Earlier chapters of this book aimed to improve detailed policy and practice in social services departments and probation services in relation to domestic abuse. They have called on professionals and their managers to put on a new pair of spectacles—just as had to happen when the widespread nature of child abuse began to be fully realised—to see men’s violence to women as already present in every category of work and as urgently requiring an improved response. Improvements in the ability of agencies to offer women practical assistance and empowering emotional support, and to help prevent further violence, will have an immediate impact. There is also a need for a more proactive approach, to plan new ways of harnessing social work and probation skills so as to make life easier for women and children and harder for abusive men.
Current thinking leads towards the view that pooling efforts with others in multi-agency activity is the best way forward. It is certainly the only possible means by which services for women, children and male perpetrators can be integrated in Britain, given that there are not the resources to design interlinked responses from scratch. Rather, we need to build on what we already have. We also need this to happen within the context of a community that takes overall responsibility for raising public awareness that domestic abuse is widespread and that it will not be tolerated. Political support, private sector funding and local community activities can all play a part in this. Whatever action is taken needs to be clearly informed by a feminist analysis and a woman-centred approach that keeps women’s perspectives, safety and choices to the fore. Ensuring that Women’s Aid plays a central role in any service planning and campaigning is a key way of holding to this essential focus, as is providing the necessary services to help women rebuild their confidence and their lives. To achieve the latter, women need the opportunity to come together in informal groups and formally constituted organisations to develop a positive view of their own capabilities and strengths in the face of an often hostile and still deeply sexist social environment.
This chapter will explore the development and role of inter-agency