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10.4 Joint Protocol for the Management of Domestic Abuse Notification from Merseyside Police and Other Agencies

Contents

  1. Introduction  
  2. Aims of this Protocol
  3. Information Sharing  
  4. Contacts and Referrals to Children's Specialist Services from the Police
  5. Children's Specialist Services Response to Referrals and Notifications
  6. Contact and Referrals from Other Agencies (Other than the Police) 

    Appendix 1: Glossary of Terms

    Appendix 2: Wirral MARAC Contact List


1. Introduction

This joint protocol has been developed to meet the requirements set out in Every Child Matters and the Children Act 2004 that all services should work more closely together to promote the health and well-being of children and young people, their families and carers. This is a local protocol that has been agreed by LSCB partners. It is derived from the existing legal framework, statutory requirements and Wirral Child Protection Procedures but does not override them.

The protocol will be followed whenever there are concerns about the safety or wellbeing of children (including unborn children), whose parents or carers are involved in relationships that are affected by domestic abuse.

The Home Office defines domestic violence as, 1"any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between adults who are or have been in a relationship together, or between family members, regardless of gender or sexuality". The abuse may be psychological, physical, sexual, emotional or financial and is invariably linked with the abuser's desire for power and control. Broader definitions include young people who are themselves involved in abusive relationships and those affected by interfamilial feuds or so called "honour based violence" and pregnant teenagers up to 18 years old and women who are pregnant.

Before being officially categorised as a hate crime, domestic violence had a relatively low status within the criminal justice system. It was rarely (and, in some communities, never) reported and even more rarely resulted in the conviction of the perpetrator. As a consequence, little regard was given to the effects of domestic violence for children and young people who were growing up in households where this form of abuse was common. It is now recognised that domestic violence does present risks, not only for the victims and survivors of violent acts but also for the safety, the physical, emotional and intellectual development and the well-being of children within the household (Working Together to Safeguard Children 2010 (now archived)).

This recognition was embedded within the Adoption and Children Act (2002) which amended the definition of significant harm provided by the Children Act (1989) adding a new category of 'impairment suffered from seeing and hearing ill-treatment of another'.

1 homeoffice


2. Aims of this Protocol

2.1 To provide effective assistance to children and families who are affected by domestic violence.
2.2 To increase understanding of the impact of domestic violence on children's lives and parents' ability to care effectively for children.
2.3 To ensure that universal and specialist services improve the identification of children in need and children at risk of significant harm.
2.4 To ensure the provision of co-ordinated services to pregnant women and families affected by domestic violence.
2.5 To ensure effective cooperation, information sharing and collaborative decision-making between services.


3. Information Sharing  

The Government's Information Sharing protocol details when and in what circumstances information should be shared taking account of all the legal duties (Human Rights Act 1998, The Data Protection Act (1998) and the Children Act (2004). Where there is a clear risk of significant harm to a child, or serious harm to adults, the public interest test will almost certainly be satisfied. However there will be other cases where professionals will be justified in sharing some confidential information in order to make decisions on sharing further information or taking action - the information shared should be proportionate.

Circumstances in which sharing confidential information without consent will normally be justified in the public interest are:

  • When there is evidence that the child is suffering or is at risk of suffering significant harm;
  • Where there is reasonable cause to believe that a child may be suffering or at risk of significant harm;
  • To prevent significant harm arising to children or serious harm to adults, including through the prevention, detection and prosecution of serious crime (serious crime means any crime which causes or is likely to cause significant harm to a child or serious harm to an adult).


4. Contacts and Referrals to Children's Specialist Services from the Police

All contact and referrals to Children's Specialist Services through IFD or Area teams will have been screened by the Family Crime Investigation Unit (FCIU).

Referrals are cases that need immediate Section 47 enquiries by Children and Young People's Social Care and

Notifications are incidents which do not need immediate response, but allow CYPD and all other agencies to build a picture of any potential risk.

The following points will be prompts for either notification and or referral:  

  • When a child is used as a shield
  • Where the victim is a pregnant woman
  • Where the victim is assessed as high risk through MERIT (Merseyside Risk Assessment Tool) assessment and there is a child in the household
  • When a child is injured
  • When a child has called the police
  • When a case is referred to MARAC and children are member of the household
  • Where professional judgement is that there are other risks of significant harm to a child (Significant Harm is defined by the Children Act 1989 as the threshold that justifies compulsory intervention in family life in the best interests of children by way of section 47 enquires and possibly investigation).

The attending officer will have completed a MERIT form to score and assess the level of risk to the victim and children.  The initial police response will generally be generated from a 999 call or a call received by Police call handlers at Wallasey Police station.

