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Examination of Witness

Part of Domestic Abuse Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 29th October 2019.

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Zoe Billingham:

I can help particularly on the children front because we do a lot of inspection, including with other inspectorates, on the police response and other agencies’ response to children. Since 2014, we have seen a far greater awareness, particularly among those initially attending officers on the scene, of the importance of considering the impact of the domestic incident on the child.

When we first started inspecting, I was new to the area, but I was pretty horrified that police officers would often go into households with children who were themselves victims of the particular incident, even though they may have been in another room. The police officers were not even speaking to the children and checking that they were okay. We have seen a big shift now in the police’s understanding of the importance of safeguarding children and referring them into local authorities as appropriate, so that the appropriate safeguarding conferences can then take place.

We have seen an increase in the workload, which is why forces have invested in protecting vulnerable people areas and departments, which includes children. We continue to encourage that as an inspectorate so that children are put at the heart of this. We also see the prevalence of schemes such as Operation Encompass—an incredibly simple scheme where, if police attend a domestic abuse incident overnight, an arrangement with all the local schools means that a single person in the relevant school is notified that the child has had the most traumatic experience. The teacher can take steps—perhaps seemingly very small ones—to care for that child during the course of the following day, and subsequently. Some of these things are very easily done. They take a bit of arrangement to put in place, but they are not that costly. They do require a will and leadership.

I am not as able to help on elder abuse specifically, but would be happy to write to you if there are any specifics that I can think of that would help on that.