A robust action plan is to be drawn up to give support to parents who suffer abuse at the hands of their children. For the past 18 months Hillingdon Council has been carrying out extensive research, holding meetings with victims and agencies to discuss the matter. Often regarded as a hidden problem, few parents are prepared to testify against their own children and frequently suffer in silence. DAN COOMBS investigates
CAROL was a parent who was being abused by her 19-year-old-son, James - their names have been changed to protect their identities. He had been a happy child but had a tendency to behave oddly from an early age, even at two years old, escaping over high fences and out of windows.
At the age of 14 he was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). He became very forgetful and would frequently bite or gnaw the television control.
He then served a three-month sentence in a youth offending unit, but after coming out became physically violent towards Carol.
His behaviour worsened and he was suspended from school.
Although Carol had called the police because of the abuse, the time between the arrest and going to court could be as long as three months, and often there was nowhere else for James to go, apart from back to the family home.
She was left with no option but to hide all the sharp knives in her house for her own safety, and had a 'panic door' fitted on her bedroom.
James had also smashed a number of doors in the house which had not been replaced, partly because of the cost and partly because of the likelihood they would just get smashed again.
The case of Carol and James is just one of dozens of known abuse stories reported in the borough. Their case is believed to be the tip of the iceberg.
Figures from Youth Offending Services show that eight per cent of referrals to its parenting officer relate to parent abuse, with 34 cases between 2005 and 2009. The actual number of unreported cases is estimated to be far higher.
The problem is that there is no infrastructure to tackle the issue. Now, following a report to Hillingdon Council, cabinet members have agreed procedures need to be reviewed to ensure victims have somewhere to turn.
Members were worried that for victims there is no single point of contact within the council.
Councillor Judith Kelly (Con, South Ruislip) who led a council working group, said: "Much good work has already been done in relation to domestic violence against women, and men, by their partners, but little was known of the extent of the problem by children and young people to their parents and carers.
"Few parents are willing to testify against their own children, seeing the violent behaviour of children as a criticism of their own parenting skills, so they keep the problem secret."
PARENT ABUSE: THE BACKGROUND
* The decision to set up the Hillingdon Council working group came in November 2008, after the success of White Ribbon Day, created to raise awareness of domestic violence.
* The task of bringing criminal charges against a juvenile falls to the Crown Prosecution Service.
* It was often thought that for a parent to testify against their child was the worst betrayal, so very few parents go through with the prosecution.
* More often than not, parents withdraw their statements.
* Only one case locally has actually got to court - despite the parents withdrawing their statement - the prosecution went ahead on the strength of statements submitted by the child's siblings.
* As a result of the council's working party report, consideration is to be given to securing resources for a 24-hour helpline.
* So far, the borough has not agreed to devote any more resources to the problem, instead preferring to add it to the workload of the domestic violence teams.
* For the purpose of the group's report, parent abuse is defined as involving any perpetrator under the age of 25.