A computerised Log is created by the call handlers on the Police Storm system and a police patrol will be dispatched immediately. A running log will be kept of the actions of that particular patrol and a rationale regarding their decisions. ALL Domestic Violence incidents are graded as a priority and a patrol will attend an ongoing incident within ten minutes. If the victim calls within that ten minutes and cancels the Police the patrol will still attend and assess the safety of the victim and their family.

Police risk assessment

As soon as the victim's address is placed on the Storm system a risk assessment for the victim and their family commences. If the caller or their address is known to the Police, the Storm system will 'flag up' the details of any previous Domestic Violence calls and this will be conveyed to the Officer. For example, if the caller is a Gold Victim. The Patrol dispatched to that call is updated with the known history as they are traveling to the scene.

All other, available Police systems are checked for any further relevant intelligence and that is also used in determining the actions of the Police.

When a Patrol attends a Domestic Violence related incident they will deal with the matter in the most appropriate manner on the evidence that is available to them at the time. For example, this may take the form of an arrest for a criminal offence or disorder. Advice and guidance may be given to resolve an already volatile situation. The victim or perpetrator may be voluntarily transported away to another chosen location to alleviate the situation, a decision will be made on a Police Protection Order and any other appropriate intervention.

Whatever decision is made the safety of the victim and, especially, the children, present at the scene, is paramount.

At each and every Domestic Violence incident that the Police attend the patrol will complete a VPRF1 Form, which is the second stage of the ongoing risk assessment for that particular family. The form contains a list of 40 pertinent questions to the victim, which have been purposely worded, to elicit as much information about the victim and family as possible. The attending Officer will use this information to make that initial decision on what is required to keep that family safe for the immediate future.

Once the initial call has been dealt with in the most appropriate manner the VPRF Form is forwarded to the Domestic Violence Unit for their information and action. A trained DVU Merit risk assessor then risk assesses the family again using all other Police systems not available to the attending Officer. e.g. INI checks.

This part of the risk assessment is designed to identify the most 'at risk' victims and families, which are graded Bronze, Silver and Gold. The grading take into account the actual incident and its severity, and other factors such as how many other calls have been made in the past, drink, drugs, pregnancy, and children of the family.

The risk assessor categorizes the victim on a points system from the 40 questions listed on the VPRF1. This is by no means exhaustive and previous risk assessments on the same victim are also used together with information contained on the Storm Log to ensure a comprehensive risk assessment can be carried out. 

The risk assessor / imputer will then create an entry on the Merseyside Police Protect system to reflect the incident reported. The protect entry contains the risk assessment and the rational behind it. Once such a disposal decision has been made, the record is then forwarded to a supervisor for a final decision as to the disposal of the record.

Bronze interventions

  • Officers at the scene spoken to parties (At scene intervention)
  • Provide with contact details on VPRF 1 (At scene intervention)
  • Arrest (At scene intervention)
  • QA of action at scene (Immediate intervention)
  • If children at risk consider referral to Children's Services
  • (Immediate intervention)
  • Letters to victims offering help from FCIU (Immediate intervention)

Silver interventions

  • Contact victim - t/p or visit (Immediate intervention)
  • Signpost to support services - DRUG AND ALCOHOL TEAMS (Dysfunctional factors present)
  • Signpost to programmes - FOR VICTIMS (e.g. Freedom Programme) - FOR PERPETRATORS (e.g. NSPCC voluntary programme) - FOR YOUNG PEOPLE AT RISK OF BECOMING PERPETRATORS (e.g. CHANGING PLACES) CONSIDER ESPECIALLY WHEN PSYCHOLOGICAL ISSUES ARE PRESENT (Immediate intervention)
  • Children's Services referral (Immediate intervention)
  • TAU markers (Immediate intervention)
  • Equipment (target hardening, alarms, mobile phones etc). (Immediate intervention) Improve home security through crime prevention officers (Immediate and long-term intervention) (Breakdown risk factors present)
  • Consider ASBO - Consider CRASBO

Gold interventions

  • Visit by uniform/neighbourhood officers to selected individuals (Immediate and long-term intervention)
  • Threat Assessment (at scene intervention)
  • Referral to IDVA (Immediate and long-term intervention)
  • Work with IDVA to assist victims to develop safety plans (e.g. Prepare an exit plan with trusted neighbour, create a codeword, arrange a safe place for children to go, have money hidden) (Immediate and long-term intervention)
  • Intelligence Package (Long-term intervention)
  • MARAC (Long-term intervention) - MAPPA (Long-term intervention)

IF SOCIAL ISOLATION, UNCOOPERATIVE VICTIM, ABUSE TO PETS, MENTAL HEALTH AND SEPARATION RISK FACTORS ARE PRESENT NOTE THERE IS A STRONG LIKELIHOOD OF FUTURE VIOLENCE TO THE VICTIM

If the victim is graded GOLD, this indicates that the person is deemed at high risk of harm. The details of the family are then automatically referred through to the Family Safety Unit as part of the information sharing protocol process and also to the CYPD Central Advise Duty Team on a multi agency referral form when children are identified as part of the family.

