The importance of inter-professional collaboration and training in domestic abuse

NO single professional can have a full picture of a child’s needs and circumstances and, if children and families are to receive the right help at the right time, everyone who comes into contact with them has a role to play in identifying concerns, sharing information and taking prompt action.

(Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018)

WHO has stated that inter-professional collaboration is an essential component in satisfactory service delivery. In the UK, poor inter-professional collaboration has been identified as a contributing factor in high-profile cases with poor outcomes. Pollard et all   (2005)

 We know that for years, almost every safeguarding; review, report and enquiry have listed the following as the main reasons as why true effective inter professional/partnership working has not taken place, often leading to devastating consequences:

  • Lack of understanding of each other’s professionals’ roles responsibilities and duties.
  • Lack of opportunities to access inter-professional training.
  • Lack of knowledge and understanding of what services are available locally. lack
  • Poor communication which has led to misunderstandings and frustrations, professionals communicate in their “agencies language” have not developed a common language.

Over the years I have chaired many partnership boards, multiagency groups and forums. I have learnt to speak; health, education, police, social care and voluntary community sector. On multiple occasions I had taken on the role of an interpreter when agencies have used jargon and abbreviations which could have potentially lead to lack of clarity of what was being said.

We have current robust evidence, and testimony from victims and survivors of domestic abuse, that barriers listed above – and I am sure that there are many more – are unfortunately still very much an everyday reality aided by cuts in agencies budgets.

In December 2016 The Home Office published the key findings from their analysis of domestic homicide reviews (DHR), what they found was: (acknowledging that recommendations made to each agency would have been affected by the exact circumstances surrounding the DHR).

Community Safety Partnerships (CSP) and health bodies were identified as having the highest proportion of recommendations (both around a quarter of all recommendations) across the four years analysed.

 In 2013, agencies receiving the largest proportion of recommendations were in the health sector, in both 2014 and 2015 this was the CPS and in 2016 the highest proportion of recommendations were for the police.  Across all four years, training was consistently the highest proportion of recommendations.

Working Together- statutory guidance 2018 states that, in order for organisations, agencies and practitioners to collaborate effectively, it is vital that everyone working with children and families, including those who work with parents/carers, understands the role they should play and the role of other practitioners. …

Transforming the response to domestic abuse consultation responses and draft bill published in January 2019 asked: What more the government could do to encourage and support effective multiagency working? The most popular responses were training, sharing effective practice, and incentives through funding.

Although partnership working around domestic abuse has moved forward it has not resulted in significantly improved outcomes for victims and much more needs to be done.  

A study by Department of Schools and Families 2007(cited in Barlow and Scott 2010), to identify how inter professional working develops in safeguarding found that:

  • Strong personal, local relationships are a key feature.
  • Good practice was characterised by staff’s commitment, from strategic management level to front line practitioners to adopt a genuine inter professional approach.
  • An induction process that imbeds inter- professional working to staff from all relevant agencies and the adoption of common assessment models, language and models of working all improved inter-professional working practices.
  • Enhanced by opportunities for the staff to attended and access   formal and informal multi agency networks including training opportunities.
  • High level of professional support for staff
  • Regular updates on services available in local area.
  • Effective information sharing with all relevant agencies, obtaining consent from the family at the outset.
  • The importance of shared values and in particular of taking a Child and Family (client / person centred) approach.

We know that if we work effectively with all relevant partner organisations, we improve the way we support victims and make perpetrators accountable. One of the main barriers to effective multiagency working is the lack of or different levels of understanding of the many complex issues around domestic abuse and its impact. Professionals often focus on other areas such as; addiction, mental health, disability or parenting, rather than trying to get to the underlying issue. Peckover, Golding and Cooling (2013 ) rightly state that professionals don’t always agree that domestic abuse should remain the primary focus for professional intervention.

Victims of domestic abuse come in contact with many services. To ensure that our interventions are more effective; professionals need to view the whole picture. To achieve this requires collaboration; In order to collaborate we need to be competent, compassionate and committed.



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