Referrals from the NSPCC helpline to agencies in the South East about children living with domestic abuse have increased by more than 60% during the pandemic.
The latest figures reveal that the average monthly number of referrals about this issue, since lockdown measures were first introduced, is 63% higher than for the first three months of last year.
In all, 1,174 referrals were made to the police and other agencies in the South East (which includes the Isle of Wight) between April and December last year, with the monthly average rising from 80 before the first lockdown to 130 in the months following.
More than 30 adult contacts a day
The NSPCC is receiving an average of over 30 contacts a day from adults worried about children living with domestic abuse – across the UK – since the start of the crisis.
Concerned neighbours have increasingly reported hearing non-stop arguing and kids crying to the charity’s confidential helpline for adults worried about children.
Toxic consequences of domestic abuse
The NSPCC’s frontline teams are concerned that the risk of young people suffering the toxic consequences of domestic abuse has been heightened.
One member of the public who called the Helpline for advice said:
“For the past few weeks, I’ve been hearing loud and aggressive shouting between a man and woman who live a few doors away from me.
“They’re at it pretty much every day and it generally lasts a couple of hours. Sometimes I hear their children crying when the parents are arguing.
“I’ve only really noticed this since I’ve been at home on furlough. I’m worried the kids aren’t being looked after properly.”
Left unaddressed this form of abuse can have profound and long-term impacts on children’s physical and mental wellbeing that can last into adulthood.
Domestic Abuse Bill
Last year, the Government amended their landmark Domestic Abuse Bill to recognise that children do experience domestic abuse and could also be victims. This followed years of campaigning by the NSPCC and other children’s charities.
As the Bill enters Committee Stage this week, the NSPCC is now urging parliamentarians to put pressure on the Government to accept a further amendment that will place a statutory duty on local agencies to provide community-based services so children can access support wherever they live.
Without this, the charity fears funding for community-based services, that are crucial in helping children to recover, could be diverted to prioritise accommodation-based services that councils have a legal duty to provide.
This new duty must be backed up by adequate funding for local agencies so they can deliver it.
Domestic Abuse Recovering Together
One community-based service is the NSPCC’s Domestic Abuse Recovering Together (DART) programme which supports mothers and children to deal with the impact of domestic abuse.
Given the increased need for services like DART to help families deal with the effects of abuse during lockdown the NSPCC are looking to accelerate upscaling the service.
Jenner: Heightened risk of domestic abuse
Sarah Jenner, manager of the NSPCC Gillingham Service Centre, said,
“The risk of domestic abuse in the south east has been heightened in the last nine months with families living under increasing pressure and behind closed doors.
“To stop the pandemic having a lasting impact on children who suffer in this way it is vital they have access to support in the community to recover and move forward with their lives as not all victims can go to a refuge for support.
“The Government has taken the crucial step of recognising the profound impact domestic abuse has on children’s wellbeing but they now need to go further and ensure there are services for children in the community, wherever they live.”
“I really need help”
Young people who experience domestic abuse can have, trouble learning, depression or suicidal thoughts, or develop eating disorders drugs or alcohol problems.
One 13-year-old told Childline,
“Recently my mum has been yelling at me and calling me names for no apparent reason. My parents fight a lot, like really a lot. My dad overreacts, but mum makes the situation worse.
“Today my parents got in a huge argument that included a lot of shouting and my dad was throwing things at my mum. I was shocked because none of their fights have got physical before, and now I am wondering how bad things could get.
“My parents don’t talk anymore and they treat me like their little messenger passing comments between them. It is really affecting me as I constantly feel anxious and cry myself to sleep. I really need help.”
Get in touch
Anyone who is experiencing domestic abuse or has concerns that someone else may be can contact the NSPCC’s Helpline for information and advice on 0808 800 5000, email [email protected] or fill in our online form.
News shared by Sophie on behalf of NSPCC, in her own words. Ed