PROTECT COVID 19: Exploring lived experiences of the impact of intimate partner violence and abuse on children, affected family members and perpetrators during the COVID- 19 global pandemic

Research Institution / Organisation

Newcastle University

Principal Researcher

Dr Hayley Alderson

Level of Research

Professional / Work-based

Project Start Date

October 2020

Research Context

In 2019, approximately 2.4 million adults (16-74 years) experienced intimate partner violence and abuse (IPVA) in England and Wales. The COVID-19 pandemic lockdown may have exacerbated IPVA as a surge in incidents has been reported through local police intelligence and calls to UK helplines. Causal factors may include loss of income and associated stress alongside the disruption of social and protective networks especially for women over 50 and BME groups and the decreased access to support services. This impact is felt most greatly within the home and may reverberate across family networks. The additional factor of school closures may increase tension whilst also resulting in children being exposed to parental IPVA or familial abuse at a higher and more significant rate than usual and reduced opportunity for contact with services who may otherwise identify this. In addition, a recent Social Care Institute for Excellence report emphasises that as lockdown eases, perpetrators of IPVA may try to re-exert control they perceive they have had during lockdown by engaging in new and/or more harmful behaviour and intensifying coercive control.

Vision: Our proposed N8 project has emerged out of an on-going and existing research project with practitioners into parental IPVA, which has identified a changed multi-agency response to parents who have been affected by IPVA during lockdown. These practitioners reported that they have been attempting to support parents to stay safe within the abusive and violent relationship. This is a substantial shift in practice, which previously typically assisted victims to exit abusive relationships. However, the current pandemic context results in alternative accommodation, such as hotels, being deemed to be ‘unsafe’ or unsuitable to women and their children fleeing IPVA due to the risks associated with the behaviour of other vulnerable adults within these accommodations (such as homeless and substance using males), the potential for infection with COVID 19 whilst residing in shared spaces and due to staffing shortages due to illness and shielding. Thus, there is an urgent need to understand how victims and survivors of parental IPVA have experienced the changed multi-agency response to IPVA during the pandemic and their evolving needs within this fast-changing context.

The key aim of the study is to understand their perception of the multi-agency response to parental IPVA during COVID 19, including barriers and facilitators to engaging with the police and multi-agency partners. We will examine best practice approaches from the parents’ and adult family members’ perspective and make recommendations for future policing/multi-agency practice, based upon the findings of the project. This work is timely and important to inform the police, violence reduction units and partner agency response to parental IPVA within our social recovery from the pandemic as well as learning essential lessons to plan for and respond to a potential second spike in COVID 19.

Research Methodology

We will work within our extensive police and multi-agency networks to act as gatekeepers and recruit parents who are victims/survivors and perpetrators of IPVA and other adult family members for interview. We will conduct in-depth interviews with all participants; transcribing interviews for narrative data coding using N-vivo to support thematic analysis. Data from this study will be themed and used to characterise the impact of the different phases of COVID 19 lockdown on victims/survivors and perpetrators of parental IPVA, as well as their children.

Based on prior experience and empirical evidence from small scale qualitative studies (4), we envisage that interviewing 25-30 participants will be sufficient to reach data saturation.

This research is being carried out in collaboration with:


Newcastle University- Dr Hayley Alderson (Research Associate), Dr Ruth McGovern (Lecturer in Public Health Research), Professor Eileen Kaner (Professor of Public Health), Ms Deborah Smart (Research Assistant).

Morpeth, Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust and Newcastle University- Dr Simon Hackett (Consultant Arts Psychotherapist & Hon. Senior Clinical Lecturer in Mental Health).

Northumbria University- Dr Will McGovern (Senior Lecturer Social Work and Childhood Studies), Dr Michelle Addison (Senior Lecturer).

Tees Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust and County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust- Victoria Cooling (Speciality Registrar in Public Health)

Durham Constabulary- Yvonne Dutson (T/DCI 189), Gillian Routledge (Head of Tasking and Coordination Command)

Gateshead Local Authority - Linda Kelly (Service Manager, Specialist Support, Children and Families)


Interim reports and publications

​The findings of this proposed research will be presented within an interim and end of project report submitted to the N8 partnership. We will also produce one (open access) peer reviewed publication and other outputs including lay summaries of the work and its implications which will all be co-produced with the research team.

Date due for completion

October 2021
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