An innovative coming together of public agencies is getting results for survivors of domestic abuse. Liz Close of Doncaster Children’s Services Trust talked to two women who are living proof of the benefits.
Nationally, some 130,000 children live in homes where there is a high risk of domestic abuse. It’s estimated that only half of these children are known to children’s social care. Yet the majority are known to at least one public agency.
How can agencies work together to better serve the 2.1m women and men, and their children, who suffer domestic abuse every year?
To tackle this problem, Doncaster Children’s Services Trust has created Growing Futures – a ground-breaking partnership that brings social services together with multiple facets of the town’s workforce.
“He hit me in front of my son. I decided I had to do something, because I knew I couldn’t allow my son to grow up thinking this is the right way to treat women.” Stacey, 21.
Two Doncaster mothers have shared the powerful stories of their recovery through the Trust-led partnership. They have emerged from, in their own words, “a lifetime of abuse,” after accessing specialist help at the Doncaster branch of Changing Lives – a vital partner of the Trust.
Changing Lives is a national, registered charity which provides specialist services throughout England to vulnerable people and their families. Both Stacey, 21, and Sarah, 23, say they now have positive aspirations for the future and for their young children.
Stacey has a two-year-old boy. She grew up witnessing domestic violence between her parents as a child. Despite vowing that she would never accept a violent relationship, she discovered after becoming pregnant that her partner had a police record he hadn’t disclosed to her.
This meant intervention from social services throughout Stacey’s pregnancy and after the baby was born.
“I couldn’t go to bed without tidying up the entire house, worrying that if I didn’t, they’d say he might be taken away,” says Stacey. “I felt low. I was worried and stressed about what they thought and what might happen, constantly questioning myself and my ability to bring up a child.
“I didn’t blame social services. They had to keep the baby safe. The father was a big risk.
“He would stand outside threatening to burn my house down. I had to pay him in beer to look after my son because he wouldn’t look after him while I went to work. He hit me in front of my son. I decided I had to do something, because I knew I couldn’t allow my son to grow up thinking this is the right way to treat women.”
“There is help out there. People are willing to talk to you. I’ve come from a background of abuse, from being born. And now, I’ve got aspirations.” Sarah, 23.
At Changing Lives, Stacey completed courses and one-to-one therapies. She became friends with Sarah, who has three young children.
“Every relationship I’ve been in has been abusive in one way or another, whether it’s been physical or emotional,” says Sarah. “I found that I had eventually become the abuser. Things went really sour when I was pregnant with my last child. My partner had me in headlocks and was breaking into my house.
“I’m feeling positive now. We [Stacey and I] are going to get where we need to be, through Changing Lives.
“There is help out there. People are willing to talk to you. I’ve come from a background of abuse, from being born. And now, I’ve got aspirations. I want to do for other people what Changing Lives has done for me.”
Led by Doncaster Children’s Services Trust, Growing Futures has brought together education, health services, South Yorkshire police and voluntary agencies like Changing Lives, to deliver immediate therapeutic interventions for families.
Central to developing this cutting edge support is a team of domestic abuse navigators (DANS). The Trust created the DANS roles last year, after securing £3.1m of Department for Education funding to deliver the innovative project.
The combined expertise of the DANS represents the best in social work and specialist domestic violence experience. More than 70 young men and women have accessed the Growing Futures programme at Changing Lives, with hundreds more being supported via other partners and bespoke interventions from DANS.
Cherryl Henry-Leach (pictured right), Growing Futures operations manager at the Trust, said: “Growing Futures works from the belief that people can change. While safety is the number one priority, this model allows us the freedom to tailor support according to specific needs, with a clear focus on children and young people.
“We couldn’t succeed in our vision without us as children’s services bringing together partners from across the borough. We’re really pleased with how far we’ve come together in the few months since the launch of the programme.”2286 Views