Helping more mothers and children to recover together from domestic abuse: part 2

Diane Hunter and Isabella Stokes explain how we're helping other organisations overcome barriers to delivering Domestic Abuse, Recovering Together DART™

Mother and son reading a book In the first part of this blog we discussed the findings from our evaluation of Domestic Abuse, Recovering Together (DART) and our plans for scaling up the service. We also explored the best ways to enable partner organisations to deliver DART in a sustainable and effective way

In this post we're looking in more detail at what we've learnt from scaling up DART and how we've reduced some of the barriers that our partner organisations experienced when implementing it for themselves.

Implementation in different contexts

We've developed and tested programmes such as DART and carried out evaluations to give us important information about the successes and challenges of the programme itself.

But we're still finding out the best way to implement our services in different contexts. We want to know how easy it was for our partners to implement our programmes and use this learning to bring about real change, improving programmes and how they're implemented.

Potential new partners are already signing up to be trained to implement and deliver DART. So it's vital that we use what we've learnt from our experiences of implementing the programme to ensure DART can be scaled up in the most effective way – and that more mothers and children can get the maximum benefit from taking part.

4 Barriers, 4 changes

Currently, 8 organisations are actively scaled up and delivering DART. But not all of them have found this easy. Sometimes we've worked with a partner to scale up the programme, but they haven't been able to continue running it in the long term.

We wanted to know why this had happened.

We were able to learn about the challenges faced by our partners and we changed the way we scale up DART so that it's easier for them to deliver the service.

We identified 4 main barriers to long-term delivery.

The problem
DART's delivery requires 2 rooms:  1 for mothers and 1 for children. Organisations often found it difficult to find a suitable venue and then had to provide taxis to transport mothers and children to and from the site. There were also additional costs for basics like tea and coffee, paints and paper.

What we've learnt
The organisations didn't anticipate the true cost of delivery. We need to communicate these costs with our partners at the start of scale-up so they can assess if it will be feasible for them to take DART on.

What we're doing
We've created a stronger "readiness assessment" for all organisations who are interested in working with us to deliver DART. This is a prerequisite to make sure organisations are aware of the resource and capacity they will need to deliver the service. We've also produced a more detailed breakdown of anticipated costs.

The problem
Organisations found it difficult to find available practitioners to deliver the service. DART requires 4 members of staff to run each session. One local authority practitioner said: "It's taken 4 members of staff out of doing their 1-to-1 work for a whole day every week for 10 weeks. So there was a big financial commitment, not only for resources and coordinating how people were going to get there, but worker time as well."

What we've learnt
We needed to think of ways to address staffing capacity without compromising the way DART works.

What we're doing
We're developing new ways for DART to be delivered that stay true to the model. One option is running the programme with 2 volunteers and 2 trained practitioners. The staff would be the leaders and the volunteers would be supporting co-facilitators. This option would need careful cost-benefit analysis but it could work well for organisations with established volunteer support. The use of volunteers could have an added benefit for the local community, helping members of the public learn how to identify and address the signs of domestic abuse and signpost routes to support. We're also developing a 'Train the Trainer' model so organisations can train their own staff, reducing their reliance on us and making the service more sustainable.

The problem
Organisations often reported issues with funding. A manager in a voluntary organisation told us: "The reality is that there is an appetite for this work. But because in the case of DART it's post-abuse, and therefore the children aren't seen as a risk, it's not going to be a commissioner's priority in a time of funding constraints."

What we've learnt
We need to think creatively to help our partners tackle financial challenges.

What we're doing
1 idea to address lack of funding involves cooperation between 2 or more organisations, pooling resources to deliver DART. Collaboration could help increase the number of local families benefitting, as each organisation would have its own referral pathways. Developing close organisational links could also help organisations to share insight, ideas and resources more effectively - improving their own work, overcoming obstacles and benefitting the local community.

The problem
DART sessions run best when the children are of a similar age. However, to get these groups our partners ended up with long waiting lists.

What we've learnt
Some organisations shared referrals in order to reduce long waiting lists. This is an innovative approach the NSPCC can adopt and share with new partners.

What we're doing
We thought this was a great idea and are considering matching up our partner organisations so they can share waiting lists. Some could also share staff to increase capacity.

We've built in more support for other organisations throughout the first few months of implementing DART. This can help with any challenges they might experience such as staffing capacity, getting suitable referrals for the service, delivery costs and challenges with taking children out of school to attend DART.

A positive future for DART

By adapting DART we're hoping other organisations will be able to start delivering this already successful evidence-based service in a sustainable way.

Our own development managers are now more aware of the challenges that other organisations may face when they take on one of our services and they will be able to address these before we scale up our other services in the future.

And - most importantly - by offering increased flexibility, sustainability and cost-effectiveness for organisations, we're able to support more children and their families.

If you'd like to find out more about DART visit

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More from impact and evidence

Helping more mothers and children to recover together from domestic abuse: part 1

Diane Hunter and Isabella Stokes describe how Domestic Abuse, Recovering Together (DART) helps mothers and children and how the NSPCC plans to make it more widely available.
Find out more

Domestic Abuse, Recovering Together - Evidence, impact and evaluation

How the NSPCC service Domestic Abuse, Recovery Together was evaluated.
Domestic Abuse, Recovery Together - Evidence, impact and evaluation

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