

Many thanks 




November 9, 2013

Making the Links….DV and Safeguarding

I am slightly appalled that my ‘weekly’ blog has slipped to a ‘6 weekly’ event but won’t make excuses – rather just try and get started again.

Various things came together this week about our work which I just wanted to capture here.  In general, following a number of serious case reviews (Daniel Pelka, Baby T and others), it seems like we still can’t take for granted that the two issues of domestic abuse and risk to children will be systematically linked in practice.  We are really clear that whenever there is domestic abuse identified, we need to look for risk to children – whatever the level of risk to the mother.  Research by my former colleague Emma Howarth, showed that the risk of harm to children is not neatly correlated with the risk to the parent, and that children living with ‘standard’ risk domestic abuse can still be very vulnerable to physical and psychological harm.

So what were the things that I would like to highlight here:

1. It is all about the quality of implementation – 1: the Baby T Serious Case Review highlighted ‘poor implementation of the Hackney model’ and we frequently see variable implementation of the MARAC model, when agency representatives change or funding is cut.  If in doubt about what fidelity to the model looks like for the IDVA-MARAC approach, please do look at the resources on our website, talk to our team or contact our help desk.  We hope that everything we recommend is practical and do-able.

2. It is all about the quality of Implementation -2: a call to Commissioners: there are clear, independently verified, standards for risk led services through our Leading Lights programme and a robust outcomes measurement service that we provide through our Insights Programme.  These two tools can give you confidence that the funding you are making in this area is effective, and that the services provided meet the standards achieved in other regions.  Our MARAC team are working across all MARACs to support them in ensuring that local implementation stays faithful to the evaluated model.

3. The smallest possible thing to make the biggest possible difference: I was really struck by the simplicity and potential impact of Operation Encompass, where schools are notified in the morning when there has been a police call out for domestic abuse.  It would be great to hear from areas who are using this – it sounds a terrific idea.  Presumably this could extend to children’s centres too to cover younger children?

Lastly, I just hope – as I am sure all of you do too – that this is the ‘tipping point’ when DV and safeguarding stop being so siloed and that we do all make those links.


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….

September 8, 2013

Just Imagine…

…That you are the Chief Inspector of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.

How would you respond to the Home Secretary’s announcement of an inspection by HMIC on standards of policing domestic violence in England and Wales?  In particular she has asked the Chief Inspector to focus on:

  • the effectiveness of the police approach to domestic violence and abuse, focusing on the outcomes for victims;
  • whether risks to victims of domestic violence and abuse are adequately managed;
  • identifying lessons learnt from how the police approach domestic violence and abuse;
  • making any necessary recommendations in relation to these findings when considered alongside current practice.

I will set out some thoughts over the coming weeks- but would love to hear yours first.

I think that the last thematic inspection by HMIC (someone is going to tell me I am wrong) was in 2004 together with the CPS inspectorate, the HMCPSI.  This inspection looked at the ‘care pathway’ from first police callout through to the end of a court case.  I quickly re-read parts of their report and a few things struck me.  Firstly, there are phrases which sadly still resonate with all of us today.  For me one big theme remains about the quality of leadership and implementation.  For example, “many police forces have appropriate policies…however, in practice implementation is far from universal.”  In a similar vein, “Inspectors came across considerable amounts of good practice and good work in the Areas visited….Overall, the priority given to domestic violence locally was variable and depended heavily upon local initiatives and commitment.” Plus ça change….

The report also called for local Chief Constables, Chief Crown Prosecutors and Local Criminal Justice Boards to develop effective performance management arrangements.  We have seen real progress in this regard from the CPS but perhaps less consistently from the police, perhaps in part reflecting the challenge of achieving this focus across so many forces.

