Domestic violence and child abuse protocol

A domestic violence and child abuse protocol helps professionals such as doctors, teachers and staff at young offender institutions to respond effectively to signs of violence. Since 1 July 2013 it is mandatory for professionals who suspect a case of domestic violence to consult and follow a special protocol.

Legal framework for the protocol

The mandatory use of the protocol is specified in the Mandatory Protocol (Domestic Violence and Child Abuse) Act. Organisations in the following sectors are required by law to have a domestic violence and child abuse protocol in place:

  • health care;
  • education;
  • child care;
  • social support;
  • youth care;
  • the criminal justice system.

This requirement does not apply to volunteer organisations. Volunteer organisations are, of course, allowed to develop their own step-by-step plan.

Model Protocol for Domestic Violence and Child Abuse

Each organisation and independent professional develops their own protocol. The protocol must include at least the following five steps:

  • Step 1: Identify the signs.
  • Step 2: Consult with a colleague and, if necessary, with Safe at Home (in Dutch), the advice and reporting centre for domestic violence and child abuse, or an injury specialist.
  • Step 3: Talk to the person(s) involved.
  • Step 4: Assess whether domestic violence or child abuse has occurred. If in doubt, consult with Veilig Thuis.
  • Step 5: Decide whether to arrange help yourself or report the case.

The government has drawn up a model protocol for domestic violence and child abuse (in Dutch).

Additional steps organisations need to take

As well as developing a protocol, organisations must also make decisions about the following matters:

Responsibility

Organisations must specify who is responsible for taking the steps, for instance a teacher who discusses signs of abuse with the school care coordinator. Organisations must also determine who has ultimate responsibility for the decision whether to file a report.

Knowledge about specific forms of violence

Organisations need to focus attention on specific forms of violence, for example female genital mutilation (FGM) and honour-based violence. This requires staff to have extra knowledge and skills.

Child check instructions

Organisations need to have instructions in place before a child check can be carried out. A child check is when professionals check whether a family has children and, if so, whether those children are safe. For instance, when a parent has a psychiatric disorder or addiction. The government is currently compiling basic guidelines for the child check.

Dealing with confidential information

Organisations must specify how staff are expected to deal with confidential information,

Register of at-risk juveniles

Organisations must inform their staff of the reporting procedure for the register of at-risk juveniles. This applies only to organisations authorised

Toolkit: developing a protocol

The protocol on domestic violence and child abuse toolkit contains tools and information to help organisations develop a protocol. The toolkit includes a checklist for managers and a standard presentation as well as background information for specific target groups and information for municipalities.

The protocol is not a duty to report

Organisations are required to have protocol, but this is not the same as a duty to report. If there is a duty to report, professionals must report concerns about possible violence to other institutions.

This is different to a protocol. When there is a protocol in place, professionals decide whether or not to report concerns about domestic violence. The step-by-step plan in the protocol will help them decide what to do.

Duty of confidentiality and the protocol

Care workers who provide assistance, care, support or other services are often subject to a duty of confidentiality or doctor-patient privilege. This means that they cannot share information about their client or patient with third parties without the consent of the client or patient. This makes it easier for clients and patients to share information with their care worker.

However, it may be in the client’s interests for the care worker to share confidential information.

This is why the Mandatory Protocol (Domestic Violence and Child Abuse) Act includes a statutory right to report domestic violence. This allows professionals who are subject to a duty of confidentiality or doctor-patient privilege to report concerns about domestic violence to Veilig Thuis, even without the consent of those involved.

Supervision of protocols

The following inspectorates check whether organisations and self-employed persons have a protocol in place, and whether they encourage staff to study and use it:

  • Healthcare Inspectorate;
  • Inspectorate of Education;
  • Youth Care Inspectorate;
  • Security and Justice Inspectorate.

Municipal supervision of certain organisations

Municipalities are responsible for monitoring certain organisations in the social support and child care sectors. This responsibility to monitor social support does not apply to all organisations, only to organisations that provide social support and either receive municipal subsidies or have a contractual relationship with the municipalities.

The 2015 Social Support Act also states that this requirement does not apply to providers of home adaptations or medical devices.