Developing service responses to domestic violence

Submitting Institution

University of Central Lancashire

Unit of Assessment

Social Work and Social Policy

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Medical and Health Sciences: Public Health and Health Services
Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration, Social Work

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Summary of the impact

Stanley's national study of police and children's services responses to children and families experiencing domestic violence has contributed to: a practice shift towards including perpetrators in interventions; piloting in England and Wales of protection orders and relaxing time restrictions on social work assessment as recommended by the Munro Review.

Associated studies include research informing a social marketing campaign for perpetrators of domestic violence and an evaluation of the service developed from that campaign; this initiative was disseminated by the Department of Health. Stanley's research review on children experiencing domestic violence informed the redesign and commissioning of local authority children's services.

Underpinning research

A co-edited book (Humphreys and Stanley 2006) built on Stanley's earlier studies (Stanley 1997; Bell and Stanley 2006) and was one of the first published in the UK to explicitly address the relationship between domestic violence and child protection. The book marked a new direction in the UK response to domestic violence by including research on abusive fathers as well as a chapters co-authored by Stanley on interagency collaboration and preventive work in schools. A further chapter arguing for collaborative work between children's and adults' services for families experiencing domestic violence was published in 2010 (Stanley et al 2010).

The NSPCC funded study undertaken by a team of UCLan researchers (Miller, Research Fellow UCLan 2007-09; Richardson Foster, Research Fellow UCLan 2007-09; Thomson, Research Fellow UCLan 2007-08, now employed in UCLan's School of Nursing) led by Professor Stanley was the first in the UK to examine police notifications of domestic violence incidents to children's services [1]. A sample of 251 domestic violence incidents involving children was tracked from police records through to children's services. The study confirmed concerns raised by UK inquiries and the international literature in demonstrating that this system of referrals resulted in a new service for a very small proportion (5%) of families [1]. Police officers at domestic violence incidents were reluctant to engage with children. Children and victims were anxious for perpetrators to be removed from the family home. Current structures for assessment and intervention contributed to a stop-start pattern of social work predicated on separation and a lack of social work engagement with perpetrators of domestic violence. A key recommendation was that the time limits on social work assessments be lifted [2]. The study also identified a range of innovative approaches for co- ordinating risk assessment by the police and children's social services [3].

The `Men's Talk' study of men's views [4] concerning domestic violence and their motivations for changing abusive behaviour was undertaken 2008-09 by Stanley, Miller and Thomson in collaboration with researchers from the University of Hull. This was the first study of its kind to be undertaken with men in the general population in the UK. The findings informed the content and design of an innovative public health initiative that included a social marketing campaign and a new service for male perpetrators of domestic violence. An evaluation [5] of the work of the service was undertaken by a research team led by Stanley and including Graham-Kevan, School of Psychology, UCLan.

A research review [6] of children's experiences of domestic violence aimed at Directors of Children's Services placed UK research in the context of international literature, highlighted the focus on mothers which acts to exclude fathers and identified gaps in knowledge and services. It has been widely disseminated by Research into Practice and through conferences in the UK and abroad.

Together, these studies have resulted in six new studies funded by the DH, the NIHR, the Welsh Government and the EU commencing in 2012-13 with Larkins working alongside Stanley on two of these.

References to the research

Key Research Outputs:

1. Stanley, N. Miller, P., Richardson Foster, H. And Thomson, G. (2010) Children and Families Experiencing Domestic Violence: Police and Children's Services Responses. olence_report_wdf70355.pdf


2. Stanley, N., Miller, P., Richardson-Foster, H. and Thomson, G. (2011) A Stop-Start Response: Social Services' Interventions with Children and Families Notified Following Domestic Violence Incidents. British Journal of Social Work, 41, 2, 296-313.


3. Stanley, N., Miller, P., Richardson-Foster, H. and Thomson, G. (2010) Children's Experiences of Domestic Violence: Developing an Integrated Response from Police and Child Protection Services. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 26, 12, 2372-2391.


4. Stanley, N., Fell, B., Miller, P., Thomson, G and Watson, J.P. (2012) Men's Talk: Men's Understandings of Violence Against Women and Motivations for Change. Violence Against Women, 18, 11, 1300-1318.


5. Stanley, N., Graham-Kevan, N. and Borthwick, R. (2012) Fathers and Domestic Violence — building motivation for change through perpetrator programmes. Child Abuse Review, 21, 4, 264-274.


6. Stanley, N. (2011) Children Experiencing Domestic Violence: A Research Review. Dartington: RIP.


Research grants:

Stanley, UCLan — Children and Families Experiencing Domestic Violence: Police and Children's Social Services Responses. Funding: £122,000 from NSPCC 2007-2009.

Stanley, UCLan — Men's Messages: Research to Inform a Social Marketing Campaign for Male Perpetrators of Domestic Violence. Funding: £52,000 from Hull PCT, 2008-2009.