Secondly, I was struck by what wasn’t mentioned in the 2004 report.  There is no mention of course of either the work of Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs) or Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences – since neither really existed other than in a very few local areas at that time.  The spirit of the 2004 report is one of the criminal justice system working much more in isolation than today, with only limited references to the need to liaise with support agencies such as Victim Support and local Women’s Aid services.  This looks very different today with MARACs operating in every area of England and Wales, IDVAs supporting victims through the court process and at MARAC, and now with the growing introduction of Multi Agency Safeguarding Hubs (MASH).  However, before we get too smug, we need to remember the conclusions of the HMIC team in Essex recently who wrote: “We found poor communication between those providing victim care, investigators and voluntary sector support workers.”  So no chance of retiring just yet.

Let me know what you think the answers to the Home Secretary’s questions might be.  I definitely believe that they should include a mix of practical recommendations around multi agency work and MARAC, in particular with links to specialist support for victims.  We also need a focus not only on consistency, quality, accountability and leadership, but also we should highlight the need for solid evidence.  This can be used not only to identify best practice, but also to keep learning.  Wouldn’t it be great if there was clear evidence for every Force of both safety and justice outcomes that was produced annually which allowed us, not to take a snapshot of practice once every 10 years, but rather drove a focus on constant, practical, realistic improvement?  Evidence which could be used by every PCC and Chief Constable to inform their response?  And most crucially, evidence that would start to bring down the rates of repeat victimisation, shorten the time that victims suffer before they call the police and reduce the risk that they, and their children, face.  Without this, the police response risks remaining too reactive when there is a real opportunity to take a much more positive approach.

April 6, 2013

The Philpott Case – separating the exceptional from the ‘normal’

A friend emailed me yesterday saying: “Shouldn’t you be writing something about the Philpott case and domestic abuse?” In one sense it is understandable that the domestic abuse has not been central to the media coverage of this terrible tragedy – focusing rightly on the awful loss of six children’s lives. But, the domestic abuse was there of course – in terms of coercion and control, violence and abuse.

There is no question that the final outcome of the web of abusive relationships around Mick Philpott was extreme and hopefully exceptional but the information that has been made public about his behaviour is chillingly ‘normal’ in the context of high risk domestic abuse. Based just on what we know from the papers, his girlfriend would almost certainly have been deemed to meet the MARAC referral threshold. Thinking of the questions on the CAADA DASH risk checklist – separation, conflict around child contact, coercion, sexual abuse, financial abuse, history of violence to previous partners, attempted suicide, victim fear, escalation – the list goes on. Every single day, IDVAs all around the country receive referrals where women are living with all these risks, and for every one that is referred for help, there is another invisible woman who is not identified (in this case his wife?), tells no one and suffers alone.

There is much talk in the domestic abuse field about homicide prevention. Of course we want to prevent and reduce homicides. But let’s not fool ourselves that the ‘typical’ homicide looks so very different to the typical high risk case. It just doesn’t. There are 100,000 high risk families in this country. About half of those cases are heard at a MARAC each year. With the exception of the number of children involved – and the unusual cohabitation arrangements – many look very similar to this case. It is essential that we fund adequate services for these families and that we are clear that homicide reduction will only happen if we address high risk cases much more widely.

Similarly, we need to be clear about a few things if, as a society we want to protect our children. Social care professionals talk about domestic abuse ‘impairing parenting capacity’. It feels like a terrible understatement in this case but yes, domestic abuse does ‘impair parenting capacity’. This was a very extreme example, but if we don’t acknowledge this, and support women who suffer domestic abuse to parent and protect their children, then we are failing those children. This has to start with links being made between risks to children and risks to women and vice versa.

I go back to the last question on the CAADA DASH risk checklist, that list of questions that needs to be asked every time someone discloses domestic abuse. It reads: “Do you believe that there are risks facing the children in the family? If yes, please confirm if you have made a referral to safeguard the children?” Let’s make sure we never overlook this one.

Finally I would like to acknowledge the extraordinary work done by specialist DV practitioners, IDVAs and their MARAC partners every day – working to prevent tragedies like this. The tragedy avoided does not create headlines but it does save lives.

