Protocol for information sharing between agencies and response to Domestic Abuse incidents (Police, Health, Children’s Social Care, Adult Social Care)
The purpose of this document is to outline the information sharing process between agencies and their agreed response to incidents of domestic abuse where children/unborn babies are a feature.
This protocol should be read in conjunction with Trafford Strategic Safeguarding Partnership (TSSP) Domestic Violence and Abuse Policy and the PAN Greater Manchester Safeguarding Procedures.
Levels of need / risk described in this protocol are consistent with the TSSP Levels of Need Document
What is Domestic Abuse?
From March 2013, the government has defined domestic violence and abuse as:
“Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members [Family members are: mother, father, son, daughter, brother, sister & grandparents; directly-related, in-laws or step-family] regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse:
‘Controlling or Coercive behaviour’ describes behaviour occurring within a current or former intimate or family relationship which causes someone to fear that violence will be used against them on more than one occasion, or causes them serious alarm or distress that substantially affects their day to day activities. It involves a pattern of behaviour or incidents that enable a person to exert power or control over another. This could take the form of isolating a partner from their friends and family, taking control of their finances, controlling what they wear or who they see, or tracking their movements through the internet or mobile phone use.
Controlling behaviour is: a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.
Coercive behaviour is: an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim”
This definition, includes so called ‘honour’ based violence, female genital mutilation and forced marriage, and is clear that victims are not confined to one gender or ethnic group.
It has been widely understood for some time that coercive control is a core part of domestic violence. As such the extension does not represent a fundamental change in the definition. However it does highlight the importance of recognising coercive control as a complex pattern of overlapping and repeated abuse perpetrated within a context of power and control.
Without the inclusion of coercive control in the definition of domestic violence and abuse, there may be occasions where domestic violence and abuse could be regarded as an isolated incident. As a result, it may be unclear to victims what counts as domestic violence and abuse – for example, it may be thought to include physical violence only. We know that the first incident reported to the police or other agencies is rarely the first incident to occur; often people have been subject to violence and abuse on multiple occasions before they seek help.
While the cross-government definition above applies to those aged 16 or above, ‘Adolescent to parent violence and abuse ‘(APVA) can involve children under 16 as well as over 16. See: Information guide: adolescent to parent violence and abuse (APVA), Home Office.
For more details of the national plans to tackle domestic violence and abuse see: Ending Violence against Women and Girls Strategy 2016 – 2020 (March 2016). This is intended to set out a life course approach to ensure that all victims – and their families - have access to the right support at the right time to help them live free from violence and abuse
Stalking and Harassment
Stalking and harassment occurs not only in a domestic abuse setting – people can be stalked by strangers or acquaintances too.
Stalking is a specific type of harassment, often described as a pattern of unwanted, fixated or obsessive behaviour which is intrusive, and causes fear of violence or serious alarm and distress. For example, a person following, watching or spying on someone else, or forcing contact with them through social media, might be considered as stalking.
Harassment offences involve a ‘course of conduct,’ or repeated actions, which could be expected to cause distress or fear in any reasonable person. This will often include repeated attempts to impose unwanted contact or communication on someone.
So- called ‘honour-based’ violence and forced marriage
So-called ‘honour- based’ violence is a crime or incident committed to protect or defend the so-called honour of the family or community. The term can cover a collection of practices used to control behaviour within families or other social groups, in order to protect perceived cultural and religious beliefs or honour. These crimes are included within the domestic abuse definition, but may also be carried out by people who are not partners or family members.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a collective term for a range of procedures which involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons. It is sometimes referred to as female circumcision, or female genital cutting. The practice is medically unnecessary, is extremely painful and has serious health consequences, both at the time when the mutilation is carried out, and in later life.
FGM has been classified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) into four major types, all of which may be relevant to the offences arising under the FGM Act 2003:
- Type I: Clitoridectomy: partial or total removal of the clitoris;
- Type II: Excision: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora;
- Type III: Infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal:
- Type IV: Other: all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterising the genital area.
This protocol provides guidance to Domestic Abuse Investigators concerning the method and responsibility for sharing information with health, and Children’s Social Care (CSC) professionals.
