Islands in the Stream: an evaluation of independent domestic violence advocacy scheme Independent Domestic Violence Advocacy support to high-risk victims can enhance safety and reduce repeat incidents
The two Trusts invested £1.3 million – increased to £2 million with match funding from statutory sources – to provide specialist support to four projects working with high-risk victims of domestic violence in London. Each scheme operated in a different borough and setting, including a police station, a community centre, and A&E department of a large hospital, and specialist service targeting Black and minority ethnic communities.
The evaluation, undertaken by Dr Maddy Coy and Professor Liz Kelly of the highly respected Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit, showed that:
- The vast majority of service users were female, and almost all perpetrators male;
- All the schemes demonstrated success in enhancing safety and levels of repeat referrals and further incidents of violence recorded by IDVAs were very low;
- High proportion of service users were from Black and minority ethnic communities, with significant numbers of women with no recourse to public funds;
- Some statutory agencies had a lack of understanding about the dynamics of domestic violence, especially how jealous and controlling behaviour impacts on women’s ability to act;
- Support for high-risk victims is only one part of an effective co-ordinated response. Local ‘wraparound’ specialist provision is essential for IDVAs to refer on to, and to prevent low to medium risk victims becoming high-risk;
- Serious concerns were raised about how some of the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (MARACs) were operating whilst recognising the potentially important role they play in making agencies accountable;
- The independence of the IDVA is critical if they are to be effective advocates for institutional change
Key recommendations of the report:
- Provision for victim-survivors of domestic violence needs to be comprehensive, available for those at low, medium and high risk, including refuges;
- Coercive control (jealous and controlling behaviour) should be regarded as a critical risk factor and should be systematically recorded;
- IDVAs should be based in a range of settings in order to increase access to specialist support;
- Operational issues about MARACs need to be addressed.
Find out more about our Independent Domestic Violence Advocacy special initiative