Reflections on the Cedar blog series
– November 2020
This blog series was launched in July 2020 and set out to share good practice and key learning around children and young people, domestic abuse and recovery during the pandemic. Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, evidence showed incidences and intensity of domestic abuse rising in many countries, including Scotland, during lockdown. As lockdown restrictions first began to ease in the summer, it was anticipated that the numbers of children and young people disclosing and requiring support to recover from their experiences of domestic abuse would increase. The first blog in this series highlighted that a lack of access to appropriate, high-quality and sustainable support could seriously impact children’s recovery and their traumatic experiences could have a long-term impact on their outcomes.
The topics covered in this series have provided an opportunity to highlight the importance of early intervention support to tackle domestic abuse in Scotland. The second blog focused in particular on how early intervention and support for domestic abuse should be embedded in Scotland’s COVID-19 recovery and renewal following lockdown measures easing. This blog highlighted that broader recovery and renewal cannot be achieved if we don’t have systems and services in place to protect and support women and children affected by domestic abuse. Now that Scotland is experiencing additional national and local restrictions in the autumn and winter months, this messaging continues to be crucial as we know the risks and vulnerabilities families are likely to face during these restrictions. A focus on early intervention is key to reducing risk and mitigating the long-term effects of domestic abuse on children and young people’s health and wellbeing, education, relationships and development. Evidence also shows that early support for children and young people affected by domestic abuse can help to avoid costlier, more intensive interventions in the long term. We do not know yet how COVID-19 restrictions will change across time, and the path to ‘recovery’ from the pandemic is unclear. Therefore, there must be domestic abuse support for children and young people embedded into contingency plans for any current and future restrictions.
Across this series of blogs, we have shared how local Cedar Projects across Scotland have adapted and redesigned their services to ensure they are safe, resilient and effective during COVID-19. Since lockdown restrictions were introduced, local Cedar projects have creatively adapted their work to support children, young people and their mothers, and have provided remote support to families in the absence of being able to deliver the ‘gold standard’ recovery groupwork. Coordinators have reported that children and their mothers have benefited from this adapted support during a time where they are at greater risk of experiencing re-traumatisation and poor mental health.
Cedar support will have also helped children and their mothers through a potentially difficult transition period back to school following a long period of school closures during lockdown. During lockdown, children who have experienced domestic abuse may have faced elevated and sustained levels of trauma and re-traumatisation, and may have been adversely impacted by measures to control the pandemic. The third blog in this series highlighted how schools and education staff could be prepared for this following the lengthy closure. Evidence shows that recovery support like Cedar can help children understand the root and impact of their trauma, and can improve children’s concentration at school, reduce anxiety and increase their confidence in participating in the classroom. Therefore, it is vital that collaborative, multi-agency work between education staff and specialist domestic abuse services continues in order to support children on their recovery journey.
It is vital that the voices of children, young people and their mothers who have been affected by domestic abuse are at the centre of local and national community renewal. Pre-pandemic, children and young people affected by domestic abuse highlighted the need for improved access to specialist services, clearer signposting of support, and for systems and people to work together to ensure they can access the right support at the right time, and have their voices heard in decision making. The fourth blog in this series highlighted the mental health impact of domestic abuse on children and young people, and how their wellbeing must be a priority as we address the COVID-19 pandemic. Now more than ever, it is vital to ensure that the inequalities and negative impacts on outcomes exacerbated during the pandemic do not become further entrenched and compounded across communities and generations.
Measures to control the pandemic continue to impact the daily lives of children and young people and present risks for their mental health, outcomes, and safety. This series has highlighted the need for a whole-systems approach, where services, systems and workforces are domestic abuse-informed and can provide support which improves outcomes for children and young people. A collaborative and joined-up approach is essential to tackling and eradicating domestic abuse, and must be a key part of Scotland’s COVID-19 recovery, renewal and transformation agenda.