The Domestic Abuse Bill: importance of community-based support – including for children – finally recognised

Thursday 11 March 2021
Girl looking at the camera with a blank expression

Domestic abuse is often seen as something that happens between adults. However, witnessing domestic abuse at home is one of many harmful experiences that leads to children needing help from children's services

Sadly, we too often see children and young people who’ve been affected by domestic abuse through our direct work with families, and through our policy and research work.

It's estimated that 1 in 5 children in the UK have lived in households with domestic abuse.  We know experiencing domestic abuse can have a long-lasting effect on children and young people. For example, they can struggle with their physical or mental health, and they can face problems in their own friendships and relationships in the future.

This is why providing specialist support to all children and young people who are affected is so important.

Specialist support for children can reduce the impact of domestic abuse on their lives. It can improve children’s safety, and their wellbeing.

In 2019-20, we worked with other children’s charities, and the violence against women and girls sector, to urge the government to better consider the needs of children affected by domestic abuse.

As a result of our work on the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, children who experience domestic abuse are now legally recognised as victims, not just as witnesses. This is a real achievement. As Lord Polak, who led on these efforts in the House of Lords, stated powerfully:

This is an incredibly important step forward in understanding and addressing the provision of community-based domestic abuse services, so that all victims, especially children, will be able to access support

Lord Polak

However, the Act has not yet meant that all child victims are guaranteed the support they need. Our research in 2019 found that specialist support for child victims of domestic abuse is ‘patchy, piecemeal, and precarious’. Unfortunately, not enough has changed in the years since then.

Research by the Domestic Abuse Commissioner in 2022 showed that less than 30% of adult victims and survivors were able to access support for their children. The Commissioner is calling for a new duty to provide and fund domestic abuse services, including for children.

Click here to find out more about Breaking the Cycle, our counselling service for children and young people affected by domestic abuse.