Pan-Cheshire – Tackling perpetrators of domestic abuse across Cheshire

The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) and My Cheshire Without Abuse (My CWA) wanted to improve domestic abuse services across Cheshire with an emphasis on challenging perpetrators.


Context

The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) and My Cheshire Without Abuse (My CWA) wanted to improve domestic abuse services across Cheshire with an emphasis on challenging perpetrators. The OPPC and My CWA identified the Engage programme, a perpetrator focussed programme, as an opportunity to promote quality, equity of service and reduce the abuse committed by perpetrators across all four local authorities covering Cheshire (Cheshire West and Chester, Cheshire East, Warrington and Halton).

The Engage programme is a short practical intervention that aims to engage perpetrators and seeks to address the lack of support and confidence of professionals to work with perpetrators leading to their continued abuse of current and future adult and child victims. Engage was developed by forensic psychologist Emily Alison in Cheshire West and Chester, where 90 practitioners were trained. Cheshire East has, for the last four years, commissioned the Engage programme delivered by My CWA. The Engage model had also been piloted by SafeLives in two Beacon sites, West Sussex and Norfolk (Norwich). 

To initiate the programme the OPCC, with My CWA, secured funding from each local authority and the police to make a successful bid to the Ministry of Justice. The implementation of the 12-month pan Cheshire Engage Programme began in November 2020.

What did they do?

The OPCC with My CWA were keen to ensure the key success factors of the Engage Programme were embedded in each local authority:

  • a whole family approach is taken
  • practitioners are upskilled to challenge perpetrators
  • liaise and consult with multi-agency professionals to create a systematic approach to working with perpetrators. Recognising that one size may not fit all, they worked with each local authority, to ensure there was room for adaptation with the programme to meet the local needs of victims and survivors.

To support the implementation of the Engage programme, MY CWA worked with an expert partner, SafeLives, to conduct the local systems mapping, manage the sub regional programme governance and the subsequent evaluation. SafeLives worked with each local authority to conduct a systems analysis to understand the gaps within local service provision.

The gap analysis enabled SafeLives to determine where local service provision needed to be strengthened to meet the three-success factors of the Engage programme;

  • In Halton, they worked with an existing service provider to support the development of all three principles of the engage programme.
  • In Warrington they wanted to develop a perpetrator programme recognising that this was a gap within their current provision.
  • In Cheshire West and Chester they have well established teams across early help and children’s services who deliver trauma informed whole family work. However, these teams will be trained and supported to incorporate Engage into their approach.
  • In Cheshire East, where the Engage programme was already well developed, a lack of local capacity with engaging perpetrators with complex needs was identified.  The lack of capacity was leading to a prolonged delay between referrals being made and the perpetrator being engaged. Therefore, two additional change behaviour specialists were added to work with perpetrators.

Additionally, Cheshire East also wanted to scale up their systemic multi-agency approach to engaging perpetrators. 

My hope is that this programme will enable us to reach as many professionals as possible including those in health, police and children’s social care. If we can support all professionals to feel equipped and confident about how to assess and have a conversation with a person they are worried may be harming another, then I think we could have real impact in tackling domestic abuse."

- Emma Storey - Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Development Lead Advisor, Cheshire East Council

Impact and outcomes

Five months into the Engage programme, 40 perpetrator referrals have been made into domestic abuse services, with 25 families currently being supported across the four local authority areas. The ambition of the Engage programme is to see the following outcomes;

  • A sustained reduction in incidents of domestic violence and abuse
  • A reduction in domestic abuse incidents through behaviour change of the perpetrator
  • A reduction in impact of negative behaviour on victims and children
  • Improved support for perpetrators and families

The Engage programme has demonstrated that families can sometimes stay together, if the risk is managed appropriately by professionals. 

The engage programme has also upskilled 400 practitioners across a range of services which has improved the quality of referrals, into domestic abuse services. This has been achieved through accessible lunch and learn sessions with practitioners being informed about the typologies of domestic abuse, how to engage perpetrators, as well as, what the local pathways to support are.

The next steps of The Engage programme will be the evaluation at the end of the 12 months by SafeLives. However, a previous evaluation of the Engage programme in Cheshire East, conducted by the University of Liverpool, found an 85 per cent drop in domestic abuse incidents with a fivefold return on investment. SafeLives will hope to validate similar outcomes from the Pan Cheshire approach when they will measure the following at the end of the 12-month programme:

  • safety of victims and children
  • impact on resilience
  • impact on confidence and social isolation
  • practical outcomes for victim and perpetrator to measure impact on mental health, alcohol and substance misuse
  • return on Investment analysis.

Lessons learnt

The insights from educating perpetrators

MY CWA had noted that some perpetrators had wished they had been educated in school on how to manage conflict in relationships. This has offered a useful insight into the value of school education programmes focused on healthy relationships.

Being supported by a national expert partner in domestic abuse

SafeLives have brought valuable skills and expertise to the programme. They have effectively managed the board and kept partners focused on the needs of victims and survivors. They have supported each local authority to adapt their approach to meet their local needs, while maintaining the key principles of the Engage programme.

Contacts

Saskia Lightburn Ritchie, Chief Executive, My Cheshire Without Abuse ( Saskia.R@mycwa.org.uk)

Emma Storey Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Development Lead Advisor, Cheshire East Council (Emma.Storey@cheshireeast.gov.uk)