Family Rights Group/Right of Women has been funded by Trust for London to develop a domestic violence project from February 2014 until March 2019. This project aims to enable women in London who are survivors of domestic violence to be in a position to make informed decisions and influence what happens to their children when social workers are involved.
It utilises Family Rights Group’s expertise on child welfare law, practice and procedures and Rights of Women’s in-depth knowledge of private law remedies for abused women.
The project’s outputs are informed by the collective knowledge of members of the project Advisory Group (organisations represented include DVIP, Women’s Aid, Solace, Imkaan, Refuge, Shpresa, a Children’s Services Senior Manager, a LSCB Business Manager, Ashiana, and Latin American Women's Rights Service) and feedback from organisations’ users, analysis of domestic violence related enquiries to our advice service, a review of good practice; and information gleaned during the project from visits to relevant organisations.
Initial phase March 2014 to March 2016
a) Extensive information for mothers experiencing domestic violence, when children's services are involved. This includes on-line frequently asked questions and a hard copy leaflet. The information is relevant to mothers in different situations, including those living with or separated from the perpetrator, those in refuges and those whose children have been removed. FAQs for children's social workers and domestic violence practitioners have also been designed to help develop their knowledge and skills when working with mothers affected by domestic violence.
b) An accredited training course for domestic violence advisers in London (developed, delivered and marketed in conjunction with Rights of Women), and on-line information. This is aimed at enabling workers to develop a greater understanding of the effects of domestic violence on children and increases their knowledge of the role of local authority children's services and the legal and practice framework, so they can provide better informed advice and effectively advocate for mothers affected by domestic violence. Always oversubscribed, we ran this course 4 times in the initial phase.
c) An accredited 2 hour training course run by Family Rights Group and Rights of Women designed for social workers and children's services managers in London. The course aims to enable social workers/social work managers to have a greater understanding of the issues faced by mothers affected by domestic violence and how they perceive the child protection system, be more informed about the legal framework around domestic violence, better involve domestic violence victims in decision making about their child and where they can signpost mothers affected by domestic violence for further support. The course also highlights the need to work with risky fathers (including signposting to relevant services)
d) An international practice review (currently a working draft) to raise awareness of good practice which has enabled children affected by domestic violence to remain within their families.
We also visited domestic violence organisations, social work teams, the Local Safeguarding Children’s Board in Richmond and Ealing and the London Safeguarding Children Board’s Business Managers’ meeting to promote the learning and work of the project.
We held a half day seminar in London on 15th March 2016 where we launched an international practice review (currently a working draft) to raise awareness of good practice which has enabled children affected by domestic violence to remain within their families. Speakers at the seminar included mothers who have survived domestic violence and have had experience of social work involvement, Gail Faulkner, Head of Social Work, Leeds City Council (now retired), Ben Jamal, DVIP, Hilary Fisher Women’s Aid, and Rebekah Wilson, Barrister, Garden Court Chambers.
Continuation phase of the project: March 2016 to February 2019
This work builds on the successes of the initial phase. Over the next 3 years our project outputs will be:
a) The one day specialist advocacy course on child welfare for domestic violence workers will be held twice a year. The course is free to eligible organisations and will be led by our adviser and co-trained by a mother with experience of children’s services due to domestic abuse.
b) An on-line discussion board for London-based domestic violence advisers from the voluntary sector and practitioners from children’s services. The board will provide practitioners with an e-forum to consider practice dilemmas and share solutions when working with mothers whose children have social work involvement. Our expert advisers will provide additional legal and practice direction.
c) Work with at least two London children’s services authorities to embed effective practice in working with children and mothers who are victims of domestic violence. We will:
- provide consultancy advice to the two ‘demonstrator’ authorities on developing and embedding a local action plan, which engages their service users
- provide senior managers and practitioners with follow up information about on-going international policy and practice developments via our on-line board
- facilitate discussions amongst interested senior managers in the authorities so they learn from each other
- run two lunch-time seminars in each ‘demonstrator’ authority on law and practice with Rights of Women for social workers and managers across all social work teams.
Learning from the two authorities will be shared with other interested London councils at a Conference in London in March 2019.
d) Launch a campaign, involving mothers who were victims of domestic violence, to highlight their experiences of the child welfare system and promote policy and practice changes to ensure effective support for adult and child victims and avoidance of unnecessary removal of children into care.