Title: Panel Discussion

Panel: Anamaria Szabo, Di Turgoose, Clare Walker, Rachelle Maxwell and Tania Shah

Keywords: domestic abuse, children and young people, service user involvement, empowerment, participation

Background and rationale: In the past decade, there has been an increase in evidence showing the extent to which children and young people in the UK are affected by domestic abuse. It is now known that around 130,000 children and young people live in households with high-risk domestic abuse (CAADA, 2012). We also know that 1:5 children are ‘exposed’ to domestic abuse (Radford et al 2011), and that domestic abuse is a prevalent factor in more than half of serious case reviews (Sidebotham et al 2016). More so, approximately a quarter of young people (13-17 years) ‘exposed’ to domestic abuse throughout their life go on to manifest harmful behaviours themselves (SafeLives 2015-17). Last but not least, HM Government (2019, 7) has acknowledged that “the impact of domestic abuse on young people needs to be properly recognised”. It is thus imperative to identify and implement strategies that will support children and young people affected by domestic abuse, whether they are witnesses, victims/survivors or perpetrators.

This raises a number of pertinent questions for investigation and discussion centred on what kind of journeys children and young people take within the different systems (civil, criminal, social care and allied fields) that become involved in their lives. Are these journeys in which their voices are heard? Are these journeys  tailored to their physical and psychological/emotional needs? Will the services provided assist them on the road to long term recovery and/or to primary and secondary desistance? And how can user agency be utilised in different organisational settings so that they have a real chance to participate in meaningful way? These are some of the key questions that we need to ask ourselves, and that the panel will address, to understand whether the services we are currently providing are informed by the experiences, views, wishes and needs of children and young people affected by domestic abuse.

Service user involvement has started to be recognised by local communities across the UK as a quality kite-mark of good service provision. For statutory services operating in the area of safeguarding children and young people in particular, including them in decisions that directly impact on their lives is enshrined in the Welfare Checklist at s1(3) of the Children Act 1989. However, there is no such legal provision in the area of specialist domestic abuse services, and the implementation of service user involvement approaches in the traditional agencies which make up the criminal justice system is limited or in its infancy. Thus, service user involvement in general, and involvement of children and young people in particular, remains an interpretable and debatable area of practice. Research from Leicestershire (see Fish, Szabo and Turgoose 2017) revealed that service user involvement is sometimes confused with client centred practice, or with complaints and appeals procedures. Further discussion is thus necessary in an attempt to achieve a more common understanding of the different/contested meanings given to service user involvement alongside how strategies can be implemented which are inclusive of children and young people.

Panel discussion: Different definitions of service user involvement from both statutory and specialist services will be explored. Intersectionality and resultant issues of power, complex needs, organisational cultures and structural enablers and barriers created by institutional systems for young people and children will be discussed. Reflections from personal experiences and from observational practice will be undertaken alongside actively engaging with the panel audience.

Panel members: Anamaria Szabo is a Lecturer in Social Work at DMU with a special interest in conducting research on participatory approaches, service user involvement, restorative approaches and children’s rights. Di Turgoose is a Senior Lecturer in Community Justice, Criminology and Policing at DMU with a practice background in Probation/Prisons and specialist sector provision; she researches DVA. Clare Walker is a Domestic Abuse Consultant with more than 25 years’ experience, giving her a fertile 360-degree view on the topic; she offers support and advocacy for victims, training and policy development for professionals and organisations, as well as being an Expert Witness in the Courts and Tribunals UK wide. Rachelle Maxwell is a member of the Patient Advisory Group at DMU; her interests lie in the lived experiences of children and young people affected by domestic abuse with a focus on mental health/emotional well- being and how this is impacted by DVA experiences. Tania Shah is a survivor of sexual and domestic violence with a lifelong mental health condition; she is currently working in several positions with a focus on building her client’s confidence, strength and courage to help them to reconnect with their sense of self and with others.

References

CAADA (2012) A place of greater safety. Co-ordinated Action Against Domestic Abuse.

Fish, J., Szabo A., & Turgoose, D. (2017) Exploring approaches to service user involvement in sexual violence and domestic violence services. Research commissioned by Leicester City Council. Research report, De Montfort University.

HM Government (2019) Transforming the Response to Domestic Abuse Consultation Response and Draft Bill. London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.

Legislation.gov.uk. (2019) Children Act 1989. London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.

Radford, L. et al (2011) Child abuse and neglect in the UK today. London: National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

SafeLives (2015) Safe Young Lives: Young People and domestic abuse. SafeLives Ending Domestic Abuse.

Sidebotham, P. et al (2016) Pathways to harm, pathways to protection: a triennial analysis of serious case reviews 2011 to 2014. Final report. University of East Anglia and University of Warwick.