Responding more effectively to domestic abuse

In 2014 Leicester City Council led on developing a partnership with Leicester University Business School to assess whether getting independent support in quickly in tandem with the police response, made a positive impact for people who had been repeated victims of domestic abuse. The bid was successful and led to a positive project, delivered between 2014-2016.

The project showed that it was valuable to intervene with a specialist response to repeat victims who had not been considered as at high risk of homicide or serious injury (DASH - Domestic Abuse, Stalking and Honour Based Violence) and has led to further funding for the scheme and a local conference disseminating findings.

The challenge

The scale of domestic abuse and its impact on individuals, families and public bodies such as councils, police and health services is considerable.  With such high volume (246,562 people will have been victim since age 16 in our sub-region based on CSEW estimates of prevalence and 17,000 reported incidents to police annually), it can be very challenging to shape a service response within the resources available.

The solution

A randomised control study of 1015 domestic abuse incidents reported to the police (510 in the treatment group). These were all incidents where there had been a previous incident reported to the police (between two and 7), and assessed as medium or standard risk (using DASH on call out). 

The treatment group then had their details passed on to an independent team of skilled domestic abuse staff to respond within 24hrs and offer safety planning and bridging support to longer term specialist services. 

The impact was assessed at follow on intervals on a number of measures through direct contact with the victims through a specialist feedback collection team at the Police Headquarters and exit data gathered directly from other police and specialist team records.

The impact

Whilst some victims reported an increase in stress, there was a significant improvement in quality of life, reduced contact with the perpetrator, and increase in those visiting their GP, an increase in satisfaction with police and high engagement once contact was established (71 per cent).

How is the new approach being sustained?

The local police and crime commissioner agreed to fund the project for a further two years. The learning has also been shared wider, through an event arranged by the university , and the learning has also gone into other local specialist domestic abuse services (contracted by the city council); particularly around the importance of a timely response to successful engagement.

On the back of the joint working with police, other local authority partners and the recommendations from Project 360, the internal council commitment to roll out Operation Encompass built momentum. Operation Encompass is the daily notification system whereby schools of children identified as part of a household where there has been a police call out regarding domestic abuse are notified of that incident so that their response to any behavioural change is appropriate. We have received very positive responses from schools around this new scheme. We know from the first three months data that approximately 20 per cent of children of households where there had been a reported domestic abuse incident were not already known to either children’s social care or early help provision.  Further work is now going to be undertaken to identify if there are any distinct characteristics about their circumstances which warrant further consideration and learning (considering the Safe Lives Hidden In Plain Sight Report). We are also hoping to work with the same researchers at Leicester University on a project aimed at improving the outcomes for children and young people who have been affected by domestic abuse.

Lessons learned

  • Chance of engagement reduces dramatically after the initial 24 hours of incident
  • If engagement is successful it can lead to wider accessing of appropriate services and reduction in contact with the perpetrator. Whilst this can at times be a more stressful period, there is greater likelihood of improved quality of life and satisfaction with the original response if it is followed through to specialist support.
  • Reliable systems for identifying different cohorts are essential in order to undertake such comparison based studies
  • The benefit of formal joint working protocols between new and existing provision and routine refreshes.


Links to relevant documents
Policing Domestic Violence: New Evidence for Practice Conference