A briefing for commissioners : what survivors of violence and abuse say about mental health services (REVA project, briefing 4)

Scott, Sara, Williams, Jennie, McNaughton, Nicholls C., McManus, Sally, Brown, Ashley, Harvey, Shannon, Kelly, Liz and Lovett, Jo (2015) A briefing for commissioners : what survivors of violence and abuse say about mental health services (REVA project, briefing 4). Project Report. NatCen, London.


The Department of Health publication, Commissioning services for women and children who have experienced violence or abuse – a guide for health commissioners, clearly acknowledges that ‘victims of violence or abuse tend to use health services more than average’ and that this is ‘despite often finding it hard to access services’ (Golding and Duggal, 2011: 22). The guidance goes on to state that it is precisely because of this that ‘it is in the NHS interest to identify these women and children, provide opportunities for them to disclose, and provide services [..] to help them improve their physical and mental health’ (ibid). The policy that has been implemented to support this process is known as ‘routine enquiry’ (RE). Since 2003 it has been Department of Health policy that all adult service users should be asked about experiences of violence and abuse in mental health assessments. However, asking about experiences of abuse and violence is not enough. To be effective the policy of routine enquiry has to be underpinned by the provision of appropriate and effective services for survivors of abuse. As the commissioning guidance notes, ‘commissioners should be aware of the importance of clear referral pathways, so that health professionals know where and how to refer women and children to local services’. For appropriate services to be available, commissioners also need to be aware of the type of services and care pathways that people who have experienced abuse feel are appropriate to meet their needs. In this briefing we present information drawn from interviews with mental health service users who have experienced domestic and/or sexual violence.

This briefing focusses on the links between experience of abuse and mental health and the implications this has for commissioners to create an effective service landscape. The REVA research included the experience of both male and female service users. Useful guidance focussing on commissioning services specifically for women and girls who have survived violence is also available: see Woman’s Aid and Imkaan, 2014 ‘Successful commissioning: a guide to commissioning services that support women and children survivors of violence’, see www.womensaid.org.uk for details.

REVA_Brief-4_Guidance-for-commissioners_FINAL_071015.pdf - Published Version

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