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October 2015


How Can You Encourage Children and Young People to Seek Help and Support?
 
The NFP Synergy report makes a number of recommendations for organisations working with children and young people:

  • never forget what it’s like to need help - make it easier for young people to take up the offer of help
  • help to tackle the myths about those who seek help - seeking help is not a sign of weakness; encourage parents to promote help-seeking
  • help to tackle the myths about young people - be positive about young people
  • listen to the people you help - improve services with feedback from service users
  • shout about your work - lack of awareness is a significant barrier to young people seeking help
  • see the whole person - engage with young people both in terms of their strengths and their weaknesses
  • provide a forum for young people to talk about their lives
  • build trust - treat young people with respect
  • empower young people to find their own solutions
  • advertise the benefits of seeking help - provide evidence in the form of data
  • help young people to help each other - equip young people with the skills and tools to support their friends/peers and family members
  • think about communication - don’t be too bland, don’t try too hard to be cool and “down with the kids” - consider the role of new technologies - these should be complementary to other ways of supporting young people.

 
Reference
Garvey, B. et al.(2009) Help-seeking behaviour in young adults. London: NFP Synergy.
 
NFP Synergy is a research consultancy that aims to provide the ideas, insights and information to help not for profit organisations to thrive.
 


Is it Murder, Manslaughter or Something Else?

In December 2014, Danielle Cassin, 27 years, and her partner Mark Piper, 31 years, were sentenced to 9 years imprisonment following the death of their 22 month old son Levi-Blue Cassin in Solihull.

He died of severe injuries to his small intestine which split in half and catastrophic internal bleeding, losing one third of his blood. The child’s post mortem compared Levi’s injuries to being hit by a car or falling three storeys onto a fence. Devastating and life-threatening injuries to a small child. Neither parent ever admitted to causing their child’s death. So what happens in such cases?
 
The standard of proof in criminal proceedings is much higher than for civil proceedings. The standard in criminal proceedings is 'beyond reasonable doubt', whereas for civil proceedings it is the 'balance of probabilities'.
 
Previously in cases, where each parent blamed the other for a child's injuries, there was often not enough evidence to convict either.

This legal loophole (whereby defendants in murder and manslaughter cases could escape conviction by claiming each other had killed the child) was closed by the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004, which provided for a new offence of causing or allowing the death of a child or vulnerable adult. The Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims (Amendment) Act 2012 extended the legislation to situations where children and vulnerable adults have been seriously harmed.

Even where the perpetrator is known, there are many reasons for not proceeding with a criminal prosecution:

  • moral culpability - for example where harm is deemed to be as a result of poor parenting rather than criminal intent, it may be more appropriate to look at the support needs of the family in order to improve parenting
  • dangerousness - the perpetrator is considered unlikely to re-offend
  • strength of evidence - evidence may fail to meet the standards required for a realistic prospect of conviction
  • concern for the welfare of the child.

 
It may not always be considered to be in the interests of the child to carry out a criminal prosecution, since the experience of testifying at trial can be traumatic. However, much has been done to improve the process for child witnesses, including the availability of pre-trial therapy, use of intermediaries, video suites for Achieving Best Evidence (ABE) interviews and the provision of support services for young witnesses. The use of vide-recorded evidence and live- link TV are the preferred methods of hearing children’s evidence in criminal proceedings, particularly in cases involving allegations of sexual abuse.
 
Even where a child is the only main witness, a court can convict. Recent cases have confirmed that properly directed juries can reach a safe conclusion on the basis of the evidence of a single witness, whatever his or her age and whatever his or her disability.
 
Cassin and Piper were both convicted under the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004. If you wish to read the Serious Case Review on this case, known as Child S please click Solihull Serious Case Review Levi-Blu Cassin
 
Reference:  Great Britain, laws and statutes (2004) Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004: chapter 28. London: The Stationery Office (TSO).
 


The Black Dot Campaign – Heard of it?
 
A Facebook campaign designed to help people suffering domestic abuse has received praise and criticism in equal measure.

The Black Dot Campaign aims to highlight the issue of domestic violence and has so far received 40,000 ‘likes’ and its founder – who wishes to remain anonymous – says Facebook statistics show the page has received millions of hits.
The campaign seeks to offer victims a silent signal for help through a black dot on their hand that more and more people will recognise as the cause goes viral.
 
Six days after launching, the campaign posted this on its page: “If you saw someone with a black dot on their hand, what would you do?”

However, the campaign has drawn criticism from some organisations, saying it could do more harm than good.
 
Sandra Horley, chief executive of domestic violence charity Refuge, said“We are concerned that the Black Dot campaign has become very public and well known, so therefore it may be dangerous for some women if they take part.”

Horley said women using the dot could unintentionally inform their abuser that they are trying to reach out and access support.
She added: “This could have grave consequences – two women a week are killed in England and Wales by a current or former partner; 70% of domestic homicides occur at the point at which a woman separates from a man.”
 
Explaining her reasons for starting the campaign, its founder stated:
“I imagined it as a tool to start face-to-face conversations between friends, or with professionals. I was basing it on my experiences and I was thinking, how could I prompt people to talk about domestic violence?
“A black dot is easy to make,and easy to erase. As a female, you could go to the toilet, draw one on with mascara, and then later wipe it out. Being in the centre of your palm, you could close your palm and hide it from view.”
 
Reacting to the concerns voiced by many of the dot sparking abuse if discovered, she said victims would know what triggers their abuser and would be smart enough to avoid making the situation worse.
She concluded: “So if it’s not safe to draw a black dot, don’t do it. Just because you’re a victim doesn’t mean you’re stupid – you know yourself what is safe and what is not safe.
 
What do you think? Could a black dot sign make a victim of domestic abuse more vulnerable or not? We’d love to hear your views on the Designated Person Facebook page.
 


What is ‘Disguised Compliance’?
 
‘Disguised compliance’ involves a parent or carer giving the appearance of co-operating with child welfare agencies to avoid raising suspicions, to allay professional concerns and ultimately to diffuse professional intervention.

The term is attributed to Peter Reder, Sylvia Duncan and Moira Gray who outlined this type of behaviour in their book Beyond blame: child abuse tragedies revisited :
“Sometimes, during cycles of intermittent closure, a professional worker would decide to adopt a more controlling stance. However, this was defused by apparent co-operation from the family. We have called this disguised compliance because its effect was to neutralise the professional’s authority and return the relationship to closure and the previous status quo.” (Reder et al, 1993, pp 106-7).1
 
Examples of disguised compliance would be a sudden increase in school attendance, attending a run of appointments, engaging with professionals such as health workers for a limited period of time, or cleaning the house before a visit from a professional.
 
Watch Sue Woolmore talking about what disguised compliance looks like in this 4 minute video– Sue has visited Northumberland over several years facilitating NSCB courses on the subject. Sue Woolmore talks about Disguised Compliance
 
References
Reder,P., Duncan, S. and Gray, M. (1993) Beyond blame: child abuse tragedies revisited. London: Routledge


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