Summary of report content
Healthwatch Newcastle undertook research into the services provided to children living with domestic abuse in order to help inform future commissioning decisions for services following the Domestic Abuse Act 2021. They spoke to non-abusive parents of children living with domestic abuse, staff working with families and survivors of domestic abuse and providers of specialist services to this group.
Provision for children and young people affected by domestic abuse in Newcastle is mainly delivered by seven charities. It includes one-to-one therapy, group work and advocacy, alongside education and awareness work in schools. Some provision is commissioned or funded by statutory agencies (including the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and the local authority), other services are funded through charitable grants.
Whilst each organisation brings significant expertise, the number of providers is itself a problem. Parents are often unsure what support is available and where to seek help. There is no single point of access. Most referring agencies are equally unsure where to direct families for help.
Specialist services are under-resourced to meet the potential level of need in the city. Most have waiting lists for their services and are reluctant to advertise services too widely because of a lack of capacity to meet demand. Several services are dependent on short-term funding which inhibits their outreach work, ability to recruit and retain skilled staff and to plan and develop services. It adds to the confusion among other professionals about what is, and isn’t, available.
Some gaps in provision are confirmed, including: access to play therapy for younger children; more support for young people in their own abusive intimate partner relationships; support for children and young people still living with an abusive parent; interventions for families experiencing adolescent or child to parent violence or abuse; work in schools to raise awareness with boys and young men.
Parents from ethnic minority communities value culturally competent, specialist provision that recognises the intersectional issues they have to deal with. Both parents and agencies identified a lack of understanding about the longer-term impacts of domestic abuse-related trauma on children and young people among professionals such as school staff.
The report contains three recommendations.