Social workers and care managers working with all adult user groups, including workers taking referrals from health settings, need training on domestic abuse and how to respond. They may, for example, come across older women who have been subjected to abuse for years, women with disabilities caused by their abuse or which compound the difficulties of escaping from it, women who have developed mental health problems as a result of abuse, or others who misuse alcohol or other substances to deaden its impact. There is no area of practice where a knowledge of domestic violence and skill in working with women to assess and improve levels of safety are not relevant, and no setting in which messages cannot be sent to women—through posters and leaflets in all locally spoken languages, and other means—telling them that they will be taken seriously if they disclose abuse. Social services, as the lead agency for community care, needs to recognise its special responsibility to ensure that the needs of women subjected to men’s violence have been actively considered wherever they may present for help.
Traditionally, it has been said that social workers are only likely to become fully involved in a situation of domestic abuse if they have a statutory reason to do so under the child care or mental health legislation. In the preceding chapter, an argument for wider-scale interest in children living with violence as being ‘in need’ under the Children Act 1989 was mentioned, as well as the general requirement to work in partnership with parents—including abused mothers—to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. A similar argument can be made that it is no longer possible simply to say that social services has no statutory authority for domestic violence in adult services. Since the problem is already present in all settings in cases where there is a duty to assess, care managers and planners at both individual and authority-wide level need to know how to recognise and respond to it. Furthermore, since local authorities are now involved in drawing up their own definitions of need through local community care plans—with the legal questions concerning failure to meet need, once identified in individual cases, still unresolved at the time of writing—the