Written evidence submitted by Drive (COR0074)
- Drive works with high-harm and serial perpetrators of domestic abuse in order to keep victims safer and reduce domestic abuse. It is a partnership between Social Finance, SafeLives and Respect, with additional strategic support from Lloyds Bank Foundation. Drive strengthens multi-agency working and coordination at the local level between agencies such as policing, adult and children’s services, substance misuse services, mental health services, and the voluntary sector to gather intelligence, assess and manage risks posed by high-harm perpetrators.
- Ultimately, Drive seeks to change the behaviour of high-harm perpetrators, or if they are unwilling or unable to change, disrupt their abuse. Drive was evaluated by the University of Bristol in a study released in January 2020. The study found that, amongst the group of perpetrators on the Drive programme, the number of participants perpetrating abuse types reduced as follows:
- physical abuse reduced by 82%;
- sexual abuse reduced by 88%,
- harassment and stalking behaviours reduced by 75%;
- and jealous and controlling behaviours reduced by 73%.
How we are adapting to the Covid-19 crisis
- Drive’s work is needed more than ever as dangerous individuals are being asked to stay at home, homes which are often shared with victims. Around 10% of our clients still live with their victim (always or intermittently).
- We are continuing our work to manage risk and facilitate the sharing of vital information between agencies such as policing, social care and Independent Domestic Violence Advisers (IDVAs), by moving multi-agency forums online.
- Drive does not require the engagement of perpetrators – where they are unwilling to engage it ‘happens to them’ through disruption work, to limit their space for action and prevent abuse – however we are continuing one-to-one engagement with perpetrators who wish to engage. This is now happening remotely through phone or web conversations.
- Whilst the data has not come through yet, and there are some challenges of remote rather than face-to-face contact, we do not think there has been a drop off in engagement. Some perpetrators are finding it easier to attend phone meetings than in person ones. One-to-one engagement is focussed on risk management rather than long-term behaviour change at this time. For example, we are supporting perpetrators to learn to spot the signs of when they might become abusive and how to de-escalate situations, in the lockdown context.
- Drive has always recognised it is just one part of a much-needed mosaic of responses to perpetrators, and this is equally true in the context of covid-19. Just before the coronavirus reached the UK, we helped launch a Call to Action for a government-backed domestic abuse perpetrator strategy, signed by over 80 organisations, survivors, and academics. We are now providing a coordinating function for signatories to that campaign; gathering information about how they are managing in the coronavirus context and supporting stakeholders to share best practice. As part of this we host a fortnightly ‘Action on DA Perpetrators’ call and submit a fortnightly update to government drawing together key themes, as stakeholders working with perpetrators adapt to covid-19. The most recent of these is annexed to this document.
Our response to the HASC enquiry questions
Prevalence of these issues
- Drive does not have a self-referral mechanism, the perpetrators we work with generally come through MARAC (multi-agency risk assessment conferences, which support victims at risk of murder or very serious abuse). There are always more perpetrators associated with MARAC victims than we can provide services for. This is why in the longer term we are calling for more strategic investments such that every perpetrator gets an appropriate response as part of a government domestic abuse perpetrator strategy.
- However, there is evidence to suggest that the coronavirus situation is increasing abuse, including at the highest levels:
- Number of domestic homicides has increased. Between March 23rd and April 12th there were 18 suspected domestic abuse killings of females – double the average rate of deaths.
- Calls to the domestic abuse helplines for victims have increased by 25%.
- Calls to the Respect Phoneline for those worried about their own behaviour have increased by 67% since lockdown and there has been a 200% increase in emails to this service.
- Increased enquires to our partner organisation, Respect, about adolescent to parent violence and teenage partner abuse.
- It is difficult to know whether the increased calls to phonelines represent increases in abuse or increases in help-seeking behaviour (which we would welcome). However, the content of the phone calls point to increases of abuse or concerns about abuse, with callers referring to particular covid-19 related pressures, such as arguments over child-contact, what are and are not necessary trips out of the house (very relevant in the coercive control context) and people struggling to manage their behaviour in a confined space (Respect reports a client saying he ‘feels like a caged animal’).
Measures or proposals to reduce or avert domestic abuse and child abuse at this time
- Ultimately there is only domestic abuse because of the behaviour of perpetrators, if they stop, there is no abuse. There is no excuse for abuse – neither covid-19 nor other factors are responsible for abuse, it is always the fault of the perpetrator. Drive always wants to see the responsibility for abuse, and any subsequent actions required, put on the perpetrator, not the victim.