The protocol determines which domestic abuse incidents are referred to health and CSC professionals and provides a transparent system so that partner agencies are clear about the threshold for referral/interventions.
Risk Assessment: On attendance Police Officers carry out a risk assessment, which is line with Home Office and Force guidelines in respect of each reported domestic abuse incident.
This takes into account nationally agreed risk factors and the circumstances of each incident. The police will then respond accordingly to the identified risk, which in some cases may lead to an external agency referral and subsequent strategy meeting.
Information Sharing: Information involving incidents of domestic abuse will be shared with health and CSC professionals via the iOPS ‘Care Plan’ where the incident involves any of the following:
Any domestic abuse incident where a child under 18 resides at the location and a crime is recorded.
- Where no crime is recorded and this is the third reported domestic abuse incident within the previous 12 months when a child under 18 resides at the location.
- Any incident where the victim/informant is pregnant.
- Any incident where a child under 18 is a victim or perpetrator (i.e. actively involved), regardless of whether a crime is recorded.
- Any incident where a child under 18 has called the police.
- Any incident where there is a child abuse marker on the address.
- Any incident which is deemed so serious that information must be shared.
- Notification following previous information sharing/referral
- Any incident involving perpetrators subject to licence or community orders
Action following Police referrals to Health and Social Care
Referrals will be made by the Police, using the Care Plan (which include information from the Force wide Incident notification (FWIN) and DASH RIC (Domestic Abuse Stalking and Harassment Risk Indicator Checklist). The referral will be sent by secure e mail, normally within 24 hours of the domestic abuse incident, to
Children Social Care
Adult Social Care
TLCO Community Health Services
The Safeguarding Families team will securely email the police care plan/FWIN to the named child caseload holder depending on the child’s age (Health Visitor, School Nurse and the Named Midwife for Safeguarding) within 5 working days.
For children 16 and 17 years old who have finished school year 11 the information will be securely emailed to the School Nursing Team Area where the child previously attended school.
Where any child attended a school out of area or an independent setting, the information will be securely emailed to the relevant School Nursing Team based on their geographical address.
Where a police care plan/FWIN has been received including any 16/17 year olds the health practitioner in First Response reviews the list of CAFA to be undertaken on a weekly basis and will share this information with the young person’s GP practice.
The Safeguarding Families Team will securely email the police care plan/FWIN to the relevant Service Manager where the adult is open to their services within 5 working days.
Guidance for assessment
The following are risk and protective factors which need to be considered by First Response (and CSC if the case is already open) to assess the most appropriate level of response.
- Parent/Carer with mental health difficulties
- Pregnancy, post-natal, young babies and children in household
- Incidents becoming more frequent and/or violent in nature
- Recently separated and/or child contact issues
- Long term relationship characterised by violence/aggression
- Children directly witnessing the violence
- Children reporting violence
- Victim minimising effects of violence on self and children
- Child previously subject to a Child Protection Plan or currently on a child protection plan
- Socially isolated due to cultural diversity
- Contact with Greater Manchester Police to prevent incident escalating
- Domestic Violence Prevention Notice/ Order in place
- Awareness of impact of Domestic Abuse on self and children
- Ability to prioritise children’s needs above self and partner
- Support networks in place
- Other agency involvement in supportive capacity, e.g., TDAS, Victim Support, Relate, School, Health Services, Community Drugs or alcohol services, Independent Domestic Violence Advocate
- Perpetrator willing to engage with services
- Perpetrator left family home (consider increased risk of separation)
- Where an application for Claire’s Law has been made
Children Social Care – Guidance for response
On receipt of information relating to the domestic incident, First Response Team Manager will triage and decide, based on the risk or protective factors which level this meets on Trafford’s Level of Needs Document (see section 1). First Response will make a decision within 24 hours (Monday – Friday 08.30 am – 4.30 pm).
First Response may contact partner agencies for information as appropriate
Professionals should be aware of their own personal safety when following up visits to domestic abuse incidents in line with their own organisations health and safety policies (although this should never result in agencies withdrawing their services without multi-agency discussion/planning and risk assessment - if it’s dangerous for the professional - it’s dangerous for the child)
Individual agencies are responsible for the confidential, safe and secure storage of the information received.
Level 2 – Early Help / Prevention
If a decision is reached that no further action is required by First Response, a First Response SW will attempt telephone contact with the victim (to inform) if it is safe and appropriate to do so (victims are given information by Police when they are in attendance at an incident)
Early Help Panels taking place Monday – Thursday, from 9 – 10am, via Microsoft Teams, each focusing on a different Locality within Trafford:
- Monday covering the West Locality
- Tuesday covering the North Locality
- Wednesday covering the Central Locality
- Thursday covering the South Locality
The aim is that each panel will develop local intelligence and a membership that is reflective of the area children, young people and families live, with key members including:
- Trafford Council’s Children’s Services and Commissioning
- Health (School Nurse/Health Visiting)
- Youth Engagement Service
- Alcohol and Substance Misuse services
- Domestic Abuse services
- 3rd sector
- Voluntary organisations
Panels will ensure; early identification of emerging needs or trends within the community, so information is timely and coordinated among agencies as appropriate, and enable informed commissioning. They will also embed the approach that Early Help is everyone’s business and enable agencies and families to become experts on; where to go for help and advice, what is currently available and what people can do for themselves.
Level 3 - Intensive Family Support
Level 4 – Child In Need
This is the level at which a coordinated multi-agency response is required due to the child/young person’s complex or multiple needs. In these cases an Early Help Assessment (EHA) must be completed, a Family Support Meeting held and a case coordinator from the most appropriate agency appointed. The Family Support Meeting will determine the multi-agency support plan which will be regularly reviewed.
In these cases, it is possible that the EHA may uncover additional information which increases the risk to the child or children. Within Level 3, there are a group of children with more complex needs (for example those exposed to high levels of domestic abuse) who may be considered to be at the higher end of Tier 3 – it may, therefore be appropriate to re- refer to First Response at that point.
The decision to refer the child/young person should be taken at the Family Support Meeting based on the Early Help Assessment and Plan, the information shared which indicates that the current level of intervention is not improving the outcomes for the child/young person. If First Response accepts the referral an assessment will be completed by a social worker. Depending on the outcome of the assessment, the child may still be supported at Tier 3 but with social work involvement.
In this context consider the following to determine the level of risk:
- History of previous domestic violence.
- Serious incident which may have resulted in injury to an adult.
- Parent/carer with mental health issues (refer to Joint Protocol)
- Children of parents with mental health difficulties
- Concerns regarding drug/alcohol misuse.
- Moderate/severe learning disability.
- Risk/protective factors exist but the potential for change is unknown.
Level 5 - Child Protection
In these circumstances many risk factors exist and protective factors are either absent or insufficient to affect change.
Management of concerns at Levels 2 and 3 have proved unsuccessful. A decision may be made by First Response to undertake a section 47 investigation in which case a multi-agency strategy discussion and/or meeting will be held. The outcome of the strategy meetings may be:
- No further role for CSC
- Recommendation that the case is managed at Child in Need
- Recommendation that a case conference should be initiated
In those cases where the child is already an open case to social care, the Police will refer to First Response as described in this protocol. First Response will forward the information to the relevant social worker/family support team, whose responsibility it is to make a professional judgement regarding how to proceed with future management of the case in light of new information.
TLCO Community Health Services – Guidance for response
Health Visiting Services on receipt of the incident notification Health Visitor case load holder/duty HV should make an assessment using professional judgement regarding future management of the case AND contact First Response to share health information or any other relevant information they hold, and to ascertain First Response’s actions.
Health Visitor’s will follow the ‘Health Visiting Pathway to Domestic Violence and Abuse’ (See Appendices). This pathway includes a response in relation to positive routine domestic abuse enquiry and to receiving a police case plan/FWIN.
School Nursing services, will exercise Professional Judgement in the assessment of Police information received and take appropriate action. School nursing services will consider the need to share the information with other relevant Child Health services the child or young person may be accessing eg Community Paediatrics, HYM.
