Children of abused parents in London 'lack services'

Child sitting alone
Image caption Basic services for the children of abused parents "rarely exist", the report said

Children in London living in violent households are neglected by the services which are supposed to protect them, according to a report.

The report by domestic violence charity Refuge and children's charity the NSPCC found that children living with an adult being abused needed more help.

The research was prompted after cuts were made across the city to services which protect women and children.

The Home Office said tackling domestic violence was a priority.

'Significant gaps'

Sandra Horley, Refuge's chief executive, said the charity was saddened and frustrated that "even basic services to meet children's specific needs rarely exist".

She said there were also concerns that domestic violence risk assessments were not used routinely with children, and that children were often considered separately from their mothers.

Funded by the City Bridge Trust, which makes grants to charity projects, the research between October 2008 and March 2011 found "significant gaps in services".

The research period for the report covered a time of "great austerity" it said, and many services that existed at the start of the research had now either closed or cut their coverage.

MP Lynne Featherstone, the minister responsible for the government's plan to tackle domestic violence, responded to the report in a speech.

She said the protection of children was a priority for the government and £28m of "stable" Home Office funding had been allocated for services dealing with violence against women and girls until 2015.

She added that over £170,000 of a £60m pot for voluntary and community sector organisations would go to groups addressing domestic violence this year.

'Throwing blows'

The domestic violence report said some of the most vulnerable children were the least likely to get help and children rarely had the chance to express their own views on decisions which affected them.

One mother quoted in the report said: "I don't think anyone could tell me that the children were at risk and I would believe them, because I just didn't understand what the risk meant. For me it was like, 'well they are not here when (my partner) is throwing the blows, so they are not physically at risk, and that's how I understood it'."

Some "isolated" examples of positive work were highlighted.

One borough was Tower Hamlets in east London, which is developing its own risk assessment to cover children's needs when domestic violence is investigated.

The Stella Project, an agency which deals with the overlapping issues of domestic violence, drug, alcohol and mental health problems, was also highlighted for its work providing training to local agencies helping people who have been involved in domestic violence.

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