- Communications: Respect, one of the three Drive partners, has launched a #NoExcuseForAbuse campaign, in the expectation that some perpetrators will use the lockdown to further control their partners. Perpetrators are not a homogenous group, some are aware of their behaviour and want to change, and the campaign helps publicise the Respect Phoneline for this group. We support this campaign. We have also noted a high level of support for perpetrator focussed communications from participants in the fortnightly ‘Action on DA Perpetrators’ call.
- We support Respect’s request to the Home Office for additional funding to ensure the phonelines and email service, which are already experiencing a surge in use, are sufficiently staffed. This is urgent.
- We recommend that government communications ensure that responsibility for abuse is always put on the perpetrator and that they continue to use the #NoExcuseForAbuse hashtag. We recommend that significant spend is put behind the communications to ensure they reach they general public.
- We recommend that government communications include an element aimed at young people, given the indications of an increase in abusive behaviours amongst this group.
- Accommodation: A very clear example of pressure being put on the victim instead of the perpetrator, is the social expectation that it should be victims rather than perpetrators who leave abusive homes. More than ever, living in an institution with people you do not know, unable to leave, possibly with children (and without the normal things around you to keep them occupied), can be a frightening and stressful prospect. Refuge for most is a last resort, and in lockdown it will be a harder choice than ever. We welcome Priti Patel’s comment that “I’m clear about this – perpetrators should be the ones who have to leave the family home, not the supposed loved ones whom they torment and abuse.” Unfortunately, systems are not well in place to achieve this. We hear numerous reports of police who wish to issue Domestic Violence Prevention Orders, that would bar a perpetrator from the family home, unable to do so because of no accommodation options.
- Government should urgently explore the possibility of re-locating perpetrators to alternative accommodation such as budget hotels and vacant university accommodation. Whist the MHCLG is looking into such as scheme for victims, the DA team are not working through what it might look like for perpetrators, despite government statements that it is the perpetrators who should do the hard job of living away from home. Risk management systems would need to be in place alongside such measures. There is some innovative work happening in Northumbria in this field. We stand ready to work with MHCLG and the rest of government on this, for example piloting a scheme at one of our Drive sites.
- Funding: This is a really difficult time for many organisations working to address perpetrator behaviour. Demand is increasing, yet resources are decreasing, with income from training and events disappearing. Some organisations have had to stop providing services, meaning perpetrators are less managed than they were before, at the time they are locked up at home.
- We welcome the funding announced by the Chancellor for charities (and we would expect those charities working to address the behaviour of perpetrators to apply for this) and by Priti Patel for domestic abuse phonelines. However, to our knowledge, none of this money has reached the relevant parties yet or looks likely to do so imminently. The need is urgent.
- No systems for channelling the money are in place and there is little clarity on the size or timing of support making planning almost impossible. We recommend the government shares its plans with the sector urgently, these should allow for rapid disbursements to the delivery level. There should be a ring-fenced pot for specialist ‘by and for’ charities currently providing life-saving services on very limited funds.
- Leadership: it is essential that the Domestic Abuse Commissioner and the Victims Commissioner are involved at the highest level of government decision making in the corona response.
- The surge in domestic abuse was and is predictable. We can also anticipate a second surge of demand for services after the lockdown ends as people who found it hard to seek help whilst confined to the home, are freer to use the normal routes for support. Whether its easier for them to make a private phone call, or mention something to a doctor in a routine personal appointment, we can expect the demand to rise.
- The Domestic Abuse and Victims Commissioners must be involved in planning the immediate and longer-term response.
Effectiveness of Government support
- We recognise this is a really difficult time as all departments learn on the job about how to respond to coronavirus.
- Communications: We appreciate the frequent communication we have had with the Home Office on its communications plans, and its growing understanding of putting responsibility for domestic abuse on perpetrators, including the Home Secretary’s statement. We believe there is further to go on this and hope that communications assets in the pipeline will make it clear that help is available for people worried about their own behaviour and that there is #NoExcuseForAbuse.
- Funding: We welcome the fact that we were invited to submit proposals for urgent funding – with a 24 hour turnaround time for proposals - on 26th March but are concerned that we have still not heard back about these.
- Leadership: We believe that had the DA Commissioner and the Victims Commissioner been involved in government decision making at a higher level and at an earlier stage, the Home Office could have been ahead in ensuring readiness for expected changes in perpetrator behaviour.