Independent Domestic Violence Advocates then carry out a separate risk assessment to satisfy their own standards and refer onto MARAC if appropriate and in all cases on the most appropriate care package for that family. The Police are in daily contact with the FSU constantly reviewing what services are required at each stage of the investigation.

The Police will deal with any criminal matters, imposing and policing stringent Bail Conditions. Markers are placed on the address for any other calls to be treated as urgent. The Local Police Inspector, their team and Community Support Officers are advised that they have a GOLD victim living in their neighbourhood and a watching brief is implemented. In addition to this, an intelligence log is created for the individuals involved.

The Police will then react to any information supplied by the FSU or CYPD.


5. Children's Specialist Services Response to Referrals and Notifications

 

Referrals are cases that need immediate Section 47 enquiries by Children and Young People's Social Care and

Notifications are incidents which do not need immediate response, but allow CYPD and all other agencies to build a picture of any potential risk.
5.1

Children's Specialist Services will on receipt of a referral or notification:

  • Check databases to see whether the child(ren) are already and open case or had previous involvement
  • Check the TAC database to ascertain whether there is a lead professional for the child(ren) or whether they had been previously known under the TAC process.
  • Review all the information and consider the level of risk posed to the children and whether this is immediate and or likely in the future. The manager will decide whether and how the incident/concern is responded to from the information on the contact and databases.
5.2 Serious and severe incidents will render children within the household liable to significant harm and these children should be referred for urgent assessment under Section 47 enquiries and investigation. These cases will be dealt with as a joint investigation with the police under the LSCB child protection procedures. Other agencies will contribute to the enquiry and or investigation following the LSCB procedures.  Referrals to Children's Specialist Services must always be competed on the Wirral LSCB multi-agency referral form. Forms are sighted at Wirral LSCB website
5.3 In cases assessed by the police as not requiring an immediate response but concern still remains about the well-being of the child(ren) a referral should be made to Children's Specialist Services who will assess whether a Social Work Assessment of Needs and Strengths is required to ascertain whether the child(ren) is in need: for guidance on thresholds for intervention see Integrated Working Guide. These cases will be dealt with by Children's Specialist Services as the lead agency with other agencies contributing to the assessment of need.
5.4

Response to notifications-

All notifications will be dealt with by IFD or District Office by, initially the administrative, staff checking any previous notifications that may have been received and any other information held regarding the child or family.  This information will be shared with partner agencies by informing them of the notification from the police.  Partner agencies, other than the Police and Children's Social, should consider this information in light of any concern, or not, that may be held in respect to the child(ren). This will be done by informing the Single Point of Contact (SPOC) within each agency of the notification.  The SPOC list is attached to this guidance.  Agencies receiving this information may want to clarify the notification or raise a referral after considering the information in light of what they already know about the child(ren).


6. Contact and Referrals from Other Agencies (Other than the Police)

6.1 In any assessment (Common Assessment CAF, or Social Work Assessment of Needs and Strengths) the family background information should consider significant relationships and whether domestic violence has been a feature of the background.
6.2 As well as direct disclosures from children or the survivor of the abuse, domestic violence may be identified through hospital/medical reports of incidents. Children's Services staff who are reviewing such contacts/reports should have access to domestic violence single point of contact within each agency (see appendix ) to assist the process of assessment for immediate action and, where necessary, for contacting the non-abusing parent/carer.
6.3 Schools and other providers of direct services for children and young people should be particularly vigilant to the safeguarding needs of children known to be at risk through domestic violence. Children will react and cope in different ways to the traumas that they will experience and there are no definitive signs or disorders associated with domestic violence.
6.4 When contact is made with Children's Specialist Services and the information refers to domestic violence witnessed by children and where they have been present within a household these should be treated as children at risk.
6.5

The use of Team Around the Child -

The TAC process is not appropriate for children and families where domestic violence is:

  • A current feature or risk and
  • or there is ongoing contact with a person who poses a risk
It may be appropriate to have a TAC for children when domestic violence has been a feature and there is no longer a current risk.


Appendix 1: Glossary of Terms

Merit  Merseyside Risk Identification Toolkit
Bronze Low Risk
Silver Medium Risk
Gold High Risk
VPRF 1 Vulnerable Person Referral Form
Marac  Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference
IFD Central Advice & Duty Team, Children & Young People's Department
FCIU Family Crime Investigation Unit
FSU Family Support Unit

Section 47, Children Act 1989

Human Rights Act 1998

Data Protection Act 1998

Children Act 2004

Adoption and Children Act 2002


Appendix 2: Wirral MARAC Contact List

Click here to view Appendix 2: Wirral MARAC Contact List.

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