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Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Resources: Materials to support health and social work in situations of coercive control

Written by The Editorial Team

New open access learning resources for social workers, safeguarding leads and health and social care practitioners, provide information and guidance on how to recognise and respond to coercive and controlling behaviour in intimate or family relationships.

Five in-depth case studies describe situations of controlling and coercive behaviour with learning activities including sample assessment and safety plans which look at the kind of questions that a practitioner might ask, and how they might begin to record evidence or concerns. There are tools to support effective practice and a comprehensive resource library with further information and guidance about social work in cases of coercive control. 

Coercive control is the underlying feature of domestic abuse and is an offence in law. It is a pattern of behaviour which seeks to take away the victim’s sense of self, affecting their freedom and violating their human rights. Controlling or coercive behaviour can be difficult to identify, but an increased understanding of the dynamics of coercive control can help safeguard and support both children and adults.

Social workers need to be confident that they are acting in a way that prioritises the safety of children and families. Supporting the non-abusing parent in a holistic way that acknowledges the impacts of coercive control is important in achieving good outcomes for children. Research by Katz (2015) showed that children also experience the impacts of coercive control of a parent; for example, becoming isolated from family and friends, finding it difficult to gain independence, and feeling disempowered.

The learning resources will support practitioners to improve their understanding of the dynamics of power and control that underpin domestic abuse, enabling them to build trusting relationships with children and survivors.

The examples, tools and videos bring together evidence from research, practitioner experience, and the voice of people using services, to enable professionals to put the law into practice and improve support for people who are experiencing coercive control. 

The Chief Social Worker’s Office at the Department of Health commissioned the materials, which were developed by Research in Practice for Adults and Women’s Aid.


Katz E (2015) Beyond the physical incident model: how children living with domestic violence are harmed by and resist regimes of coercive control. Child Abuse Review 25, 1, 46-59 (