The Home Office has released a new report with guidance on commissioning and delivering interventions to perpetrators of domestic abuse. We recommend it to all employers interested in understanding best practice in response to perpetrators. 

The report was written by Professor Nicole Westmarland of Durham University and Professor Liz Kelly of London Metropolitan University in consultation with practitioners, policy makers, academics, victim-survivors and perpetrators. Respect and Safe Lives were practitioner partners in the project. 

It suggests seven standards for working with perpetrators alongside guidance on what these standards mean and how they might be implemented. The aim is to ensure safe and effective domestic abuse perpetrator interventions across England and Wales. We have summarised the findings below. 

The seven Standards 

  1. The ‘priority outcome for perpetrator interventions should be enhanced safety and freedom’ for victim-survivors. Interventions with perpetrators should take place in tandem with support for victim-survivors, and the same member of staff ought not to support both parties. Even if a victim-survivor refuses other forms of support, they should receive clear information on the intervention and the benefits of the intervention should not be over-stated. 

  2. Any intervention must form part of ‘a wider co-ordinated community response in which all agencies share’ responsibility. Holistic responses of intervention are most effective and referrals to a perpetrator intervention should not be a reason for other agencies to stop monitoring the risk of a situation. Specialist knowledge from within a community and collaboration with community members can ensure that the content and approach of the intervention is appropriate in each case. 

  3. ‘Interventions should hold perpetrators to account, whilst treating them with respect, and offering opportunities to choose to change’. The first step in behaviour change involves the individual recognising that they have caused harm. In-person group programmes are recommended and, for lasting behaviour change, lengthy programmes of intervention are usually needed. 

  4. Appropriate interventions ‘should be offered to the right people at the right time’. Assessments should be made and adaptation to programmes of intervention should be made where necessary.  For example, if perpetrators also misuse alcohol or drugs then support on this would also be required. ‘Couples counselling’ and mediation type services are not usually recommended.  

  5. ‘Interventions should be delivered equitably with respect to protected characteristics that intersect and overlap’. Where a perpetrator from a minoritised group has experienced disadvantages and barriers, this ought to be acknowledged and addressed as part of the goal of behaviour change. While work to explore familial and wider beliefs that might permit or minimise abuse can be important, perpetrator interventions should avoid stereotyping communities. 

  6. ‘Interventions should be delivered by staff who are skilled and supported in responding to domestic abuse’. The research stresses the importance of up-to-date training and the need for greater staff diversity and knowledge when perpetrators are from minoritised communities.  

  7. ‘Monitoring and evaluation of interventions should take place to improve practice and expand the knowledge base’. Learnings from victim-survivors and perpetrator service users should be collected and external evaluations should be considered. 

Find out more here.  

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