St Michael's is working hard to combat cycles of domestic abuse in young Lambeth families.
Domestic abuse in Lambeth
Lambeth has one of the highest rates of reported sexual violence in London. In one to one and focus groups, we find strong links between domestic abuse and gang culture, which is exceptionally high in Lambeth.
A fifth of outreach children are registered on Child Protection or Child in Need plans because of the dangers posed by domestic violence. Their parents have often witnessed domestic violence in their own childhood. This is known to have a devastating effect on children. They are more likely to be aggressive, anti-social, depressed, anxious and do less well at school. Girls are more likely to become adult victims, boys perpetrators. In addition, domestic abuse is of itself a risk factor in child abuse.
Domestic abuse and gang culture
In our outreach community services we focus on early interventions to combat generational cycles of domestic abuse. We consult with individuals, young parents’ focus groups, local agencies, national networks, community and academic partners. We have gathered evidence of the effectiveness of these services, sometimes over many years.
How we approach it?
Domestic abuse is rarely a 'stand alone' issue but one of a number of problems experienced within the family. To address these effectively and give the best chance for sustained change, we advocate a holistic approach which works with mothers, fathers and children; as individuals and in relationships. The provisois always the safety of mother and child.
We have five overlapping components of the programme, to support mothers, fathers, children and the family as a whole. For mothers, we offer the Diva Project and one to one support. For young fathers, we run the Caring Dads programme and one to one support. We are also fundraising to run an evidence-based programme, the Children's Community Group Programme, to support children who have witnessed domestic violence to recover from trauma, be safe and have a better chance in life. Jigsaw provides a safe, comfortable home atmosphere for separated family members to meet.
Co-parenting and child protection
We are champions of co-parenting as delivering the best outcomes for children. We frequently see fathers excluded from child protection services, leading to continuing cycles of abuse and bad outcomes for the whole family. Fathers are often unaware that domestic abuse is also a child protection issue, and are seen as a problem to be managed, rather than essential to the solution. In our experience, fathers are not pursued if they fail to attend child protection case conferences or seek support; whereas mothers are. We find this counterintuitive – a view supported by reports of serious case reviews.