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New standards for domestic abuse perpetrator interventions

The new standards are intended to encourage a consistent approach to an area where the evidence base is weak in many cases

The Home Office has today published new standards for domestic abuse perpetrator interventions. The standards are intended to foster a consistent approach to determining the quality of perpetrator interventions, particularly on safeguarding and victim and survivor safety. In the 2022 Tackling Domestic Abuse Plan, the Home Office set out its intention to work with Durham University, Respect, and SafeLives to develop these standards. Seven standards have been developed, and each of the 7 standards are linked to practice guidelines.

The report was written by: Professor Nicole Westmarland (Durham University Centre for Research into Violence and Abuse) and Professor Liz Kelly (London Metropolitan University Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit).

Typology 

One of the key tasks was to develop a typology of interventions in a field which until relatively recently was limited to behaviour change group work with perpetrators of intimate partner violence and abuse (known as domestic violence perpetrator programmes (DVPPs) or domestic abuse perpetrator programmes (DAPPs)).

Systems change work was excluded, such as Safe and Together, Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) and Multi-Agency Tasking and Coordination (MATAC), since although these may result in interventions, they are not in themselves direct perpetrator interventions.

Interventions that are not specific to domestic abuse perpetrators, for example being arrested by the police, were also excluded. The standards do not currently cover include interventions delivered by HMPPS.

The standards cover four main types of intervention:

Help-seeking – This covers interventions established for people to talk about their behaviour at an early point. They are usually brief interventions that operate as a pathway into other responses. 

Early responses – This covers work that is a step before long term behaviour change – it may involve group or one to one work to provide information about domestic abuse, and/or to motivate perpetrators to consider a behaviour change programme. These are usually shorter-term interventions. 

Behaviour change work – For those where abuse has become an ongoing pattern, longer term interventions (these standards propose at least 22 weeks) offer the possibility of rethinking and changing how they relate to others. Often combined with risk and needs assessment, individual one to one work where needed, case management and multi-agency processes. 

Intensive multi-agency case management – Has emerged to work with ‘high harm, high risk’ cases identified by police on the basis of repeat call outs and/or multiple victims but could also cover other harm and risk levels. The key characteristic here is direct work backed up by a systems response – the coordination of agency responses, it can also include individual one to one work.

The standards 

The researchers acknowledge that the evidence base on interventions is weak in many areas. They started by conducting a rapid evidence review to capture academic literature and then reviewed other sets of standards from around the world. This was supplemented by practice-based evidence through a series of 16 roundtables attended by 297 practitioners and policy makers. A small number of victim-survivors (8) and perpetrators who had accessed interventions (7) were also consulted.

The researchers caution that that there are already three existing sets of accreditation standards in the UK that these new standards need to complement rather than be in tension with. They emphasises that the new standards are not a replacement for accreditation, but rather a higher-level set of principles that can be applied when making decisions about commissioning. 

The seven standards are:

  1. The priority outcome for perpetrator interventions should be enhanced safety and freedom (space for action) for all victim-survivors, including children.
  2. Interventions should be located within a wider co-ordinated community response in which all agencies share the responsibility of holding abusive behaviour in view, enabling change in perpetrators and enhancing the safety and freedom (space for action) of victim-survivors and their children.
  3. Interventions should hold perpetrators to account, whilst treating them with respect, and offering opportunities to choose to change.
  4. The right intervention should be offered to the right people at the right time.
  5. Interventions should be delivered equitably with respect to protected characteristics that intersect and overlap.
  6. Interventions should be delivered by staff who are skilled and supported in responding to domestic abuse.
  7. Monitoring and evaluation of interventions should take place to improve practice and expand the knowledge base.
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