Latest figures show the average monthly number of referrals made from the NSPCC Helpline about children living in homes with domestic abuse are up 69% in the South West on pre-lockdown levels.
Nationally the NSPCC is receiving an average of over 30 contacts a day from adults worried about children living with domestic abuse since the start of the crisis.
The national figures are a 53% jump compared to before the pandemic and reveal that in the nine months since the beginning of April there were 8,371 contacts to its helpline, with a record 1,053 in November alone.
During this period, the NSPCC helpline made 727 referrals on this issue to agencies in the South West including police and local authorities.
The average monthly referrals in the South West jumped from 48 per month between January and March of last year, to 81 per month from April to the end of 2020.
Concerned neighbours have increasingly reported hearing non-stop arguing and kids crying to the charity’s confidential helpline for adults worried about children.
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.
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.
Anna Edmundson, NSPCC Head of Policy, said: “The risk of domestic abuse 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.”
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.
DART is delivered from the charity’s service centres across the country and also provides victims with an opportunity to meet others who have lived through similar experiences.
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.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or fill in our online form.