Domestic Abuse and the Provision of Advocacy Services: Mapping Support for Victims of Domestic Abuse in Family Proceedings in England and Wales

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Abstract

The role that domestic abuse services play in supporting victims through the family court process is under documented in domestic abuse literature, save for a recent enquiry conducted by SafeLives at the request of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, which was published in June 2021. The key contribution of that report was in providing quantitative (and to a leser extent, qualitative) insights into the extent of support available for victims in family court proceedings. This article seeks to build on the work of SafeLives by presenting empirical insights from a separate mixed-methods study in which 29 domestic abuse specialists and legal professionals either completed an online questionnaire, participated in a semi-structured interview, or engaged in both forms of participation. The study aimed to identify the nature and scope of advocacy assistance available to victims of domestic abuse in family court proceedings, to clarify whether such services are utilised as a replacement to, or alongside, traditional legal services, and finally to evaluate the capacity of such services to support victims through the family court process more safely and competently than if such support were not available. Whilst there is some overlap in the remit of this study and the SafeLives’ study, there are also important methodological differences which impact upon the respective findings, not least that this study has a greater qualitative focus and therefore provides rich insights into some of the SafeLives’ quantitative survey data. Further, this study engages different professional perspectives which allows for a valuable critique of victim services to be made. It is therefore suggested that the two studies complement rather than duplicate one another. The conclusions are particularly timely in light of the recent Home Office announcement that £81 million is being made available to recruit 700 Independent Sexual Violence Advisers and Independent Domestic Violence Advisers, and the introduction of Domestic Abuse Protection Orders under the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, which may see non-legally qualified domestic abuse specialists take a greater role in securing family court protection for service users.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Social Welfare and Family Law
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 11 Apr 2022

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