What help can you get under a child protection plan?
The kind of help you may be offered or ask for includes:
Specialist domestic violence support:
This can include a combination of practical and emotional support such as safety planning, legal advice, accommodation (for example, within a refuge), advocacy, understanding domestic violence, counselling and confidence-building. It could be provided by more than one organisation working together to support families affected by domestic violence.
If your partner/ ex-partner is attending a perpetrators' course then it is good practice for you to also be given support from a women's worker (see perpetrator programmes). If domestic violence has disrupted your parenting then a specialist course with a focus on both of these areas may be very helpful to you and may reassure Children' Services.
Help with housing:
If you leave your home due to domestic violence you may have rights to help with housing under housing law. You can ask for advice about this from your local Law Centre or Citizens Advice Bureau.
If your child has a child protection plan which states what help you need with housing and by when, the social worker can help to speed things along with the housing department to get you a new place. Sometimes a representative from the Housing Department may come to the conference – if you think this is important you could ask the Conference Chair if a Housing representative could be invited to the next meeting. It may be that as a temporary measure, one option could be for you and your child to stay in refuge. A refuge is a safe house for women and children escaping domestic violence. The address is confidential and no men are allowed in the building. A refuge is a place where women can be sure they are safe, and where they can access emotional and practical support from staff who understand what they have been through. You can contact the Freephone 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline to discuss getting a place in a refuge.
Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA):
An IDVA is an advocate whose role is to support domestic violence survivors in high risk situations. IDVAs work with their clients from the point of crisis to assess the level of risk, discuss the range of suitable options and develop safety plans. They can help you explore legal options, support you through the court process and liaise with agencies such as housing, the police, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), solicitors and other services on your behalf to get you the help you need.
The IDVA service is free and offers independent, confidential advice and support in a non-judgmental manner. Referrals to IDVAs can come from different sources. In some areas, you can refer yourself. In other areas, you need a referral from a professional. Ask your child's social worker or your domestic violence support worker how you can be referred to one if that is appropriate.
Getting help when you have an uncertain immigration status:
If your immigration status is uncertain you may have less right to support than other survivors of domestic violence but you should still be able to get some help. See the section on domestic violence and immigration status for further information.
Domestic Violence support for children:
In some areas, there are counselling and other programmes to help children directly with the domestic violence that has occurred in their home. Ask the social worker if there is anything available locally that would help your child.
Drug and alcohol support:
Some survivors of domestic violence turn to drugs and /or alcohol as a coping mechanism. If your child's social worker or another professional hasn't raised this with you already, consider whether you may need to ask for support in dealing with this. It could become another thing that social workers are concerned about if it impacts on your care of your child.
Practical Assistance (including cash):
Although the budget for this type of support is likely to be very limited, you can ask your child's social worker for this, particularly if you have had to relocate and need help for example with essential equipment for the children, clothes, food and other necessities.
Contact/safe arrangements for contact:
The child protection plan should consider whether your child will have contact with their father. It is very important that you follow any arrangement that is set out for their safety.
As part of a child protection plan, your partner/ex partner could be referred to a perpetrator programme. This will try to help him address his violence and abuse and reduce the likelihood of future risk to you or your children. If he has been prosecuted for a domestic violence related offence and is on probation, he may be referred to a programme run by the Probation service. In this case the programme should have a partner support service and someone there will contact you and offer you support whilst your partner is on the programme.
If your partner has not been prosecuted for any offence then he may be referred by your child's social worker (or a Court if there have been proceedings about arrangements for your children, see Rights of Women for more information on this) to a programme accredited by the organisation Respect or which is working in accordance with the Respect accreditation standard.
All programmes working to the Respect standard will assess perpetrators and advise a child's social worker about the level of risk a perpetrator poses and suitability for the programme. You should discuss with your social worker whether you will be able to see everything in that report.
Most men assessed as suitable will attend a group work programme which they attend each week, and which lasts for at least 6 months. The programmes are designed to help men learn how to be less violent, and to take responsibility for their actions. They learn about respectful relationships, being a better parent and communicating without violence.
All Respect accredited programmes will have linked partner support services. This service will contact you once your partner has been assessed for the programme and inform you of the support available. This service should be free of charge, will be run by women and is confidential. Most partner support services will offer a range of support which may include the option of telephone support, face to face meetings or access to a support group. It will be up to you to decide what services, if any, you wish to use.
Plans for managing risk with the abuser in the home:
Not all domestic violence results in the abuser leaving the family home. Sometimes, a child protection plan is agreed that involves the abuser remaining in the home. If this is agreed in your family's case, the plan is likely to involve the abuser undertaking domestic violence work with professionals who can help him address his problems. You may also be asked to agree to domestic violence support for yourself. The situation is likely to be monitored very closely to ensure that it is safe for your child and for you.
If the child protection plan does not set out the help you need/want, you should ask for referrals to be made for specific services you would find helpful or contact those agencies yourself. Some services that may be offered in situations that do not involve domestic violence, for example relationship counselling, mediation, and anger management programmes, are often not appropriate in domestic violence situations.