Developing the evidence base for innovation in social care for children and families affected by domestic abuse

Lead Research Organisation: University of Stirling
Department Name: Applied Social Science


WHY DO WE NEED THIS STUDY? Children and young people who live with domestic abuse (DA) are at risk of a range of negative mental health, educational and social outcomes. Despite increasing recognition in recent years of the impact of DA, we lack enough evidence of how to improve outcomes for children. Our team consulted with children and their carers in setting up this project and were told that there are too few good services to help children recover after DA, that some services (especially criminal justice and social care) do not listen enough to children and carers, and that there needed to be better communication between services. DA is major concern in public policy, but there is wide variation in what services children can access in different local authorities. People who commission services also note that there is not enough good evidence of what works in supporting children who have experienced domestic abuse.
Our study addresses this gap by assessing promising innovations in social care in England and Scotland in police and criminal justice, social work and in domestic abuse and children's organisations in England and Scotland. We will assess how these innovations have developed, how children and their carers experience the innovations and whether it improves their wellbeing and sense of safety, how the innovation changes service responses, and how easily the innovation could be used in other services, nationally and internationally. This will contribute to the evidence of what works in support for children who experience domestic abuse, and will also provide an understanding of how other
organisations in the UK and internationally might adapt and implement similar services effectively.
WHAT WILL THE STUDY INVOLVE? We will evaluate the client, service and implementation outcomes of 6 innovations: Safe and Together, which aims to improve social work responses to families who experience domestic abuse; Operation Encompass aims to ensure support to children after police have been called to a DA incident; an innovation to support children who want to be involved in Domestic Homicide Reviews after a loved one has died because of DA; and 4 interventions to support mothers and children or babies recovering from DA. We will work with children and carers through co-production groups to design, deliver and share our research. In each setting we will talk to children and their carer / parent about their experience of the service, and whether they felt it helped them. We will use questionnaires to assess whether the services positively impacted their wellbeing and feeling of safety. We will also talk to professionals who deliver the service, managers and other professionals, to explore what has worked well, what has worked less well, how other organisations could adapt and use the same kind of intervention. In addition, we will analyse routinely collected anonymous service data (like referral patterns, what happens to families after the service, whether they drop out, etc) to see if there is evidence that services have been improved because of the innovation. We will share what we learn with policy makers, practitioners and service managers. This will include our analysis of what works to support children who experience DA, but also our insights into how social care innovation can be built more broadly in a way that involves children and carers in service design, delivery and evaluation.
WHO WILL BENEFIT? By finding out what works, we will improve services and outcomes for children and carers affected by DA. People make policy and commission services will be better informed about the effectiveness of each innovation, and will also understand better how innovation can be supported in social care. Our project will also help to build the social care work force, with skills in supporting children affected by DA, and skills to work with children and carers to develop,deliver and evaluate innovative services in social care

Planned Impact

This is an ambitious project that draws together an interdisciplinary team of applied social scientists and voluntary and public sector innovators to enable a rigorous consideration of how innovation is developed and sustained in the social care sector, particularly in the field of domestic abuse. It is anticipated that this project will have a significant impact on several beneficiaries in policy, practice, and in the experiences of children and families affected by domestic abuse. Our project will contribute to the evidence base on innovative responses to children and young people (CYP) who experience domestic abuse . The research is co-produced, centring on the experiences of those who use domestic abuse services - particularly child survivors - and professionals who deliver services that support them. Innovative practices in social care will be evaluated at client, service and implementation level, enabling analysis of how innovative models

Our main beneficiaries are:
CHILDREN, YOUNG PEOPLE AND FAMILIES WHO HAVE EXPERIENCED DOMESTIC ABUSE: Research indicates CYP who experience domestic abuse are at particular risk of negative social, health, mental health and educational outcomes, but there is limited evidence of the best interventions to enhance resilience and reduce their risk of poor outcomes. Our participatory focus centres on CYP's experiences of services. This will enable the study to add significantly to evidence of good models of support for CYP and families, and will empower CYP and families by making their service
experiences more visible and understood, offering them a platform for advocacy and service change,and involving them in capacity building through the co-production of study design, delivery and outputs.
PRACTITIONERS AND MANAGERS IN SOCIAL CARE AND THE DOMESTIC ABUSE SECTOR: This project involves collaborative working with Local Authorities, domestic abuse and children's sector organisations and police and criminal justice organisations, to understand innovation in this area and how to maximise its potential. This will enable services to embed further innovations that work, and to adapt or transform innovative practice as needed. Our implementation science
based approach will enable recommendations on future implementation, upscaling and translation to contexts beyond the immediate partnership, benefiting social care / local authorities, domestic abuse organisations, children's sector organisations, and police throughout the UK and internationally.
By BUILDING CAPACITY IN SOCIAL CARE in the understanding of innovation and implementation science in social care, and in responses to children affected by domestic abuse, our collaborative approach will enhance skills and research infrastructure of partner organisations supporting research capacity building in the practice sphere, and will extend this learning beyond the project through public events and toolkits that will secure a legacy beyond the lifespan of the project.
POLICY MAKERS AND COMMISSIONERS: The project will also be of benefit to policy makers in informing the development of an evidence led and theoretically informed approach to developing social care and criminal justice responses to domestic abuse when children are involved. The study will contribute to policy, practice and public debates around domestic abuse, and services for survivors. These debates occur in a range of different context and spaces, and so dissemination efforts will take a range of different forms, including use of networks in Westminster and Scottish
Government to share findings at the highest level of policy development, stakeholder and knowledge exchange events, public exhibitions, policy forums, in person and written briefings for commissioners and professional bodies, and engagement with media / social media.


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