- Policy coherence: We are concerned that some covid-19 specific policies do not demonstrate government coordination and in some cases could translate into greater risk for victims. In particular we are concerned about:
- The implementation of the covid-19 early prisoner release scheme. This has been suspended but should it be re-instated we would like further clarity on risk management. Whilst the document: “Covid-19 Early Prisoner Release – Victim Service Provider script” specifically says “any offender with a history of domestic violence” will be ineligible for the scheme we are not confident that the history taking is sufficiently comprehensive to ensure this. The history must look beyond criminal record, given the low proportion of perpetrators who are ever arrested, charged or convicted of DA related crimes. We recommend as a minimum that any prisoner whose case has been heard at a MARAC (multi-agency risk assessment conference for victims) should be ineligible. Such policies would require communication between the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office.
- Lack of proactivity in ensuring that, in the words of the Home Secretary, “perpetrators should be the ones who have to leave the family home, not the supposed loved ones whom they torment and abuse.” We know that lack of accommodation is deterring some judges from issuing Domestic Violence Prevention Orders that could help keep victims safe in their own homes. We do not believe government is addressing this. This will require communication between the Home Office and Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
- We stand ready to work with the Home Office and other departments at this exceptionally difficult time to address these challenges as rapidly as possible.
Domestic Abuse Perpetrators Fortnightly Update: Covid 19 Response – 15 April 2020 Update
About this report
This report is compiled using information from the following sources:
- Respect member surveys/ a weekly call
- Call to Action on perpetrators signatories’ fortnightly call. See here for the latest write up.
- Respect Phoneline data
- Feedback from Make a Change, Change that Lasts Wales Perpetrator Response and Drive Project leads.
As additional sources of information become available, they will be added.
For further information about this paper please contact Veronica Oakeshott, Public Affairs and Policy Lead, Drive, firstname.lastname@example.org
Many perpetrators will not be managed in the way they should be. Perpetrator services are feeling the strain as sources of income such as training dry up and many (25% of Respect members) have had to furlough staff - some have furloughed as many as 80% of staff -despite demand increases. A key driver of demand is the move from group to one-to-one work which is more staff intensive. Meanwhile partners services in the statutory sector are struggling to contribute to risk management and facing new challenges, such as more limited accommodation options for perpetrators. The public urgently needs clarity that ‘isolation is not excuse for abuse’ and the police will still take action.
- DEMAND FOR RESPECT PHONELINE SUPPORT
Since the Covid-19 lockdown began on 16 March, demand for the Respect Phoneline has increased significantly.
- 67% increase in the number of calls between 16 March and 12 April
- 200% increase in the number of emails
- 318% increase in traffic for the Respect Phoneline website
Demand for other perpetrator services:
- All the men on the Make a Change programme want support at the moment and all the survivors living with them have said they are in agreement with this.
- Many perpetrator interventions are taking on new referrals. Those who are not taking new referrals is not because of lack of demand but because of ability to deliver safe interventions in these new circumstances with reduced resources.
- Drive continues to receive new allocations and is adapting risk assessment, scenario planning and intervention planning processes to the current situation.
How perpetrators are responding to the lockdown - insights
- Majority of callers to Respect Phoneline discuss Covid 19 and concerns on the lack of access to services and support.
- Use of social distancing/self-isolating imperatives to further abuse - some perpetrators are simply home more and therefore have more opportunity for abuse, some are using notions of isolation and quarantine to further isolate their partners.
- Some are using the challenges faced by survivors as opportunities to ingratiate themselves and relationships are being rekindled.
- Employment insecurities and money issues as a source of heightened tension - information and responses to this are being increased / improved.
- Child contact issues / changing arrangements e.g. some Victims / Survivors have expressed concern that children will not be returned after contact and that 'symptoms' will be used as a justification by perpetrators for this.
Adolescent to parent violence (APV) and children
- Increase in reports of children’s violence towards parents (Drive, Make a Change)
- Increase in requests for support to Respect from children’s social care as to how to deal with APV.
- Participants in the Call to Action phone call reporting concerns about APV.
Most Respect members are continuing to provide their services on a one-to-one digital or phone basis where previously it was group work. This is more resource intensive and all have concerns over funding. Most services are focussing on de-escalation techniques, as opposed to more traditional behaviour change work. Risk management has become a higher priority leading to for example more frequent consultation between case managers and Idvas.
Drive and Make a Change work is continuing and adapting. For example, all Drive sites are running virtual multi-agency discussion and have revised their risk rating to prioritise perpetrators who are considered to be high risk under isolation and social distancing. Focus is being placed on de-escalation work. In some areas scope for co-ordinate multi-agency action to disrupt opportunities to abuse is being limited due to reduced capacity from police, social care and access to housing.
Resourcing Challenges for perpetrator services
- Resources: 25% of Respect’s members are furloughing staff – some up to 80% of their staff. This has a serious impact on provision of services.
