Young people being harmed
Young people are more likely to disclose IPVA where they have a trusting and open relationship with a worker. Conversations with young people should therefore be meaningful, and check in’s about their relationships should form part of each contact with the young person. Where IPVA is disclosed or a practitioner identifies it is happening, it should be discussed with the young person away from the person causing harm.
If it appears that a young person is being harmed in this way, the practitioner should discuss the concerns with their agency safeguarding lead, and with the MARAC Coordinator. A recommendation may be to refer the case to the Daily Domestic Violence Meeting (MARAC).
Where the young person under the age of 18 is identified at risk of significant harm, a contact should be made to Duty and Advice Team. The team will provide advice on the next course of action and decide whether an assessment is required for the young person.
If there is a risk of significant harm a decision will be made on the type of response that is required which may include a Family Group Conference, Child in Need plan or Child Protection Plan. Where the young person being harmed wishes to have the support of their extended family or community a Family Group Conference should be discussed/considered.
A best practice response for a young person being harmed is likely to reflect an integrated approach which combines child safeguarding and high risk domestic abuse expertise, This should be tailored to the young person’s needs and they should be involved in the process as much as possible. The MARAC should support the existing plan in place.
In addition, practitioners could develop safety plans with young people to inform their overall plan (Early Help plan, Child in Need plan, Child Protection plan, Children looked after care plan or Pathway plan). Safety plans focus on risks the young person is facing, their physical and emotional needs and equipping them to make choices that may keep them from serious harm.
Practitioners can also consider using the young people’s version of the DASH risk identification checklist. Guidance along with the checklist can be found via the Safe Lives website.
If the DASH highlights concerns that the young person is involved in an abusive relationship, discuss your concerns with your safeguarding lead, and the MARAC Coordinator. Contact details can be found in the appendix. A recommendation may be to refer the case to the Daily Domestic Violence Meeting (MARAC). Further details can be found via the Government website.
Practitioners should also consider whether the young person is experiencing additional vulnerabilities and risks such as child sexual exploitation, substance misuse issues, mental and physical health problems and social deprivation.
The purpose of a Safety Plan is to keep a young person safe. All young people who are experiencing or have experienced abuse in their relationships should have a Safety Plan even if the abuse has stopped. Safety planning involves looking at the risks the young person is facing, their physical and emotional needs, and equipping them to make choices that may keep them safe from harm. It is essential that this planning is done together with the young person.
The most risky times for victims are often when a relationship ends. In order to safeguard the young person, ending a relationship should ideally be led by the young person and supported by a professional. Practitioners can develop safety plans with young people to inform their overall plan (Early Help plan, Child in Need plan, Child Protection plan, Children looked after care plan, Pathway plan or MARAC plan). Safety plans should focus on risks the young person is facing, their physical and emotional needs and equipping them to make choices that may keep them from serious harm. Example safety plans to use with young people can be found in the appendix. Themes arising from recent safeguarding reviews show that other factors that can increase risk include pregnancy/having a baby, further visible injuries, greater evidence of coercive control, males in crisis e.g. breakdown of support networks, mental health and increased substance misuse.
Important things to consider when completing a Safety Plan with a young person include:
Do you know where they live? Don’t assume they live with their parents. They may be staying with friends or living in temporary accommodation. Identify a safe place they can go to in an emergency Does the young person have a positive relationship with family and peers? If not supporting rebuilding these relationships can be an important part of a young person’s Safety Plan.
- Does the young person have a child?
- Does the young person have a mobile phone? If a mobile phone is given to a victim as part of a safety plan then the phone number must be registered with the police
- Does the young person have money, medication that they need to take, keys or spare clothes?
- Does the young person have any identification?
- Does the young person attend school or college? If so they can provide important support for the Safety Plan and should be communicated with.
Young People Causing Harm
The experience of domestic violence for some young people includes causing harm to those closest to them including partners, parents, siblings and other family members.7
The term ‘young person causing harm’ is used instead of ‘perpetrator’ as labelling young people as perpetrators can prove to be a barrier to engagement.
SafeLives insights data shows that the criminal justice response is often the only answer for young people demonstrating abuse towards their partners. Young people causing harm will often lack an understanding of healthy relationships, or need help to control behaviour that they know is wrong. It is just as important to change the attitude and response of these young people as it is holding them accountable for their behaviour. A young person causing harm has the capacity to change.
Young people who go on to form abusive relationships are more likely to have been exposed to some form of abuse in their childhood. They tend to have multiple problems such as poor school attendance, homelessness, drug or alcohol use, and offending behaviour. These young people also tend to find it difficult to make trusting, positive relationships.
Research has shown that the brain doesn’t stop developing until the mid-20s. Studies have found that during the teenage years, the frontal lobe (which is associated with rational thinking) experiences an excess production of grey matter which in turn affects decision making, the ability to organise, self-control, emotional and impulse regulation and risk taking behaviour. These changes will impact a young person’s own behaviour and response to the behaviour of others.
Practitioners should consider if the behaviours of the young person or their personal circumstances potentially mean that they require an Early Help Assessment or if they are deemed to be at risk of significant harm, and they need to contact Duty and Advice. The most meaningful engagement will come from a professional that the young person has a trusting relationship with.
7 SafeLives (2018) Safe Young Lives: Young people and domestic abuse
If a young person causing harm is displaying harmful sexual behaviours, contact should be made with Duty and Advice Team.
It is important that any young person causing harm is provided with support around healthy relationships. Evidence shows that the best outcomes for these young people include a Think Family Work Family approach whereby the wider family issues can also be identified and addressed, which will make the young person causing harm more likely to sustain changes in their behaviour.