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The Archers domestic abuse storyline highlights need for family support, say health visitors

Two in five health visitors say support for families affected by domestic abuse in England has got worse in the past two years.
The Archers

Two in five health visitors say support for families affected by domestic abuse in England has got worse in the past two years.

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV), which carried out the survey, have called for domestic violence and abuse to be made a public health priority.

The figures coincide with a joint conference by the RSPH and iHV examining the public health consequences for domestic abuse and violence, and how early intervention can reduce risks to children.

It also comes as a storyline about domestic abuse in BBC Radio 4s The Archers has led to increased awareness and a fundraising appeal raising almost 170,000 for charity Refuge.

The long-running storyline saw character Helen Titchener tried and cleared for the attempted

Two in five health visitors say support for families affected by domestic abuse in England has got worse in the past two years.

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV), which carried out the survey, have called for domestic violence and abuse to be made a public health priority.

Helen Archer (Louiza Patikas), Rob Titchener (Timothy Watson)
Photo: Pete Dadds, BBC

The figures coincide with a joint conference by the RSPH and iHV examining the public health consequences for domestic abuse and violence, and how early intervention can reduce risks to children.

It also comes as a storyline about domestic abuse in BBC Radio 4’s The Archers has led to increased awareness and a fundraising appeal raising almost £170,000 for charity Refuge.

The long-running storyline saw character Helen Titchener tried and cleared for the attempted murder of her abusive husband.

Findings from the iHV survey of 397 health visitors working in England include:

  • Almost two thirds (62%) of health visitors say the families they work with affected by domestic violence and abuse do not feel empowered to do anything about the situation.
  • Almost half (47%) of health visitors believe that in one in five of the families they work with the parents’ challenged relationship is impacting on their children.
  • Only one in three (32%) health visitors say services have not got worse in the past two years.

RSPH chief executive Shirley Cramer said: 'Domestic violence and abuse often underpins a wide range of other health and wellbeing issues, especially mental health problems, not just for partners but also for children in affected families. Tackling domestic violence and abuse and its effects should therefore be a major public health priority at both a local and national level.

'With the recent Archers storyline having raised awareness of the plight of real life Helens, this is a good time to be considering how both the core and wider public health workforce can do their bit to tackle the issue.'

Dr Cheryll Adams, executive director of iHV said: 'It is of no surprise to us that health visitors see so much domestic abuse in families.

'Tolerance of this will reduce if it becomes a much more conspicuous public issue, as has happened with the Archers storyline.'

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