What is the social/environmental problem/issue that this project will address?
The need for the BB4K programme was identified by childcare professionals working with families and victims of domestic abuse and recognising the impact that the lack of support available had on these vulnerable families.
Domestic abuse affects thousands of children across the UK, and sadly it is especially prevalent in the Thames Valley with many families in need of support to re-build their families.
The psychological impact on children in a household where there is domestic abuse can be profound and long lasting. Research has shown that witnessing domestic abuse at any age is linked to depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and aggression. Emotional wellbeing, behaviour, attainment, risk taking and long term life chances are all affected. Research regarding long term impact suggests that children who have experienced domestic abuse are more likely to be a young offender, teenage parent, sexually abused, a victim of child sexual exploitation and misuse alcohol/ substances. The younger the child the greater the risk.
There is a growing body of evidence that supports early intervention for children under five who have experienced domestic abuse. The “Therapeutic group work with young children and mothers who have experienced domestic abuse” paper, written by Lynda Warren Dodd and published by Educational Psychology in Practice states that “Younger children are particularly vulnerable and appear to exhibit higher levels of emotional and psychological distress than older children. Hughes (1981) found that children in pre-school were reported by mothers to exhibit more problems than other age groups… Recent research on brain development suggests that exposure to extreme trauma will change the organisation of the brain, resulting in difficulties in dealing with stresses in later life.” She goes on to say “…the more serious levels of domestic abuse, the higher the likelihood of insecure, specifically disorganised, attachments.”
Locally, PACT has identified that there is little support available to support the parent alongside the child, an innovative feature of the BB4K programme. “Programs that combine child-focused educational activities with explicit attention to parent-child interaction patterns and relationship building appear to have the greatest impacts.” (Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000)
Can you give us some statistics on this problem?
Violence in homes has risen in Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire by 12.6 per cent on the total recorded the year before in 2013/14. There were 41,846 domestic abuse incidents recorded by Thames Valley Police in 2014/15. The figures include a wide variety of different forms of harm, including threatening behaviour, psychological, physical financial, sexual or emotional abuse and violence. It works out at one case every 13 minutes in the region last year.
Many victims of domestic abuse often deny the impact of what is happening to them saying ‘it was OK, my child didn’t see my partner hit me, they were up in their room…’ but children will still hear and feel something is wrong, and they will suffer – 90% of children are in the same room or the room next door during attacks on their mothers.
The Home Office and The Centre for Social Justice
What is your solution?
Funding received will enable PACT to deliver a BB4K pilot programme for vulnerable children under the age of five. It is then intended that the programme will be adapted following the outcomes of the pilot and will be established as a support provision for vulnerable families with children under five affected by domestic abuse. PACT currently provides the BB4K programme in Oxfordshire and West Berkshire. The BB4K team has had numerous enquiries and referrals for children aged under five, evidencing the demand for this service. Where possible, PACT is currently meeting this need through one to one support for these children and their non-perpetrating parent, but is restricted with the number of children supported in this way and believes that a group approach will provide peer support and improved longer term outcomes and enable more children and families to be supported.
Research from the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships (Briefing 72 - Strengthening mother-child relationships as part of domestic violence recovery) found that ‘Mothers and children may be seen as ‘promoters’ of each other’s recoveries. Some of the mother-child relationships that had been strained and distant in the immediate aftermath of domestic violence had transformed into positive, mutually supportive relationships, with appropriate support. Appropriate professional supports had often been pivotal to these transformations. Families who did not receive effective support in their recovery were more likely to experience negative life-circumstances such as long-term mental health problems and unemployment’.
Identifying and supporting these children is so important in order to minimise the psychological damage that domestic abuse does to a child witness. Therefore PACT set up the BB4K course to help these children to make sense of their feelings and to move forward in a safe and positive way.
The BB4K programme is a step towards breaking the cycle of domestic abuse. Activities are designed to encourage bonding between the non-abusing parent and their child, to help them appreciate that what they have experienced was not their fault and help them to overcome their feelings that have resulted from such an ordeal. Parents and children are given the chance to reflect and think about how their behaviour is affected due to the circumstances they have experienced.
How will you deliver this?
The Bounce Back 4 Kids team will establish focus groups with some families with children under five who have experienced domestic abuse to ensure that their voices are included in the programme development and that the service is being truly responsive to their needs.
The BB4K pilot will run over 14 weeks and will consist of a 2.5 hour weekly session with a mixture of sessions with both parent and child together and sessions with children and parents separately.
As with the main BB4K programme, the focus is on the parent and child going on this journey together, empowering the parent to support their child through the programme and equipping them with tools and techniques to use during and after the programme has finished, resulting in improved family relationships and a better understanding of their child’s emotional vulnerabilities.
The BB4K pilot will be delivered by qualified and experienced practitioners who have an understanding of the trauma and needs these families present with and they will be supported by trained BB4K volunteer champions. The pilot will support six children and six parents.