Child witnesses of domestic violence need better support, claim

sad child Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption There are no national rules about what support children who witness abuse at home should receive

Not enough support is being offered to the one in four children experts say will witness domestic violence by the age of 18, it is claimed.

There are no national rules stating what services children who see violence at home should receive.

This, says the Early Intervention Foundation, can have "significant consequences" for those children not not getting the support they need.

The Government says it has invested £54 million in child psychology therapies.

In one case - in Essex - a mother-of-two fled her abusive husband after years of violence.

Witnessing this violence had a profound impact on her seven-year-old son, she told BBC Inside Out.

Real-life call by an 11-year-old girl in Essex: part one

Police control room: I don't suppose you know if they've got anything like any weapons or anything

Child: Yes. My dad's got a gun. Please hurry.

Pause …

Stop Daddy stop... Please help me he's hurting her.

(the child cries)

Police control room: We're getting police now.

Police control room: Can I ask how old you are ?

Child: I'm 11 and my brother's seven.

"At school," said the mother, who has not been identified for her own protection, "the teachers said he was withdrawn.

"In a week he would have at least five night terrors out of the seven, and the next morning he couldn't tell you anything about it but he was extremely distraught.

"He'd be running up and down the stairs, you know, trying to find me. Things that he would be saying... its horrible."

Group services were offered to her 11-year-old daughter. But for her son, she said, "there was absolutely nothing."

The reason? He was too young.

In the health service area in which he lived at the time, he either had to be nine years old or exhibiting severe psychological symptoms to receive counselling.

Image caption The Government says every child in need should get 'high quality, flexible care'

Carey Oppenheim, chief executive of the Early Intervention Foundation, said: "The consequences for children are very disruptive and many of the services are not actually there or are very patchy.

"The consequences are really very severe for these children - not just at the time but well into their adulthood."

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "Every child, no matter where they live, should get the high quality, flexible care they need."

"We have invested £54 million to transform services to help children get psychological therapies. In August we also announced a new taskforce to improve children's services so better care becomes a reality."

Real-life call by an 11-year-old girl in Essex: part two

Child: He's outside and he's saying about my kids they are never going to leave me and everything?

Police control room: Does he know you've called the police?

Child: No this big lady she said call the police if this happens. Mum told me each time they have an argument take the phone upstairs cos she knows it'll get bad. He's calling me - I've got to go.

Police control room: Okay, I'll tell you what to do. Do you want to put the phone in your pocket and leave the line open?

Child: Okay.

Police control room: Okay, leave the phone in your pocket and leave the line open.

(sound of rustling … )

The gun wasn't used in the attack. But the father was convicted of assault and given a suspended prison sentence.

Inside Out will be broadcast on Monday at 19:30 GMT on BBC One East, and afterwards on iPlayer.

Related Topics

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites