NICE guidance to help children and families open up about domestic violence

Dealing with the impact of domestic violence on families must now be a public health priority, according to NICE.

Helping children and families open up about experiencing domestic violence needs to be a public health priority, NICE experts are warning.

NICE has set out how NHS staff can have a more active role in spotting and responding to victims of domestic violence.

At a conference held in London, public health experts got together to discuss the latest evidence on the effects of domestic violence to families and how NICE guidance can help.

More than 940,000 domestic violence incidents were reported to the police in England and Wales last year.

In 1 in 5 cases victims admitted that their children saw or heard the attack in their home.

Professor Gene Feder from the University of Bristol, who has been involved in developing NICE guidance on domestic violence, opened the conference.

He said: “Almost half of all people who report domestic abuse have children. Even if they escape being hurt directly, witnessing abuse can still have lasting physical and emotional effects on a child or young person.

“They may suffer from bed wetting, insomnia, depression or anxiety. They are also at increased risk of experiencing or perpetrating domestic violence as adults.

“The true number of children who are exposed to domestic violence may be even greater as many parents are too scared to come forward.”

NICE says staff across the NHS can help pick up potential victims of domestic violence. This could be the receptionist in a doctor’s surgery, or a physiotherapist treating a recurring knee injury, or ambulance staff who pick up a victim after an attack.

Dr Adrian Boyle, who helped developed the NICE guideline on domestic violence, talks about how potential victims are handled in accident and emergency departments.

In NICE’s guidance to local authorities, it says services should work together to create campaigns that encourage people to talk about domestic violence and abuse.

In the north west of England, local services came together in response to this with the ‘Be a Lover not a Fighter’ campaign.

The campaign reached more than a million people across Cheshire, Lancashire and Merseyside, asking for people to do their part to end domestic violence affecting children and families in the area.

Adverts ran on local radio, across buses and taxis, and events were held in local high-street stores.

The campaign also ran on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with people sharing photos of their hands held up in a heart shape to pledge their support.

Raising awareness should help victims feel able to come forward and NICE says staff need to be well prepared to respond.

NICE highlights the importance of training staff so they know how to ask safely about abuse and can respond with empathy.

Professor Nicky Stanley from the University of Central Lancashire talked at the conference about NICE's guidance on domestic violence

She said: “We need to support staff to respond effectively and sensitively if they suspect someone is affected by domestic violence. NICE says frontline NHS staff can help people open up about domestic violence but it is also important that they get a response from someone with the right level of training.

“Whether you are male or female, young or old, be it physical violence or an attack on your state of mind, domestic violence has no boundaries and can affect any one of us.

“The NHS should be a safe place for anyone affected by domestic violence, no matter who they are or where they live.”

If you or someone you know has been a victim of domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence helpline on 0808 2000 247.