Government must recognise children as victims when living with domestic abuse

Up to a quarter of a million children living with domestic violence in England are not currently treated as victims

Young boy and girl sat on sofaDepartment for Education figures for 2017/18 show domestic abuse was a factor in 246,720 child protection assessments across England - more than half of all child protection assessments, where factors were identified, during that period1.

The government are yet to publish the outcomes of last year's consulation on domestic abuse. Their proposed new definition of domestic abuse only refers to the effects of abuse on those aged 16 and over, leaving younger children unrecognised by the justice system2.

Legal recognition would:

  • give children greater protection through domestic abuse protection orders
  • help professionals take action to protect children at risk
  • help authorities ensure there are specific support services for children and young people.

We're calling on government to publish their White Paper and help ensure children get the support they need.

Luke and Ryan Hart's story

Our call is backed by brothers Luke and Ryan Hart whose father murdered their mother and sister in 2016 after 2 decades of domestic abuse.


Almudena LaraAlmudena Lara, Head of Policy at the NSPCC, said:

"It is quite astonishing that the government is dragging its feet when deciding whether to recognise young people as victims when almost a quarter of a million children that we know of are living with domestic abuse in England alone.

"As well as the day-to-day distress that living with domestic abuse creates, it can cause long-term problems into adulthood that can only be addressed through targeted services that understand the complex trauma children living with domestic abuse experience.

"For this to be done effectively we need government to open their eyes to the harm domestic abuse has on children and give them victim status in the upcoming White Paper to ensure they receive the services they need."

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  1. 1. The Department for Education's Characteristics of children in need: 2017 to 2018 statistics detail the factors in 483,150 child protection assessments where factors were identified by local authorities in England. Domestic violence was deemed a factor in 246,720 cases.

  2. 2. The government is set to publish a White Paper for its Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill. The government's proposed new statutory definition of domestic abuse in its Transforming the response to domestic abuse consultation only refers to the effects of abuse on those aged 16 and over.
    It reads: "Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexual orientation. The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to:

    • psychological
    • physical
    • sexual
    • economic
    • emotional

    Controlling behaviour
    Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.
    Coercive behaviour
    Coercive behaviour is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim."