This briefing summarises NICE's recommendations for local authorities and partner organisations on domestic violence and abuse. It is relevant to a range of services, voluntary sector bodies and professionals. This includes: lead members of adult and children's social services, health and wellbeing boards, local safeguarding boards for children and adults and members of local crime and disorder reduction partnerships.

For the purposes of this briefing, the term 'domestic violence and abuse' is used to mean: any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or are family members. This includes:

  • psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional abuse

  • stalking

  • so-called 'honour'-based or 'honour' violence and forced marriage (as defined in 'Domestic violence and abuse – how services can respond effectively' NICE public health guidance 50)

  • female genital mutilation (see information from the Home Office).

Women and men can experience domestic violence and abuse in heterosexual and same-sex relationships. But women are more likely to experience repeated – and more severe – abuse by their partners (Homicides, firearm offences and intimate violence 2010/11: supplementary volume 2 to Crime in England and Wales 2010/11 Home Office 2012). On average, 2 women a week are killed by their partner or ex-partner in England and Wales.

Domestic violence and abuse between parents is the most frequently reported form of trauma for children (The mental health of children who witness domestic violence Meltzer et al. 2009). Children and young people may, for example, fear, hear or see it within their families, or worry about its effects on someone else. They can also experience it within their own intimate relationships.

Young people may also be violent or abusive towards their parents or carers.

Key messages

  • Domestic violence and abuse is a significant public health problem. People of all ages, from all sectors of society, may experience it. The effects can last a long time after the final incident. For example, childhood exposure can disrupt social, emotional and cognitive development. This can lead to the adoption of risky behaviours such as alcohol misuse or illicit drug use which, in turn, can cause poor health, disease, disability and early death (Adverse childhood experiences study Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

  • Multi-agency partnerships are needed, with clear, open communication channels and jointly agreed policies and procedures. (Examples include local safeguarding boards for children and adults, Safe Network and Multi-agency risk assessment conferences, see NICE public health guidance 50.) They should offer long-term generic and targeted services as part of a 'whole system' response. Local authorities are uniquely placed to coordinate and support this response.

  • Services that should respond to domestic violence and abuse include:

    • health (all levels and types of service)

    • specialist providers (such as alcohol and drugs services and sexual assault referral centres)

    • social care (for adults and children)

    • housing and refuges

    • criminal justice (including the police and probation services)

    • civil legal support

    • education (primary, secondary and further education).

  • All health and social care staff need training to identify and respond sensitively to a disclosure (see definition in NICE public health guidance 50) of domestic violence and abuse. This includes being able to ensure people's safety and being able to direct people to specialist support services.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is an independent organisation providing guidance and advice to improve health and social care.

For further information on how to use this briefing and how it was developed, see About this briefing.