Tags: , , ,
February 27, 2013

What a day! #CAADAconf

Just winding down after the CAADA National Conference that we held in London today which I felt was a great success thanks to some terrific speakers, workshop leaders and a really engaged audience.  We focused in particular on young people experiencing different forms of abuse and were very pleased to be able to announce our new Young People’s Violence Advocacy Programme (yes, as usual we have managed to create an accurate albeit long winded name of one of our programmes!), which will be funded by the Dept for Education.   More on that in future posts!

The morning featured our key note speaker, Prof Jenny Pearce from the University of Bedfordshire who spoke with extraordinary insight and compassion about the experiences of young people – particularly in relation to sexual abuse, but also more widely in relation to gang violence, domestic abuse and wider forms of violence.  She really brought alive the reality for many young people and the extent to which they are often failed by statutory services today.  She invited us all to think through how we can try and change this and urged us to ensure that we listen to young people as we do this.  You can find out more about her work and her publications at 

Jenny was followed by the courageous parents of Carly Fairhurst who was murdered by her boyfriend when she was just 19.  I can’t begin to capture the power of their words – suffice to say that there was not a dry eye in the room.  As one of the members of the audience said, their words re-energised us all and reminded us why we do this work.

In the afternoon we had real insights from Robert McCulloch-Graham, seconded from his role as Director of Children’s Services in Barnet to the Troubled Families Unit.  He focused on the value of partnership working, MARAC and the need for dedicated lead workers for families – with the clear impact this has on outcomes.  No surprise perhaps to the audience – but he confirmed that almost all the families who are getting support via the Troubled Families programme have had domestic abuse as a feature at some point.

As if we had not had enough to get us all thinking, the terrific Certain Curtain theatre company did a production of their beautiful play, Mocking Bird High.  Tracing the impact of domestic abuse on two teenage children and their mother, they really touched the audience.  Everyone was transfixed.

We had great workshops on homicide reviews, perpetrator work, substance use, HBV, stalking and working with children living with domestic abuse.  I hope all who attended enjoyed it as much as I did.  It almost feels like we should get going on the next one….

February 11, 2013

More thoughts on the proposed ACPO domestic abuse risk assessment pilots

Diana Barran talks about CAADA’s concerns at the proposed ACPO pilot to give frontline officers discretion about the use of the risk assessment tool when attending domestic abuse incidents.

Tags: , , ,
November 20, 2012

A Place of Greater Safety – Insights 1

It was a proud moment today when we published our first major policy report ‘A Place of Greater Safety’, using data collected by domestic abuse practitioners all around the country.  It is important because:

  1. It includes data from about 2500 victims and their children – highlighting the type of abuse they suffer and putting the real experience of victims at the heart of our recommendations, of practice and of policy.
  2. It makes the case for mainstreaming funding for IDVAs and MARACs
  3. It shows how putting IDVAs in hospital settings could help identify 10,000 high risk victims and their children who are getting no support today
  4. It includes the first substantial information on the abuse suffered by teenagers – a group who will become more visible with the change in the definition of domestic abuse to include 16 and 17 year olds.
  5. It highlights the impact of domestic abuse on children and gives commissioners simple actions to address this.
  6. It is aimed at local commissioners – those with the responsibility and the funding to address the problems.
  7. It gives clear objective evidence which we hope will underpin local and national policy.
  8. And it is part of a body of data that is growing every year so there is CAADA Insights 2, 2013 to look forward to!

I would really like to thank those practitioners who use the CAADA Insights service and our early funders who had the vision to back this approach before its benefits and value were really visible.  And also the fantastic team at CAADA who have worked day (and all too often at night) to put this together.

Please make sure your local commissioners know that this is now available – it could make all the difference.  You can download the report from our website at

Despite my best efforts #aPOGS may not be trending yet on Twitter…but there is still time….