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The Missed Opportunity – a new approach to identifying domestic abuse



Serious case reviews, special measures, reviews of services, domestic homicide reviews… these are terms which are catching my eye in the news all too often. These terms scream ‘serious service failure’, but is that a fair reflection on the ways agencies are working together to safeguard people in their homes? This week is Domestic Abuse Awareness Week (25-29 November), and it puts the focus on how we best tackle the issue. In my view, multiple agencies like local authorities, the police and housing providers like Curo must work together effectively to safeguard every individual in our communities.

The statistics around domestic abuse are shocking. One in four women has experienced domestic abuse in their lifetime; for men it’s one in ten. It is estimated that in households where domestic abuse is a factor 90% of children will have been in the same room or next door to where the incident is happening.

Domestic abuse happens behind closed doors and is often unseen and unreported. On average a victim will suffer 35 counts of abuse before reporting it. Across the UK the police receive on average one report of domestic abuse every sixty seconds – shocking enough, yet estimates suggest that a domestic abuse incident is happening every six seconds.

So, what can we do to deliver genuinely effective support for those affected by domestic abuse? The starting point is finding the earliest available opportunity to engage with victims. Organisations like Curo, which provide both homes and support services, have a big part to play. Working together with the right local partners is paramount. We’re fortunate at Curo to have knowledgeable practitioners at agencies like Southside, a family support charity, who work to ensure that victims are no longer at risk.

At Curo, we make around 60,000 home visits every year – carrying out repairs and surveys, meeting customers to help solve problems, making house calls to vulnerable residents and so on. In our view, a customer-facing colleague working for a housing provider has the same responsibility for dealing with and highlighting cases and concerns about domestic abuse as someone working for a local authority or the police, for example. If we witness situations that raise genuine concerns, we need to seize the opportunities to raise the alarm sensitively and flag up any information which could be acted on to prevent someone from suffering further. 

Consequently, during Domestic Abuse Awareness Week, we are launching a new training programme called ‘The Missed Opportunity’, developed with Southside’s Independent Domestic Abuse (IDVA) service. ‘The Missed Opportunity’ is theatre-based training designed to help our customer-facing colleagues challenge, influence and talk about situations they may encounter on an almost daily basis. Professional actors will play out scenarios which delegates are invited to influence and replay, suggesting different approaches and quizzing the characters.

The training is about providing colleagues with the tools they need so that should they ever find themselves in a situation where they are concerned about someone’s safety in their own home, they can make a difference.

Every one of the 175 Curo and Southside colleagues who visit customers’ homes will go on this training, which is being run with professional actors. We will then be extending this opportunity to any other organisations across the West of England whose staff come into contact with customers in their own homes. 

My message to colleagues during Domestic Abuse Awareness Week will be that everyone, whatever their role, has an opportunity to help tackle domestic abuse. If this new training means that just one opportunity which might have been missed is identified, and measures are put in place to safeguard victims, then the project will have been worthwhile.

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