Recent SafeLives’ research estimates that when children start primary school at least one child in every classroom will have lived with domestic abuse since they were born. They have lived with abuse for their whole lives, and know nothing else. Yet nearly 40% of children living in households with domestic abuse are not known to children’s services.
As many of you working on the Troubled Families Programme know only too well, domestic violence can be a prevalent theme affecting the whole family. If information is not shared, agencies tend to deal with one person and one concern at a time – through different professionals with different agendas. Opportunities to help are missed and lives can be put unnecessarily at risk. This is something that the Troubled Families Programme was set up to help improve.
SafeLives agrees that sharing information and seeing the family as a whole is vital and that’s why we’ve introduced the One Front Door model. One Front Door is our vision for a transformation of local systems, processes and responses so they start making vital links between the needs of individuals and the families they belong to.
One Front Door will facilitate earlier intervention and swifter, pre-emptive action by a multi-agency specialist team who will identify the needs and risks to all family members at the same time.
The first stage of One Front Door focuses on bringing together two key elements: child safeguarding and domestic abuse. SafeLives are working with seven local authorities across England to pilot this model, helping to make it sustainable and effective. The seven sites we will be working with are:
- St Helens
- North Tyneside
- North Somerset
- West Sussex
Our learning so far
We have found that the current system for safeguarding children, protecting victims of domestic abuse, and challenging perpetrators works well – but often separately. Referrals for child safeguarding are largely considered with only the child at risk in mind, with each incident being looked at in isolation.
A shared understanding of risk and need is required across all agencies. Risk ratings are not used consistently at initial referral or at the end of assessment in a way that is understood by all agencies working with members of the same family.
The case management systems used by different agencies often do not integrate with each other. In some local authority areas, multiple systems are used which impedes effective information sharing. This can mean children’s social care workers are assessing the safety of children at risk without learning that police colleagues in the same area know that the child’s primary carer is at high risk of serious harm or murder.
Trialling a One Front Door approach has led to broader, integrated action planning for all family members. We have strengthened agencies’ understanding of domestic abuse and their ability to work with perpetrators of abuse. We are committed to improving the response to domestic abuse and child safeguarding and will use the learning from of our partner sites to ensure more families get the right support at the right time to make them safe and well.
“Early intervention is the key. We know that the super-controlling 15-year-old boyfriend today could become a high risk perpetrator in years to come. SafeLives have helped us to understand the risks posed by perpetrators of abuse.”
Seb Smith, Head of Service, Suffolk MASH and One Front Door Partner
We’re pleased to see that the Government are also taking steps to improve the response to domestic abuse for the whole family, with the introduction of a new Domestic Abuse and Violence Bill. For too long children have been the ‘hidden’ victims of domestic abuse. We must take this opportunity to ensure the impact on children is a key focus and is considered by courts when sentencing.
Please do get in touch with me if you would like to learn more or are interested in running a similar pilot scheme.
National Lead for One Front Door
Head of Consultancy