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Legislation, government guidance and policy: England

Domestic abuse

Government vision for tackling violence against women and girls

Following publication of the government strategy to end violence against women and girls in November 2010, an action plan was published in March 2011. It sets out 88 cross-government actions, including a youth prevention campaign to tackle teenage relationship violence, and a 12 month pilot of Domestic Violence protection notices. A progress review was published in November 2011. Actions completed so far include:

  • This is Abuse campaign targeting teenage relationship violence and abuse. It includes resources such as a guide to signs of abuse, a list of services which help both perpetrators and victims and a discussion board.
  • The Royal College of General Practitioners has developed an online course for GPs to help them recognise and respond to signs of domestic abuse against women and children.
  • Publication of a review of Multi-Agency Risk Conferences (MARACs), looking at how they are working and potential for development. The review was commissioned to inform the development and implementation of the government's call to end violence against women and girls. Findings include: MARACs have potential to improve victim safety and reduce revictimisation, but more robust evaluation is needed.

More information on the strategy can be found on the Home Office website.

Changes to the definition of domestic abuse

On 18 September 2012, the Home Office announced changes to the definition of domestic abuse. This followed a commitment set out in the Violence Against Women and Girls Action Plan and a Home Office consultation. The changes mean that young people aged 16-17, including boys, are recognised as victims of domestic abuse, and that coercive control is included as a form of abuse. This sits within the context of research such as the 2009 NSPCC study which found that 33% of girls aged 13-17 had experienced some form of sexual abuse, 25% had experienced physical abuse, and 75% experienced emotional abuse from an intimate partner. Many victims of forced marriage are under 18. The 2009/10 statistical bulletin on Homicides, firearms offences and intimate violence found that women aged 16-24 and men aged 16-34 were more likely to suffer relationship abuse than any other age range. (Smith et al, 2011)

Family Justice Review

The government response to the family justice review contains proposals to give divorced and separated parents stronger rights to see their children (DfE, 2012). Some children’s charities have expressed concern as this is at odds with recommendations in the final report on the family justice review that there should not be a statutory presumption of shared parenting (Norgrove, 2011). The government response acknowledges but rejects this recommendation, stating that they recognise the potential pitfalls and will frame legislation accordingly, with a focus on the quality rather than the quantity of parenting. Research has suggested that domestic abuse continues post-separation in 50% of cases. (Stanley et al, 2009)

Domestic abuse and health services

The Department of Health published an action plan setting out how it will improve services for women and child victims of domestic abuse in November 2010. Guidance for commissioning services for women and children who experience abuse was published in April 2011. In 2009, the Department of Health published a practical toolkit for front-line practitioners providing information about children, domestic abuse and related issues, along with guidance, sample forms and factsheets.

The taskforce on the health aspects of violence against women and children

In 2010, the Department of Health published a report examining the abuse associated with harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation, forced marriage, and honour violence, and human trafficking. It explores the mental and physical impact of this abuse, and the long-term disproportionate impact it has on minority communities and women (Department of Health 2010). They have also published a report looking at the impact of domestic abuse against women, girls and children in England and how it can damage them and their families, with long-lasting wider repercussions for society (Department of Health 2010). The findings and recommendations from these reports have fed into the overarching report from the Taskforce on the health aspects of violence against women and children. The independent taskforce was set up to identify the role and response of the NHS in relation to violence against women and children and the final report makes recommendations on what more could be done to meet their needs, including the early identification of victims; enhancing the quality of and access to services; raising awareness of violence against women and children; training and development; and partnership working. (Department of Health, 2010) (see practice section for refs)


Barter, C., McCarry, M., Berridge, D. and Evans, K. (2009) Partner exploitation and violence in teenage intimate relationships. London: NSPCC

Department for Education (2012) The Government response to the Family justice review: a system with children and families at its heart. London: Department for Education.

Department of Health (2010) Improving services for women and child victims of violence: the Department of Health Action Plan. London: Department of Health.

Department of Health (2011) Commissioning services for women and children who experience violence or abuse – a guide for health commissioners. London: Department of Health. Available at:

Home Office (2011) Cross-government definition of domestic violence: a consultation. London: Home Office.

Home Office (2011) Call to end violence against women and girls. London: Home Office.

Home Office (2011) Call to end violence against women and girls: action plan. London: Home Office.

Home Office (2011) Call to end violence against women and girls: action plan progress review. London: Home Office.

Home Office (2011) Supporting high risk victims of domestic violence: a review of Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (MARACs). London: Home Office.

Improving safety, reducing harm: children, young people and domestic violence: a practical toolkit for front-line practitioners 2009 

Norgrove, D. (2011) Family Justice Review: final report. London: Ministry of Justice.

Smith, K. (ed), Coleman, K., Eder, S. and Hall, P. (2011) Homicides, firearm offences and intimate violence 2009/10 (Supplementary volume 2 to Crime in England and Wales 2009/10 2nd Edition). Home Office Statistical Bulletin 01/11.)

Royal College of General Practitioners (2011) Violence against women and children. London: Royal College of General Practitioners. Registration required.

Stanley, N., Miller, P., Richardson Foster, H. and Thomson, G. (2009) Children and Families Experiencing Domestic Violence: Police and Children’s Social Services Responses, London, NSPCC.

This is Abuse (2011)

Contact the NSPCC Information Service if you have questions about the NSPCC, domestic abuse or any child protection topic

Physical abuse in high risk families is an NSPCC priority