Aimed at preventing domestic abuse, reducing repeat incidents and the impact of abusive relationships, Family Choices is based on the premise that most parents want to be involved in their children’s lives in a positive way and that it is possible to learn to behave differently. The programme builds mutual respect and seeks to eliminate blame, enabling parents to make safe choices about how they wish to relate to each other and to their children.
The perpetrator programme is based on the Duluth model of intervention. The 27 week programme is divided into eight, three-session modules conducted on a rolling basis. Recent research suggests that more attention needs to be paid to the individual differences and emotional dynamics of perpetrators, an approach integrated into the work where appropriate.
Risks may increase for a victim when the perpetrator is attending a programme to address their abusive behaviour. Family Choices allocates a key worker responsible for maintaining contact during the programme. Victims are invited to attend group work, self-esteem workshops and ongoing support.
Support for children living with domestic abuse emphasises that the violence is not the children’s fault, encourages healthy expressions of emotions and provides safety planning.
The Family Choices project was established in 2011/12 and is funded by Reading Borough Council. Where there is domestic abuse within the family in Reading the programme is frequently a primary component in Child Protection plans.
The team has weekly ‘triage’ meetings with Children’s Services in Reading. Domestic violence notifications are discussed and actions agreed as to how best to approach the family and offer support. Since May 2011 BWA has received nearly 2000 notifications, the majority of which required some level of support for victims and their children.
BWA has commissioned an independent evaluation of Family Choices in 2013, to review progress and to enable us to plan for the future. In addition to the main project a smaller pilot programme is funded by the Probation Service in Reading. The target group consists of perpetrators who are in contact with the Probation Service for other offences but where the offender manager is aware of an abusive relationship.