ENGLAND – Health and social care staff must look out for signs of domestic violence

New draft guidance published by NICE


New draft guidance on identifying and preventing domestic violence and abuse (including psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional abuse) between family members or between people who are (or who have been) intimate partners has been published by the National institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). The guidance, which includes contributions from researchers at the University of Bristol, covers adults and young people who are experiencing (or have experienced) domestic violence, and children who are exposed to domestic violence. 

Gene Feder, Professor of Primary Health Care at the University of Bristol’s School of Social and Community Medicine and Chair of the group which developed the draft guidance, said:

“Domestic violence and abuse poses a major challenge to public health, social care and health care services, yet often goes unrecognised by professionals in those sectors. This draft guidance details how health and social care professionals can identify and respond to violence and abuse between family members or between people who are or have been intimate partners. The guidance highlights the important role of specialist domestic violence and abuse agencies, largely based in the voluntary sector, in preventing future violence and improving the life of survivors.  It outlines clear recommendations that, if implemented, will ensure that health care, social care and specialist services engage with domestic violence and abuse as part of a wider societal response to this major breach of human rights.”

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, one of the stakeholders of the guidance said:

“This draft guidance reflects best practice in both the health and social care sectors, from commissioning to aftercare, and, if implemented, will give survivors of domestic violence greater confidence in our public services and much more support to escape abuse. We look forward to providing our support to the draft guidance in the upcoming consultation period.”

The draft recommendations are aimed at health and social care service managers, professionals, commissioners, service providers, GPs and specialist domestic violence and abuse staff. The areas covered by the draft guidance include: commissioning and planning services; setting up local partnerships to prevent domestic violence and abuse; creating an environment for disclosing domestic violence and abuse; overcoming barriers to accessing services; identifying domestic violence and abuse in children and young people; and commissioning programmes for people who perpetuate domestic violence and abuse.

The draft recommendations include:

  • Health and social care professionals should ensure relevant staff are trained to recognise when domestic violence and abuse may be taking place and ask relevant questions if the evidence suggests it may be occurring.
  • Health and social care commissioners and service providers should:

1. identify any barriers people may face when trying to get help for domestic violence and abuse, and introduce a strategy to overcome these barriers.
2. train staff who have direct contact with people affected by domestic violence and abuse in equality and diversity issues, including those working with people who perpetuate violence and abuse.


• ensure staff assumptions about people’s beliefs and values, for example in relation to ‘honour’, do not stop them identifying and responding to domestic violence and abuse.
• ensure interpretation services are confidential, which is often a concern in black and minority ethnic communities.
• ensure interpretation services are carried out by professionals and do not rely on the use of family members or friends.
• ensure people who may be experiencing domestic violence and abuse have the option to be seen alone (a person may have multiple abusers and friends or family members may be colluding in the abuse).

The draft guidance will be available on the NICE website in due course.


SOURCE: Family Law Week

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