Midwifery services liaise with First Response Health Practitioner on a weekly basis around safeguarding concern and outcome of First Response actions; this includes any referrals/actions that First Response may be taking in relation to police care plans/FWIN where there is an unborn baby.
Adult Health services will exercise Professional Judgement in the assessment of Police information received and take appropriate action.
Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC)
The MARAC is a Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference for the highest risk victims of domestic abuse; it is a regular local meeting to discuss how to help victims at high risk of murder or serious harm. A domestic abuse specialist (Independent domestic violence advocate - IDVA), police, children’s social services, health and other relevant agencies all sit around the same table.
Every high risk case must be referred to MARAC. In a single meeting, MARAC combines up to date risk information with a timely assessment of a victim’s needs and links those directly to the provision of appropriate services for all those involved in a domestic abuse case: victim, children and perpetrator. The role of the MARAC is to facilitate, monitor and evaluate effective information sharing to enable appropriate actions to be taken to increase public safety.
The MARAC has been established in Trafford since 2007. The multi-agency conferences take place every 2 weeks which will increase in frequency to weekly and offer a combined response to high-risk domestic abuse cases across Trafford.
The objectives of the MARAC are:
- To share information to increase the safety, health and wellbeing of victims – adults and their children;
- To determine whether the perpetrator poses a significant risk to any particular individual or to the general community and to address the behaviour of the perpetrator;
- To construct jointly and implement a risk management plan that provides professional support to all those at risk and that reduces the risk of harm;
- To reduce repeat victimisation;
- To improve agency accountability; and
- Improve support for staff involved in high risk Domestic Abuse case
It is vital that Health, Education, Adult Social Care (ASC) Children Social Care (CSC) and Mental Health are represented at Trafford MARAC. These representatives should ensure that information from their agency is presented to MARAC to contribute to multi-agency risk assessment. In addition, MARAC outcomes should be shared with relevant professionals (within Health, Education, CSC, ASC, GMMH)
Victims should always be advised that their case is being referred to MARAC and their consent to share information must be sought. In cases where the victim unwilling to consent the victim must be advised that the case will be referred to the MARAC irrespectively.
Repeat MARAC referrals
A repeat MARAC case is one which has been previously referred to a MARAC within the same local authority area and at some point in the twelve months from the date of the last referral a further incident is identified.
Any agency may identify this further incident (regardless of whether it has been reported to the police).
A further incident includes any one of the following types of behaviour, which, if reported to the police, would constitute criminal behaviour:
- Violence or threats of violence to the victim (including threats against property), or
- A pattern of stalking or harassment, or
- Rape or sexual abuse.
Where a repeat victim is identified the case should be referred back to the MARAC regardless of whether the behaviour experienced by the victim meets the referral threshold of visible high risk, escalation or professional judgement.
Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS)
Clare Wood was murdered in 2009 by her ex-partner who had a history of Domestic Abuse. At the inquest, the Coroner said women in abusive relationships should have the right to know about the violent past of the men they are with.
The DVDS, also known as Clare’s Law, was introduced in 2013. The scheme allows disclosure of police information in order to protect a person from risk of harm.
There are two ways in which disclosure may be given;
- The Right to Ask: A victim or someone on their behalf can ask the police for information about the history of the person they are in an intimate relationship with. The disclosure of information will only be made to the victim and/or a person able to protect someone at risk.
- The Right to Know: Police may receive information or recognise that a person is at risk from a violent individual who they are in a relationship with. That person may be unaware of the risk or may not have recognised the risk. Police may disclose information to enable the victim to make an informed choice about safeguarding and support required to protect themselves and their family.
If a police officer attends a DA incident where they believe a victim is at risk and may benefit from disclosure, they:
- Must not disclose police information at the scene without authority and a full Care Plan risk assessment being completed;
- Should complete the Care Plan recording their concerns about the violent history of the perpetrator and requesting consideration for DVD be given; and
- Must set the risk level to at least Medium Risk to ensure that a specialist officer/ detective reviews the circumstances and request.
The disclosure of police information is regulated. There is a specific protocol for DVD. Any disclosure must be lawful, necessary and proportionate to protect a potential victim from further harm.