I had the pleasure last week of joining the Expert Panel for the IMPROVE research being led out of the Center for Academic Primary Care at Bristol University under the experienced leadership of Professor Gene Feder and Dr Emma Howarth http://www.bristol.ac.uk/primaryhealthcare/researchthemes/improve.html. IMPROVE is an evidence synthesis that will draw together data about the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of existing intervention programmes for children experiencing domestic abuse.
Not only a fantastic opportunity to meet many of those currently dedicated to and delivering services to these children, but also to see many of the challenges currently being experienced.
It’s clear that few studies around the world have been effective in building a strong evidence base of intervention and impact. It’s also clear that the existence of interventions for children isn’t enough, because increasingly these provisions are losing out in the battle for funding from an ever constrained base. I’m looking forward to continuing to work with them ahead of their publication this Autumn, and exploring ways in which JSF can help to address this growing problem.
What was also clear however was that the knowledge of the complex needs of children affected by domestic homicide and a comprehensive understanding of what’s available for them and their carers is hard to come by. If this is the case, imagine what it is like to be one of those carers or children? The answer for many (although every individual's experience is unique) is you muddle through as best you can, often in a state of distress and shock, in a bizarre world that nobody seems to understand, and just hope that the decisions you make and the things you say on a day to day basis are for the best. It’s tough also for those who support them through the police, victim support, and other agencies, who want to help make things as good as they can be, but are limited by what they are aware of.
A day hosted by Professor Peter Kinderman at Liverpool University started to open up these questions. What needs to be done to fully understand the needs of these innocent victims, their experiences, and the way in which policy and law supports and protects them. Dr Emma Davies (Criminal Justice at Liverpool John Moores University, Professor Sandra Walklate (Sociology, Social Policy & Crimonology Liverpool University), started the day. The join up and continuum between children’s needs, provision, social policy and law is ever apparent, and we look forward to supporting them with a grant funding application for future work. In the afternoon we met Dr Matt Gibson, lecturer in Criminal Law at Liverpool University. Understanding the needs of victims as well as defendants in our murder laws and particularly diminished responsibility is often forgotten and the discussion was extremely valuable for all. Starting to explore the possibility of jointly hosting a conference to bring together the diverse stakeholders in this complex area, and we look forward to seeing more detailed proposals very soon!
Building the right partnerships with the academic world is vital if we are to be sure that the right things are addressed and sustainable policy change achieved.