Hampton Trust teams up with Southampton Family Hubs to address gender-based violence and help keep women safe

25th November 2023

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Bryony Rogers

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Hampshire-based domestic abuse charity Hampton Trust have teamed up with Southampton City Council’s Family Hubs to tackle domestic abuse in the city. During the last three months, the charity has trained the majority of Family Hub staff members, Children and Families First and Health and Social Care teams in using their innovative DARE Toolkit when engaging with families where abusive behaviour may be present.

The DARE (Domestic Abuse Routine Enquiry) Training and Toolkit has been designed for frontline professionals who may encounter domestic abuse as part of their routine client work – for example, in social care, health, substance misuse services, housing, bluelight services, schools and other educational settings. It helps those closely working with families to recognise when abuse is present, explore the risks within the family setting, and safely engage the perpetrator and nudge them into specialist services that can help them change their behaviour.

Councillor Alexander Winning, Cabinet Member for Children and Learning, Southampton City Council, said: “Our staff support families in various complex situations every single day, but may only have contact with the female carers. Fathers are an integral part of a family and a child’s life; we need to feel more confident talking to and engaging with them.

“The training provided by Hampton Trust has given colleagues a deeper understanding of the complexities of abusive relationships. It has provided them with the skills and confidence to have difficult conversations with fathers whose behaviour may be harmful or abusive and signpost them to specialist services that can help them be better dads and partners.”

Before the training, only 42% of participants felt confident to identify a domestic abuse perpetrator, and only 19% felt confident to explore risks and engage with them. After the training, this had increased to 100% in both cases.

The Family Hub staff are not the first ones to have benefitted from DARE. Since it was piloted in 2020, Hampton Trust have trained almost 1,000 professionals in Hampshire and beyond, advocating for a routine enquiry approach to identifying and engaging not only victims of domestic abuse, but also perpetrators.

Chantal Hughes, Chief Executive of Hampton Trust said: “During the last decade we have made significant progress in educating professionals in the social, health, housing and education sectors to actively recognise victims of domestic abuse. However, we tend to place the burden of responsibility on victims to report and leave an abusive relationship instead of engaging and holding the perpetrator to account.

“As professionals we must include a deeper understanding of personal relationships in our assessments and routine enquiries. Using a range of simple tools and strategies, professionals can evoke discussion and reflection on behaviour, and this approach can set the scene for disclosures and referrals to specialist perpetrator services. If all frontline professionals across sectors can develop competence and confidence in the identification and engagement of perpetrators, then this in turn will increase the safety for victims and help us break the cycle of domestic abuse.”