Parents under pressure

While most people know about domestic abuse and its effects, less attention is given to child or adolescent violence against parents or carers.

To compound matters further, this issue is on the rise with figures suggesting reported incidents have doubled in the past three years. This is a serious issue for many families, which can be misunderstood or overlooked.

Although this issue is by no means unique to South Tyneside or, indeed the North East, we decided to take action.

As a starting point, council officers spoke to families who had experience of this type of behaviour. They found families were unwilling to ask for help, felt their views were not taken seriously, and that they were often ‘judged’ and made to feel humiliated by the professionals who should have been there to support them.

Our community safety team applied for funding from the Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner to deliver awareness-raising training on child violence against parents/carers across the Northumbria Police area.

This was rolled out to police officers, health practitioners and children’s services at all levels across six local authority areas. To date, more than 500 police officers and 700 professionals have been trained across the region. The project continues to evolve, with police officers and safeguarding staff now routinely looking for evidence of child-to-parent violence when called to incidents.

We have developed a screening tool consisting of a series of questions that identifies the level of risk faced by parents/carers. Families are then offered the appropriate support, which could include early help, social care or youth justice services. This can include taking part in a Respect for Young People course – a structured programme for the whole family for those who need additional support (see right).

A self-help booklet has been produced, offering reassurance and practical strategies to families, and contact details for further support and advice. A film, highlighting case studies of families living with this issue, has also been produced to raise awareness among different organisations to ensure an appropriate multi-agency response is provided.

There are many social reasons to explain why this type of abuse happens. The scope and complexity of these issues makes it even more important that we have a range of proportionate responses available to support these families.

Rather than take a punitive approach, we help families to feel more confident by giving them information and support to take control of the situation themselves.

Respect for young people

South Shields couple Sarah and Bob Burrough say the support they have received from South Tyneside Council has “completely changed their lives”.

The couple asked for help for their son, now 13, who has a diagnosis of autism, and the whole family did the Respect for Young People course.

Sarah said: “The course helped us to give him other outlets for feelings rather than aggression. It has also helped him take responsibility for his feelings; he will now say sorry when his anger flares as a result of his autism or anxiety, which he never used to do.

“We thought it wouldn’t work but as the weeks went on we stuck rigidly to the plan because we were desperate for help. At first he kicked back but I can honestly say the programme has completely changed our lives.”

Recommended
Involving the community has helped create a country park shortlisted for a national award.