How DV-ACT Assessments Safeguard Children in Care Proceedings
DV-ACT experts have worked for many years to provide independent assistance to the family court and are proud to work alongside legal professionals to keep children safe from domestic and sexual abuse.
We know that care proceedings cases are increasing in the UK with an ever increasing pressure to reduce timescales and costs without loosing the focus on the safety of the child/ren. This post will explain how DV-ACT assessments provide vital expert opinion to the courts in order to safeguard children from domestic and sexual abuse.
The need for Domestic Abuse Expert Assessments
With an average of 88 children taken into care each day, a survey by the Local Government Association in 2019 asked lead councillors for children's services to explain why, in their view, there had been a 53% rise in child-protection cases. More than 80% identified domestic violence and substance misuse as being behind the increased numbers. Recent figures by Cafcass show that between between April 2019 and March 2020, it received a total of 13,575 care applications from local authorities with cases lasting, on average, 32 weeks.
The impact of the Coronavirus crisis on families is as yet unknown, but there is an expectation that it will cause an increase in domestic abuse cases for local authorities to deal with and the most serious of these continuing to the family court. DV-ACT has continued to complete assessments during the crisis and is well placed to provide courts with independent expert advice with the primary aim of safeguarding children from abuse.
How DV-ACT assessments assist the court
Where domestic abuse and sexual offending is a concern DV-ACT assessments provide the following:
Insight into the dynamics of domestic abuse – We offer a level of clarity and insight into the dynamics of abuse and ongoing risks within the family, including an expert opinion on specific issues of concern such as whether the couple have genuinely separated and who the primary perpetrator is. On a number of occasions DV-ACT has been approached by mental health and other child protection professionals who feel that despite their expertise, they do not have the training and experience needed to comment on the risks posed by domestic abuse.
Swift responses - We are always keenly aware of the need to move matters forward swiftly, particularly regarding the children's timescales. DV-ACT have a professional reputation for providing reports within the greatly reduced timescales of 4 - 6 weeks and will meet court dates wherever possible. Preliminary reports are available within just 2 weeks to provide an outline of static risk/vulnerability factors and an indication of dynamic factors while also giving an early view on treatment suitability and prognosis for change.
Relevant expertise - It cannot be assumed that professionals such as psychologists, psychiatrists, or those with experience in other areas of child protection work, have the specialist knowledge and experience to assess the complex risks to children presented by domestic violence and abuse. All DV-ACT assessors possess the competencies and expertise outlined in the 2012 guidelines for the commissioning of expert domestic violence risk assessments. Further details on how our Assessors meet these guidelines can be found in our post 'What is the essential criteria for commissioning a domestic abuse expert?'
"those commissioning domestic violence risk assessments should seek out practitioners who have applied knowledge of risk assessment methodology, and the capacity to apply findings from the research literature to the specifics of the case, as well as experience of direct work with domestic violence perpetrators and victims.” - Dr Chris Newman Guidance for Commissioners of Domestic Violence Risk Assessments in Family Law proceedings May 2012
Specialised assessments - DV-ACT provide a number of assessments that include perpetrator, vulnerability (victim impact), both parents (joint), whole family, third party and sexual offending.
Specialising in complex cases - our assessors have completed cases involving a number of issues such as female perpetrators, cultural imperatives, non-English speakers, same sex relationships and multiple partners. Please visit our assessments page for further information.
A child centred approach - Regardless of the type of report that is completed, the safety of the child is the main consideration in the forming of all of our assessments.
Assessments that can reduce the need for Care Orders – We can often identify realistic treatment options and risk management strategies that reduce the need for care orders and the financial, social and emotional costs of removing children.
Experienced expert witnesses - All of our assessment reports can be used in court proceedings and our experts have many years' experience in the family courts as specialists and expert witnesses.
Independent - DV-ACT is an independent organisation with all assessments funded on a spot purchase basis.
Further details on the types of assessments we provide can be found on our assessment page, printable documentation is available on our resources page. For information on how to make a referral please contact us using the details below, you can also visit our post 'how to make a DV-ACT referral'
CVs for our available assessors are provided upon request, brief profiles of our assessors can be found on our meet the team page.
Please note that we are continuing to provide expert assessments to our normal timescales throughout Coronavirus restrictions. All DV-ACT staff are currently working from home and are available at this time.
Our experts have decades of experience working directly with domestic abuse perpetrators and victims, as specialist assessors and as expert witnesses in the family courts.
DV-ACT was formed with the aim of using our expertise to help safeguard children from abuse, this is at the heart of everything that we do.