How can housing associations help protect children from the effects of domestic abuse?

A new programme aims to help housing providers put in place a coordinated and effective response to domestic abuse in their properties

Sophie Bell is Implementation Manager for Domestic Abuse, Recovering Together at NSPCC

Sophie Bell is Implementation Manager for Domestic Abuse, Recovering Together at NSPCC

26 November 2018

We work with people every day who have experienced domestic abuse, so we are all too aware of the psychological impact it can have on families and the risk it has to their safety.

One in four women have experienced domestic abuse. While it can happen in any relationship and both males and females can be abused or be abusers, there is strong evidence that demonstrates females are more likely to be affected by extreme domestic abuse.

Alongside adults, around one in five children have been exposed to domestic abuse. In 2017/18, Childline delivered over 8,000 counselling sessions to young people concerned about parents involved in domestic abuse. These children are more likely to be abused themselves, and witnessing abuse in the home can have a negative long-term effect on these children.

A fundamental starting block to helping these families to recover is a safe and secure home environment. This is where housing providers can help, but what more can they do to support tenants who experience domestic abuse?

A collaborative response to domestic abuse

A programme like Domestic Abuse, Recovering Together™ (DART) could enable housing providers to have in place a coordinated and effective response to domestic abuse in their properties. It’s a 10 week programme for mothers and children aged 7-14 who have experienced domestic abuse.  Through DART, mothers and children meet weekly for a two-hour group session where mothers learn about how domestic abuse happens and how it affects children. The children take part in activities that help them to understand domestic abuse, how they are feeling and how to keep themselves safe.

DART could be used with a range of tenants, including mothers and children who have had to flee their homes and are living in a domestic abuse refuge service, or to support families to stay in their own homes.

Identifying domestic abuse

A lack of awareness of the signs of domestic abuse can mean it can easily be misidentified. Where this happens, tenancies can be put in jeopardy. To those outside the home without an awareness of the signs, abusive behaviour is often misidentified as antisocial behaviour (ASB), which can result in eviction. Interestingly, 40% of tenants who are suffering domestic abuse have had ASB complaints made against them. It’s not surprising then that domestic abuse accounts for over one in ten people who require local authority support for homelessness in England.

Does it work?

Yes. We know that DART can make a positive difference to families. We’ve evaluated its impact on families who completed the programme. On completing the programme, almost two thirds of mothers with low self-esteem reported substantial improvements and children had fewer emotional and behavioural difficulties. Mothers also reported more affection towards their children. For some mothers, the programme had helped convince them not to return to an abusive partner.

Making a success of it

The NSPCC knows that sometimes it can be hard to embed a new initiative or service, so we have a team dedicated to supporting others to take on DART. We do this by delivering training for staff on how to deliver DART, providing training manuals to help you promote the service, and offering ongoing guidance around implementation. A ‘Train the Trainer’ course is also available for organisations that wish to train their own staff’. If you’re interested in delivering DART and want to find out more, please contact



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