Stanley, UCLan: Evaluation of Perpetrators of Domestic Violence Service. Funding: £110,000 from NHS Hull, 2009-2010

Stanley, UCLan: Research Review: Children Experiencing Domestic Violence. Funding: £12,000 from Research Into Practice, 2010-11.

All published papers were peer reviewed. The research review commissioned by RIP and the final project report for the NSPCC were also subject to rigorous peer review procedures.

Details of the impact

The NSPCC study has achieved a wide reach assisted by dissemination through regional, national and international conferences attended by practitioners, policy makers and researchers from social work, health, the police and the voluntary sector. Managers in local authority children's services in Croydon and Lancashire have reported using the study findings to inform restructuring of their service response to domestic violence. The research was cited in the House of Commons and House of Lords Joint Committee on Human Rights (2010) [A] in its report on the Children, Schools and Families Bill in relation to the proposal to introduce protection orders in England and Wales; these are currently being piloted. The findings in relation to relaxing the time restrictions on the timing of assessment were discussed with Jacky Tiotto, Director of the DCSF's National Safeguarding Delivery Unit, and these proposals were included in Munro's (2011) Review of Child Protection [B]: Tiotto was a member of the DfE team supporting Munro. The Munro Review also cited the study's finding that separation should not be the goal of intervention since domestic violence occurred post- separation in over half the cases studied. The policy changes resulting from the Munro Review have impacted on the organisation and delivery of social work in England in domestic violence cases and consequently on the experience of children and families in contact with social workers.

The Men's Talk study was commissioned to inform a social marketing campaign aimed at abusive men and its findings were used directly in the campaign which was delivered across Hull in 2009 and 2010 using a range of media. An evaluation of the impact of the campaign (Francas 2010) found that 60% of Hull men surveyed had noticed the campaign and one in three exposed to the campaign described their thinking on domestic violence as changed by the campaign. The research can therefore be said to have played a significant role in shifting attitudes to domestic violence in the local population and in preparing the targeted group to utilise the new service for abusive men.

This was the first social marketing campaign to be targeted on male perpetrators of domestic violence in England and Wales and it was cited by government as a model of good practice [C]. The research and the ensuing campaign have been widely disseminated at national and international conferences including presentations by invitation at Peking University; University of Melbourne and Griffith University. The study informed the design of the Strength to Change Service for male perpetrators of domestic violence which has been operating in Hull since 2009 and which, in its first 18 months, was contacted by 210 abusive men providing a service to 37% of these. The evaluation of the service identified a need for service developments including intensification of programme delivery and an increase in staff (both recommendations were implemented); and the evaluation has been key to securing continuing funding for the service. The social marketing campaign and the Strength to Change service embody a new public health model for engagement with perpetrators of domestic violence which has influenced similar campaigns such as the national `I'm a Real Man' campaign run by Women's Aid in 2011.

Stanley's review of research on children experiencing domestic violence was distributed to all Directors of Children's Services and a briefing study for lead members for Children's Services in England and Wales was produced. The review has been disseminated at national conferences — in Scotland and Northern Ireland as well as England — for practitioners, managers and policy makers and has attracted considerable interest. Directors of Children's Services have used the review to assist commissioning and restructuring local services (see Jones) and it has informed planning for implementation of the Domestic Abuse (Wales) Bill and national guidance produced by the Health Service Executive in Ireland [D] for health and social care professionals in 2013. The review has therefore contributed to the management and delivery of social work with children and families experiencing domestic violence and to children's and families' experience of those services.

As a consequence of this body of work, Stanley was appointed to the NICE Programme Development Group developing guidance for health and social care services on domestic violence. The research described here was included in the evidence reviewed in the draft guidance [E] and has ensured that the needs of children experiencing domestic violence are at the forefront of the guidance due to be published in 2014. This has enabled the body of research described here to achieve both reach and significance.

Sources to corroborate the impact

A. House of Commons and House of Lords Joint Committee on Human Rights (2010) Legislative Scrutiny: Children, Schools and Families Bill; Other Bills. Eighth Report of Session 200-10. HL Paper 57, HC 369. London: The Stationery Office.

B. Munro, E (2011) The Munro Review of Child Protection: Final Report. London: DfE.

C. HM Government (2009) Together We Can End Violence Against Women and Girls: A Consultation Paper. London: Home Office.

D. Health Service Executive (2013) HSE Practice Guide on Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence: For staff working with children and families. Dublin: Health Service Executive.

E. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) (2013) Public Health Draft Guidance: Domestic violence and abuse: how social care, health services and those they work with can identify, prevent and reduce domestic violence and abuse. London: NICE.

Contact 1: Louise Robinson, former Domestic Violence Clinical and Strategy Lead, NHS Hull.

Contact 2: Kevin Jones, Assistant Director, Cumbria Children's Services.