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Updated DVA e-learning to equip HVs with skills and knowledge

28th April 2020

A blog by Dr Sue Peckover, Reader in Public Health Nursing at Sheffield Hallam University, the lead author of the just-launched updated Domestic Violence and Abuse e-learning from Health Education England e-Learning for Healthcare (HEE e-LfH) and the Institute of Health Visiting.

Dr Sue Peckover, Reader in Public Health Nursing at Sheffield Hallam University

Children and families across the UK are facing considerable social and economic challenges due to the COVID-19 crisis.  Whilst the ‘stay at home’ message is crucial for fighting the spread of the virus unfortunately, for many families, home is not always a safe place. It is estimated that around  1.6 million women and 786,000 men aged 16 to 74 years experienced domestic abuse in the year ending March 2019 (Office of National Statistics 2019) – and these already high numbers are likely to increase due to the additional stressors created by this pandemic. The situation is further compounded as services that were in place to mitigate risk and identify signs of Domestic Violence and Abuse (DVA) have been cut or severely limited due to rules on social isolation and some redeployment of staff.

Domestic violence and abuse can affect men as well as women, and it can affect individuals in all relationships, including LGBT+ relationships and familial settings. However, it remains a largely gendered issue with the impact disproportionately affecting women and their children. In these difficult times, it is vitally important that the needs of vulnerable children and families are not overlooked and that practitioners, such as health visitors and nurses, are equipped with skills and knowledge to enable them to identify domestic violence and abuse, and support victims and their families.

Yesterday saw the launch of updated e-learning for health visitors and nurses on Domestic Violence and Abuse. The e-learning programme consists of four new introductory modules which have been developed following a refresh of the evidence, policy and legislation on domestic violence and abuse. The four e-learning modules, each lasting around 30-45 minutes, were developed by the Institute for Health Visiting and funded by Health Education England. These updated modules include the latest definition of domestic violence and abuse which incorporates concepts of coercive control, includes both single incidents and patterns of behaviour, and covers the concept of ‘economic abuse’. The training takes a trauma-informed approach which takes account of the whole family who are experiencing domestic violence and abuse, looking at root causes of behaviour whilst also challenging and holding those perpetrating the abuse to account. The needs of children remain paramount and there is greater emphasis on ensuring that the “voice of the child” is heard and remains central to assessment and safety planning.  The modules are aligned to underpinning statutory guidance for professionals who have safeguarding obligations.

In order to develop safe and effective practice, it is important that practitioners develop a full appreciation of what domestic violence and abuse involves, and how it impacts upon everyday family life, parenting, child wellbeing and safety.  This e-learning programme discusses how it is defined and understood and some of the key practical and theoretical issues linked with this. An overview of the extent of the problem, groups at increased risk of domestic violence and abuse, linked issues, the wider legal and policy framework, as well as the overall impact on communities, victims and their children is also provided. Identification of need and early intervention/work with families can significantly reduce risk of ongoing harm and is important not only for the wellbeing of the child, but to the health and wellbeing of the children and families affected. The four modules include videos, case studies, links to aid learning and questions to test your knowledge of the subjects and reflect on your learning. Each module also contains references to support further reading and wider learning.

The e-learning package aims to equip health visitors and nurses with the skills and knowledge that will enable them to provide a proactive, responsive and safe service to families experiencing domestic violence and abuse. Due to the transferable nature of the content, the modules will also be relevant to practitioners working with children and families across the wider healthcare system.

The content of these modules has been co-produced by the Institute of Health Visiting with health visitors with lead roles for domestic violence and abuse, researchers and safeguarding specialists, representatives from key agencies including Women’s Aid, the Stefanou Foundation, Family Nurse Partnership and GALOP (the UK’s specialist lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender plus anti-violence charity) and “experts by experience” who generously shared their first-hand experience of the effects of domestic violence and abuse for the benefit of others.

Dr Sue Peckover, Reader in Public Health Nursing at Sheffield Hallam University

Office for National Statistics (2019) Domestic abuse in England and Wales overview: November 2019. Office for National Statistics. Available

For more information about the Domestic Violence and Abuse programme, including details of how to access, please visit the link below:


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