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Increase in child to parent violence during lockdown

The ‘hidden problem’ of child and adolescent to parent violence (C/APV) has seen a significant increase in the lockdown.

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C/APV

Earlier this week (18 August 2020), Professor of Criminology, Rachel Condry, and Dr Caroline Miles, a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Manchester, published a report which looks at families experiencing violence from their children during the pandemic. 

The report ‘Experiences of adolescent to parent violence in the COVID-19 lockdown’ details the findings of the study and builds on over a decade of research by Professor Condry and Dr Miles into Adolescent to Parent Violence (APV). They say, ‘This is not a new problem. Our previous work showed that, in London alone, in 2010, there were 1900 cases of APV reported to the police and recorded as offences.’
 
According to more than 100 parents and nearly 50 social work practitioners involved in the study, the ‘hidden problem’ of child and adolescent to parent violence (C/APV) has seen a significant increase in the lockdown.
 
Parents said lockdown pressures had made the problem worse. Being confined at home with the young person was described by one parent as having a ‘cabin fever effect’ and another said lockdown had created a ‘pressure cooker’ environment in an already volatile household.

Findings

This report draws upon the findings of online surveys of 104 parents who have experiences C/APV from their child aged 10-19 years and 47 practitioners who work with families experiencing C/APV. It also draws upon conversations and emails with policy leads and a Freedom of Information Request to all 43 police forces across England and Wales, asking for their total numbers of reported C/APV incidents over the one-year period from 1st April 2019 to 31st May 2020. The analysis revealed:

 

  • 70% of parents reported an increase in violent episodes during lockdown
  • 69% of practitioners said they had seen an increase in referrals for families experiencing C/APV
  • 64% of practitioners identified that the severity or incidence of violence had increased
  • 29% of parents identified a decline in C/APV during the lockdown period which was explained by a reduction in the stresses and triggers for violence in this period.

However, both practitioners and parents were very concerned for this group of families who might experience more severe problems when the pressures of everyday life return. Respondents identified some lockdown-specific reasons for the increase in C/APV:

  • Spatial confinement and coerced proximity
  • Changes in structure and routine
  • Fear and anxiety
  • Lack of access to formal and informal support

Practitioners’ views

Practitioners described the support they had provided to families during lockdown and the changes they had had to make. They expressed particular concerns bout safeguarding, risk assessment and safety planning; the difficulties of working remotely with young people and parents; difficulties with technology and access to it; escalation of mental health problems in young people and parents and increased need at a time when it was particularly difficult to meet; and their own isolation and stress and difficulty balancing their role with their own family and other commitments.

Future concerns

Practitioners identified serious future concerns as lockdown measures are lifted, and in the long term:

  •  A long-term impact on mental health of both children and parents who may have experienced lockdown as traumatic
  • A need for increased support work to heal changed and damaged family relationships
  • Anxieties and fear may remain high in families as the threat of a further national lockdown looms, along with the possibility of local lockdowns, and services struggle to meet increased needs
  • Families are likely to have to contend with a wide range of problems, which might include financial worries and unemployment
  • It will be difficult for young people and parents to return to their previous lives and the demands of school and other services, as well as having to enforce boundaries and rules that could be loosened during lockdown
  • It might be a particularly difficult and risky time for those who found lockdown reduced violence because it removed some of these stresses
  • There was a strong concern about how services would meet the increased need, at time when a return to work would be gradual and still constrained by distancing measures, and services would need considerable resources to do so.

Recommendations

The report’s authors make 10 recommendations:

  1. To ensure robust safeguarding measures for young people and families experiencing C/APV
  2. To expect and plan for a rise in demand for support as lockdown lifts and schools and workplaces reopen
  3. Caution to not over-criminalise young people using violence – prosecution of C/APV should be a last resort.
  4. To provide safe spaces for families at crisis point and respite care for young people
  5. That every local authority should have a specific programme for families experiencing C/APV and provide C/APV training for practitioners in other services.
  6. Connections should be drawn between C/APV, young people’s use of violence outside the home, and criminal exploitation
  7. To develop a thorough understanding of how the impact of Covid-19 and violence in the home intersect with structural inequalities.
  8. Practical measures need to be put in place to support remote working.
  9. There should be a strategic approach to C/APV at both local authority and government levels.
  10. A resounding call for increased funding, recognising families experiencing C/APV a priority.

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