'Lamentable situation' of domestic violence victims at risk of losing children

Fears that their children may be removed could prevent some mothers reporting abuse, say Family Rights Group.

Cathy Ashley, chief executive of the charity Family Rights Group, writes about its research that appears to show there has been an increase in victims of domestic violence at risk of losing their children.

Family Rights Group is a charity founded 40 years ago by social workers, lawyers and families in response to the injustices experienced by many parents involved with children’s services and the unnecessary separation of children from their families.

In the last two years, there has been a 70% increase in the number of families seeking advice from the charity.

We now advise over 7,000 families per year - yet due to lack of funding to meet demand, four in 10 callers don’t get through.

Analysis of our advice service data reveals that has been an explosion in calls from families needing advice because their children are subject to child protection inquiries by social workers due to domestic abuse.

The number rose by over 1,100% between 2007/8 and 2012/13 and is continuing to go through the roof.

Our advice service is therefore being overwhelmed by desperate and scared mothers who have suffered or are suffering domestic abuse.

They often feel they are being doubly abused - first at the hands of the perpetrator and then by a child protection system that seems to lay the blame on them for inadequately protecting their child.

Our research shows that social workers frequently fail to assess the father or father figure when a child is at risk.

If the mother experiences further domestic abuse, she often fears that reporting it could lead to the local authority using it as evidence to remove her child.

On the other hand, if she doesn’t report it and it is later discovered, she risks being accused of colluding with harm to her child.

Cuts to specialist domestic violence services (including refuges) and the impact of welfare and legal aid reforms means that it is becoming ever harder for these mothers to get help for themselves and their children. Their options are severely limited.

The cost of this lamentable situation is being paid for by children and mothers in human terms and by taxpayers in terms of the huge financial cost of every child who ends up in the care system. It really doesn’t have to be this way.

Cathy Ashley's views do not necessarily reflect those of ITV News.

To contact Family Rights Group’s advice service go to www.frg.org. uk or ring 0808 801 0366 Mon-Fri 9.30am-3pm