What helps? Mothers' and children's experiences of community-based domestic violence early intervention services

Melanie McCarry, Lorraine Radford, Victoria Baker

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Early help or early intervention is increasingly recommended for safeguarding children living with domestic violence, but little is known about what is effective. This article discusses findings from an evaluation of a pioneering early help service in North West England. This new service aimed to improve the safety and wellbeing of families (mothers and children) who were assessed as below the level of ‘high risk’ domestic violence and below the threshold for a child protection order. Between January 2014 and March 2015, families (473 mothers and 541 children) were identified within multiagency safeguarding hubs and referred to the early help service. The service that emerged was somewhat different to the service expected. This article discusses findings from qualitative data gathered from 39 participants (mothers, children and service providers) involved in the programme. Three main issues emerged as themes from the interviews: the benefits of having any service at all for children living with domestic violence who slip off the agendas of professionals working with child protection and high-risk domestic violence; the importance of flexibility of key worker-led service delivery; and the suitability of current group work and therapeutic models for meeting the varied needs of families affected by domestic violence. Key Practitioner Messages: Children, mothers and service providers reported both a perceived need for early help and a positive impact from domestic violence early help services on child health and emotional wellbeing. The ability of services to flex their delivery model in response to the needs of families is important for supporting engagement of, and fostering a sense of control for, families receiving support. Confidentiality, reliability, respect and trust are key factors in developing an effective key worker-family relationship. ‘Discusses findings from an evaluation of a pioneering early help service in North West England’.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalChild Abuse Review
Early online date17 Feb 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Feb 2021


  • domestic violence
  • early intervention
  • children
  • young people
  • mothers

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