OPINION: Coronavirus is causing steep rise in domestic abuse involving children

Children are under an increased chance of being abused during lockdown says the NSPCC Picture: Tom H

Children are under an increased chance of being abused during lockdown says the NSPCC Picture: Tom Hull - Credit: Archant

Anna Collishaw-Nikodemus, local campaigns manager for the NSPCC, says these are worrying times for some children

The shockwaves of the pandemic continue to spread across the UK and as we await the fallout of the second national lockdown many of us here at the NSPCC are anticipating the news that more children have suffered from domestic abuse.

Living in a home where domestic abuse happens can have a serious impact on a child or young person’s mental and physical wellbeing, as well as their behaviour. And this can last into adulthood.

But what exactly is domestic abuse? Domestic abuse is any type of controlling, bullying, threatening or violent behaviour between people in a relationship. It can seriously harm children and young people and witnessing domestic abuse is child abuse. Domestic abuse can happen inside and outside the home, it can happen in any relationship and can continue even after the relationship has ended and both men and women can be abused or abusers.

We speak to families every day; our helpline practitioners know it’s a growing concern. In the last lockdown from April to July, NSPCC Helpline practitioners made 1,824 referrals in the East of England to external agencies.

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Since the UK went into lockdown earlier this year, contacts to our helpline regarding domestic abuse have increased by a monthly average of 50%. Our latest data shows that in the five months from April, across the UK, there were more than 4,500 concerns raised by members of the public, with 818 in August alone.

One member of the public who called the helpline for advice about their neighbour, said: “I used to only hear them late at night or first thing in the morning before I left for work – now I’m working from home, I realise it’s happening throughout the day. I sometimes hear the toddler crying as the parents are fighting. It pains me to think the child is having to live like this – can you help?”

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This rise in contacts to our helpline shows how the risk of domestic abuse intensified after measures were put in place to tackle coronavirus and we know that concerns raised to the NSPCC are still up compared with pre-lockdown levels.

The NSPCC and other charities successfully campaigned for the Government to amend the Domestic Abuse Bill and recognise the damaging impact domestic abuse can have on children and we are continuing to push Parliament for greater support for families recovering from this awful experience.

But more needs to be done to stop the spread of domestic abuse as many survivors will carry their experiences into adulthood and we cannot allow the effects of pandemic to shape the lives of children and young people.

Spotting the signs of domestic abuse and reporting them are the best steps you can take to help a child in need, but what are the signs of domestic abuse? There are many and they will vary and a list of potential signs are available on the NSPCC website.

As a concerned and caring adult what can you do, especially if a child discloses this information to you? The NSPCC website has a thorough guide on how to deal with disclosures and it’s likely the child will ask you not to tell anybody. It’s paramount that the abuse is disclosed to the proper authorities and therefore we advise never telling the child you won’t do this, instead reassure them that they have nothing to feel ashamed or guilty about and that it’s important that the child and family receive the help they need.

With job losses on the rise, this can be a major trigger for an increase in cases of domestic abuse and by being vigilant and speaking to the NSPCC Helpline confidentially you will be ensuring that early intervention is made.

If you’re an adult concerned that a child or young person is suffering from domestic abuse, please call the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000 or email help@nspcc.org.uk

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