Calls for lockdown action plan to help tackle rise in domestic abuse
PUBLISHED: 07:44 27 April 2020 | UPDATED: 07:44 27 April 2020
The Government is facing calls from MPs for a full action plan to tackle a rising tide of domestic abuse since the coronavirus lockdown began.
The Commons Home Affairs Committee warned that without urgent steps to address the issue, families and communities would be dealing with the “devastating consequences” for a generation to come.
In its report, the committee said the UK - like countries around the world - had seen a rise in domestic abuse since the lockdown restrictions came into effect last month.
Calls to helplines for victims had increased markedly - with evidence incidents were becoming more complex and serious with “higher levels of violence and coercive control”.
One organisation - Counting Dead Women - has calculated that between March 23, when the lockdown began, and April 12, there were at least 16 domestic abuse killings of women and children.
While the committee welcomed a public information campaign launched by the Government earlier this month, it said ministers needed to go further with a full action plan led and co-ordinated by the Home Secretary.
It said a cross-government strategy would need to cover support services, housing and the criminal justice system, and should extend to the period immediately after the lockdown is lifted when the need for assistance is likely to be “acute”.
“Without strong action to tackle domestic abuse and support victims during the Covid-19 pandemic, society will be dealing with the devastating consequences for a generation,” it said.
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The committee said the plan should include access to information and support, prevention and outreach, housing support and refuge accommodation, as well as a “strong criminal justice response”.
In particular, it said support services for domestic abuse and vulnerable children needed “urgent and direct funding” - otherwise victims would be put “at much greater risk of harm”.
It urged ministers to set up an emergency funding package, ringfenced within the £750 million fund the Government has promised for charities dealing with the coronavirus crisis.
The committee said the national strategy should be backed up by local action plans produced by all local authorities as part of their emergency Covid-19 preparations.
Committee chairman Yvette Cooper said: “Staying at home is an important part of the strategy to prevent coronavirus from spreading and save lives, but for some people home isn’t safe.
“Urgent action is needed to protect victims and prevent perpetrators from exploiting the lockdown to increase abuse.
“The emotional, physical and social scars from domestic abuse can last a lifetime. If we don’t act to tackle it now, we will feel the consequences of rising abuse during the coronavirus crisis for many years to come.”
Safeguarding minister, Victoria Atkins, said: “The Government has prioritised those at risk of domestic abuse in this national health emergency. This has included a dedicated national campaign to provide practical help to victims, and supporting charities by giving them the funding and the resources they specifically said they needed to help people through this crisis.
“We are taking action across government. Alongside the #YouAreNotAlone campaign, we are increasing funding to boost online services, helplines and technology support at the request of charities, and I am working with the Domestic Abuse Commissioner about how they can use the Government’s £750m fund to further support victims.”
• For help and support Leeway, Norfolk’s largest provider of domestic abuse an be contacted 24/7 via: 0300 561 0077
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