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Safeguarding children affected by domestic abuse

To be used in conjunction with the Wales Safeguarding Procedures

Who is this practice guide for?

This guide is primarily for practitioners working with children (up to the age of 18).

This includes those working in early years, social care, education, health, the police, youth offending and youth, community and family support services (including the third sector) and foster care and residential care.

What is this guide for?

Safeguarding children is a responsibility shared by everyone in contact with children.

The Wales Safeguarding Procedures support individuals and agencies across Wales to understand their roles and responsibilities in keeping children and adults safe. They support a consistent approach to safeguarding practice and procedures.

This practice guide provides additional information about safeguarding responses where a child is affected by domestic abuse. It should be used in conjunction with the Wales Safeguarding Procedures.

Effective safeguarding arrangements in every local authority area should be underpinned by two key principles:

There are some issues which are common across safeguarding practice guides and some which are specific to the safeguarding issue being considered here:

The Act covers all forms of gender based violence in recognition that both men and women are victims of violence; threats of violence or harassment arising directly or indirectly from values, beliefs or customs relating to gender or sexual orientation; and also forced marriage. Protection is a critical aspect of this work; public services need to work together to protect those who are currently experiencing violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence from suffering any further harm, and protect any children within the family setting. A whole-systems approach to multi-agency risk management is recommended to minimise crisis management where possible and relevant.

What do we mean by Domestic Abuse?

The Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015 sets out that:

“abuse” means physical, sexual, psychological, emotional or financial abuse;

“domestic abuse” means abuse where the victim of it is or has been associated with the abuser;

“gender-based violence” means— a) violence, threats of violence or harassment arising directly or indirectly from values, beliefs or customs relating to gender or sexual orientation; b) female genital mutilation; c) forcing a person (whether by physical force or coercion by threats or other psychological means) to enter into a religious or civil ceremony of marriage (whether or not legally binding);

“Violence against women”, should be read as also including male victims of gender-based violence (GBV) unless the context suggests otherwise.

Peer relationship abuse

Peer relationship abuse is a pattern of actual or threatened acts of physical, sexual, and / or emotional abuse, perpetrated by an adolescent (between the ages of 13 and 18) against a current or former partner. Abuse may include insults, coercion, social sabotage, sexual harassment, threats and / or acts of physical or sexual abuse.

Children who are harmed and children who harm should both be treated as children who may have care and support needs, and professionals should bear in mind that a child may be a perpetrator and also a victim of violence.

What is coercive control?

It is a criminal offence in England and Wales for someone to subject someone else to coercive control. This form of abuse must be reported to the police. Coercive control3 is when a person with whom someone is personally connected, repeatedly behaves in a way which makes the victim feel controlled, dependent, isolated or scared. The following types of behaviour are common examples of coercive control:

Parental conflict

Evidence base

The 10 principles of “Ask and Act”

“Ask and Act” is a process of targeted enquiry to be practiced across the relevant authorities (as named in the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act) to identify violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence. Relevant authorities are local authorities, Local Health Boards; fire and rescue authorities and National Health Service trusts. This is because the Welsh Government “Ask and Act” training programme is being rolled out to these organisations. However, should other organisations wish to adopt “Ask and Act”, there is guidance to assist them in understanding what good practice looks like and how those who work directly with people should behave during their interaction with people.

  1. Violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence require a Public Service response. Professional confidence to identify these issues, to ask about them and to respond effectively is fundamental for good practice across the relevant authorities.

  2. Those who disclose violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence should mirror the diversity of the population of the locality.

  3. The Public Service has an important role to play in addressing these issues, by supporting clients and strengthening the services they receive. A more consistent approach to identifying those who experience violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence, assessing risk and referring appropriately is required across Wales.

  4. Clients will not always tell professionals about their experience without being prompted. It is the professional’s role to consider whether it would be appropriate to ask direct and sensitive questions within a safe, confidential environment.

  5. Clients require clarity of how their confidentiality will be treated.

  6. Whilst never an interrogation, “Ask and Act” is not a single intervention. Every question is an opportunity to offer support. A process of targeted enquiry should include follow-up with victims beyond identification and repeat questions.

  7. Having a conversation with a client is preferable to use of a screening tool. A general question about someone’s experience of abuse may lead to a disclosure of several forms of abuse.

  8. Partnerships between Public Service providers and local specialist providers should be solidified in order to provide more comprehensive delivery of policy and practice.

  9. Implementation of a process of “Ask and Act” must be accompanied and supported by training and leadership.

  10. Missed opportunities to identify violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence are missed opportunities to prevent further abuse, identify risk to children and save lives.

Practitioners coming into contact with a parent or child where they think domestic abuse is an issue and where after discussing the case with a manager and/or safeguarding lead it is felt that the case is not a child at risk case should still take action.

Speaking to the non-abusing parent about preventative family support services and violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence (VAWDASV) services is important and with the consent of that parent a referral should be made to local services. Early intervention and prevention can potentially have a significant impact on reducing the long-term negative consequences of domestic abuse on children.21

A proportionate response

When a child has been reported under section 130, the local authority must consider whether there are grounds for carrying out an investigation under section 47 of the Children Act 1989.


Practitioners should let children know about these organisations and how to contact them. These organisations are there for all children and young people in Wales.

Meic is the helpline service for children and young people up to the age of 25 in Wales. From finding out what’s going on in your local area to help dealing with a tricky situation, Meic will listen even when no-one else will. They won’t judge you and will help by giving you information, useful advice and the support you need to make a change. You can:

You can contact the Children's Commissioner for Wales Investigation and Advice service which is free and confidential. It’s there as a source of help and support if children and young people or those who care for them feel that a child’s been treated unfairly. You or you parent/carer can:

Childline is a free, private and confidential service where anyone under 19 can access support and advice. The Childline website has information and advice pages as well as tools to help you work through problems yourself. If you want to talk or chat to Childline you can:

If you want to talk to Childline in Welsh see

Practitioners should let non-abusing parents know about the support they can get.

Information on support is available at Live Fear Free .

Live Fear Free Helpline: 0808 8010 800.

Text service: 078600 77333


*Cisgender is a term for people whose gender identity matches the sex that they were assigned at birth.

1 UNICEF, 2006, Behind Closed Doors: The Impact of Domestic Violence on Children,



4 Harold,G; Acquah,D; H Chowdry,H; and Sellers,R (2016) What works to enhance interparental relationships and improve outcomes for children? EIF (Summary: pp 5)





9 Hallett,,S; Deerfield,K; and Hudson,K. (Forthcoming) The same but different? Exploring the links between trauma, sexual exploitation and harmful sexual behaviours, Awaiting publication.







16 NSPCC PartnerExploitationViolenceTeenageIntimateRelationshipsSummary.pdf