- HR challenges: There is a big impact on frontline staff of moving to remote and video conferencing work - their privacy is compromised, or they feel self-conscious about this, it feels like having someone in their living room. Staff also need a lot of extra support to understand and use video conferencing. Service managers are also providing additional emotional resource to teams struggling with isolation. The process of furloughing staff is also a HR intensive one.
- The constant stream of requests for data and survey responses is a burden for small frontline providers at a busy time.
Programmatic challenges for perpetrator services
- Ability to provide services remotely: Lack of privacy/space in the home is making maintaining telephone call contact with perpetrators who had previously been engaging difficult. There are concerns about both victims and children hearing what should be confidential conversations. There is an urgent need to set up other forms of digital contact for perpetrators;
- In the scrabble to provide 'something' providers are concerned that it is very easy to make dangerous mistakes - its vital services have extra funding to develop things properly and quickly.
- Significant changes in ability to mobilise a multi-agency response due to capacity and diversion of resources particularly in policing and social care. This is impacting particularly on disruption activity - police and social care have less capacity to work on ‘disrupt’ activities in the way that they usually can.
Statutory partner challenges which impact on the perpetrator response
- When people are released from prison or issued with a DVPO/DVPN it is more difficult than it was before to find appropriate accommodation for them away from the victim and vulnerable children. Previous routes included other family members or housing options. Inappropriate housing solutions are likely to increase the risk of the perpetrator returning to the victim’s house.
- Reports that social services are very hard pressed and the thresholds for interventions have gone up such that families need to be in the grips of catastrophe before there is a response (reports from Barnados – Call to Action call)
- Negative and cumulative impact of closure of substance misuse services;
- Courts are avoiding custodial sentencing even when that is actually what is needed;
- There are concerns about the early release from prison programme. Whilst the DA Commissioner’s office had received assurances that the special Covid-19 early release programme would not include any perpetrators with a domestic abuse history, reports from the National Probation and Prison Service (Call to Action Call) suggest that where there is appropriate accommodation available for perpetrators, they are being considered for special covid-19 early release.
- It was noted that in the absence of other frontline face to face services, police were increasingly becoming the first responders in DA cases and therefore other right approach to victims and welfare checks for children was crucial (Call to Action call).
- With schools closed there are concerns about FGM (Call to Action call).
- ASKS OF GOVERNMENT
- There is an urgent need for a high-profile communication and awareness-raising campaign for those who are concerned about their own behaviour, or about the behaviour of friends, family or neighbours. The message that isolation is no excuse for abuse should land together with the messages targeted at victims, or as near as possible. People need clear options about where to get help and what the help looks like and its important that only information for what services are operating is included. We are hearing reports (several sources in the Call to Action call) of people thinking that police are not going to respond to perpetrators, so not calling.
A separate or linked campaign may be needed to direct families who are experiencing adolescent or child to parent violence to sources of help – as this has been identified as a growing problem. Comms will need to be at both local and national levels. Police forces such as South Wales OPCC and Police are taking a pro-active approach by partnering with youtubers, to deliver this kind of message.
We are aware that Home Office planning for a victim-framed campaign is already underway and that there are (less well developed) plans for a perpetrator focused campaign, these should be expanded and expedited. The need for a clear campaign was raised by many callers in the Call to Action on Perpetrators meeting.
- Finance: Charities need support to enable them to whether the economic storm and keep on delivering services – indeed intensify their provision to a one-on-one model – during this period f increased risk. Support is also needed to help deal with the extra HR, IT and programmatic design costs as organisations move to remote provision There is an urgent need to set up other forms of digital contact for perpetrators beyond telephone. In the scrabble to provide 'something' providers are concerned that it is very easy to make dangerous mistakes - its vital services have extra funding to develop things properly and quickly.
- Accommodation away from the victim for perpetrators. For victims, living in an institution, in the company of strangers, particularly with children and particularly in a lockdown situation, is not an easy prospect. The decision to go to refuge will be a very hard one and many women at desperate risk will chose not to. Where possible, the perpetrator should be moved and the victim enabled to stay in her own home – this is the approach that was taken in Italy.This is particularly relevant at perpetrators comes out of prison and now have limited options about where to stay. Government conversations about using spare budget hotel capacity in this time should include emergency accommodation for perpetrators.
- Clarity on the special early release scheme for prisoners. We have had indications that DA perpetrators are not in practice exempt from the special scheme (Call to Action call). Work is underway across Drive service and regions on proposals for measures that will assist with assessment and notifications prior to release as well as setting up a second line of defence with local police forces and community based notifications and will be shared when complete.
- Involvement of the DA Commissioner in appropriate high-level decision making to drive forward these issues.