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Domestic Abuse, Recovering Together (DART™)

What is DART

Helping children and mothers after domestic abuse

Through Domestic Abuse, Recovering Together (DART™), children and mothers can talk to each other about domestic abuse, learn to communicate and rebuild their relationship.

The service, which has been recognised by the Home Office, also provides children and mothers with an opportunity to meet others who have lived through similar experiences.

How DART works

Over ten weeks, mothers and children aged 7-14 meet for a weekly two-hour group session.

Children and mothers work together for an hour at the start of the group, and then take part in activities in separate groups. At the end of each session, they join together again.

Women learn more about:

  • how domestic abuse happens
  • how it affects children.

They’ll also explore experiences and strategies that can be used as a parent.

Children take part in activities together that help them build their own understanding of domestic abuse and how they’re feeling.

Evidence and evaluation

The evidence base

Domestic abuse can both directly and indirectly disrupt the relationship between a parent and their child (Humphreys et al, 2006; Buchanan, 2018). It can have a significant impact on the child’s development, education outcomes and mental health (Holt, Buckley and Whelan, 2008; Stanley, 2011; Szilassy et al, 2017).

> Find out more about the impact of domestic abuse

Abuse can happen in any relationship, and both males and females can be abused or be abusers. However, there is a strong body of evidence demonstrating that females are disproportionately affected by domestic abuse (Office for National Statistics, 2017; SafeLives, 2018).

Because of this, our service focuses on work with mothers and their children. Supporting mothers and their children to rebuild their relationship is critical in helping both to recover from and overcome their experiences (Humphreys et al, 2006).

DART is based on University of Warwick research, ‘Talking to my mum’ (Humphreys et al, 2006), and previous statutory guidance (Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), 2010), which stated that children’s outcomes are improved if the mother is supported to take an active part in the child’s recovery.

It also builds on work undertaken by the Community Group Treatment Programme in Sutton, which focused on working with children but found that sessions where the mothers attended were the most successful (Audit Commission, 2007).

Evaluation of DART

We first evaluated Domestic Abuse, Recovering Together (DART™) when it was initially delivered at the NSPCC to see if it helped to improve outcomes for mothers and children following domestic abuse.

What we learnt

After receiving the DART programme:

  • mothers’ self-esteem and confidence in parenting increased
  • children had fewer emotional and behavioural difficulties; reductions were greater among children who received DART than those involved in an alternative service
  • practitioners, mothers and children said that the joint sessions helped them to work together; the sessions helped children share their experiences of the abuse, and their mothers to understand them
  • there were indications that the mother-child relationship had improved, for instance mothers reported more affection towards their child.

Barriers to improvements included:

  • challenging behaviour in some of the children’s groups
  • contact with the father
  • some mothers resuming relationships with the perpetrator after the intervention.

> Read our evaluation report

The second impact evaluation additionally found that families who received DART in a scale-up site (where the site is trained and supported by the NSPCC to run DART) had very similar outcomes to those who attended the service at the NSPCC.

> Read the impact evaluation report

How we evaluated this service

The first evaluation of DART used a mixed-method approach, with quantitative and qualitative data collected from children, mothers, referrers and DART practitioners. 

The second impact evaluation was purely quantitative, and included mothers and children from NSPCC and scaled up sites who attended DART. These evaluations measured the impact of the service. Process and implementation evaluations have also been conducted.

The first impact evaluation

Standardised measures were completed by mothers and children at three time points:

  • time 1: before starting the programme
  • time 2: straight after the programme
  • time 3: six months after the family finished the programme.

We used questionnaires that measured factors such as:

  • self-esteem
  • confidence in parenting
  • maternal warmth
  • children’s emotional and behavioural difficulties.

A small comparison group was included in the study. The comparison group participants were children and young people from a women’s refuge who had attended play therapy to support their recovery from domestic abuse.

The impact of the evaluation was measured by comparing the outcomes of the DART group and comparison group. The longer-term effects of the evaluation were measured by comparing the results of the measures collected at time 3 with the time 1 and time 2 data, to see if any improvements had been maintained over time.

The second impact evaluation

Standardised measures were completed by mothers and children in the intervention group at two time points:

  • time 1: before starting the programme
  • time 2: straight after the programme.

We used questionnaires that measured factors such as:

  • self-esteem
  • the quality of the parent-child relationship
  • children’s emotional and behavioural difficulties.

Two comparison groups were included in this study:

  • A group of mothers and children who were waiting to start DART (the same questionnaires were collected during the first assessment session and just before they started DART, around 6 weeks later).
  • Historical data from the mothers and children from the first impact evaluation.

Process evaluation

We interviewed a sample of DART practitioners, and mothers and children who attended the service. This helped us identify which aspects of the programme worked well and led to positive outcomes, and which barriers may prevent families from benefitting from DART. Professionals who referred families to DART (such as social workers, health professionals and school staff) also took part in a survey to share their views and experiences of the programme.

Evaluation tools

The impact evaluations used the following tools:

First impact evaluation

  • Parental acceptance and rejection questionnaire (Mother and Child versions)
  • Parental Locus of Control scale (two factors from this scale: parental efficacy and parental control)
  • Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale
  • An adapted version of the Rosenberg Self-Esteem questionnaire (adapted for children)
  • Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (parent version only).

Second impact evaluation

  • Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale
  • Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (parent and child versions)
  • The parent-child relationship inventory.
Make a referral or deliver DART

Who is DART for?

DART is for children aged 7 to 14 and mothers who have experienced domestic abuse.

Both child and mother need to feel safe enough to participate in DART, which means we can’t work with families if they’re still experiencing domestic abuse.

Making a referral 

To find out if DART is delivered in your area email

How to deliver DART in your area

We’re supporting organisations to adopt, implement and deliver DART themselves.

We provide pre-implementation support that includes an initial discussion call, strategy briefing and readiness assessment.

We will then work with you to launch the service by providing you with high-quality training and access to a range of materials. This includes up to nine hours of post-training debriefs during the first DART group.

You will be supported on an ongoing basis throughout the duration of the license. We will provide you with:

  • post-implementation site support visits
  • an annual service review
  • updates and best practice examples via our DART newsletter
  • access to community of practice forums, both face-to-face and virtually
  • additional training opportunities for your organisation and staff
  • useful resources and templates for delivering the service.

> Find out more about the implementation support we offer

If you’re interested in delivering DART, email for more information.


References and resources

References and resources

Evaluation reports

Smith, E. (2016) Domestic abuse, recovering together (DART): evaluation report. London: NSPCC.

Stokes, I. (2017) Implementation evaluation of Domestic Abuse, Recovering Together (DART) scale-up: impact and evidence briefing. London: NSPCC.

Smith, E., Belton, E. and Cooke, S. (2020) Impact evaluation of the scale-up of Domestic Abuse, Recovering Together. London: NSPCC.

Evidence base

Audit Commission (2007) Seeing the light: innovation in local public services: London Borough of Sutton: helping children who have witnessed domestic violence (PDF). London: Audit Commission Local Government Case Study, 6.

Buchanan, F. (2018) Mothering babies in domestic violence: beyond attachment theory. London: Routledge.

Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) (2010) Working together to safeguard children: a guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children (PDF). Nottingham: Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF).

Holt, S., Buckley, H. and Whelan, S. (2008) The impact of exposure to domestic violence on children and young people: a review of the literature. Child Abuse and Neglect, 32(8): 797-810.

Home Office (2018) Children affected by domestic abuse to benefit from £8 million fund. [Accessed 12/10/2018].

Humphreys, C. et al (2006) ‘Talking to my mum’: developing communication between mothers and children in the aftermath of domestic violence. Journal of Social Work, 6(1): 53-63.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) (2017) Domestic abuse in England and Wales: year ending March 2017. Cardiff: Office for National Statistics (ONS).

SafeLives (2018) Latest Marac National Dataset. [Accessed 11/10/2018].

SafeLives (2018) Insights Idva: England and Wales dataset 2016-17: adult independent domestic violence advisor (Idva) services (PDF). Bristol: SafeLives

Stanley, N. (2011) Children experiencing domestic violence: a research review. Totnes: Research in Practice.

Szilassy, E. et al (2017) Making the links between domestic violence and child safeguarding: an evidence-based pilot training for general practice. Health and Social Care in the Community, 25(6): 1722-1732.