The “terrifying scale” of domestic abuse and limited resources means councils are forced to focus on high-risk cases rather than prevention, the director of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services has said.
A joint report by regulators, published today, says there are significant variations in how well councils and other agencies respond to children living with the “endemic” problem.
A multi-agency inspection in six areas found organisations had dealt with many of the problems associated with the immediate volume of cases, but more needs to be done on prevention and reducing domestic violence in the long-term.
The report by Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services, and HM Inspectorate of Probation focused on evidence gathered in Bradford, Hampshire, Hounslow, Lincolnshire, Salford and Wiltshire.
Responding to the report Ms Michalska said the government must address funding pressures on councils to enable them to focus on prevention rather than just children and adult victims at high risk.
She added: “Whilst this report recognises that much good work is being done by local authorities and their partners across the country, the terrifying scale of this issue means that agencies have had to focus virtually all of their available resources on protecting children and victims from the immediate risk of harm, rather than on prevention, at which point the damage to children and victims has already been done.”
Ms Michalska said some councils have been forced to cut back on non-statutory services as funding reduces, meaning that vital support services for victims of domestic abuse “aren’t always available or accessible despite the clear need for these services”.
She added: “We will not see the necessary shift from intervention at the point of crisis to prevention that we need to see without sufficient, sustainable funding from government.”
The report found that in the “worst cases”, agencies inappropriately attributed responsibility on the mother to protect her children when the end of an abusive relationship can escalate risk.
Ofsted national director for social care Eleanor Schooling said the “endemic nature” of domestic violence meant agencies cannot deal with the complex challenges alone.
She added: “It is a sad truth that the sheer scale of domestic abuse means that it can be all too easy for police, health professionals and social workers to focus on short term responses to incidents. But the best teams are able to see the bigger picture.”