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Calls to child welfare hotline jump by 50% during pandemic

Written by on 25/01/2021

Calls by concerned adults to an NSPCC child welfare hotline have jumped by over 50% over the course of the pandemic, the charity has said.

The NSPCC said it was now receiving more than 30 calls a day from adults worried that a child was living with domestic abuse, up 53% from pre-pandemic levels.

The charity warned the situation was likely to get worse as the coronavirus lockdown continues, and is calling for the UK government to make extra provisions for child victims in its Domestic Abuse Bill.

The bill, hailed as a piece of landmark legislation, has had its second reading and is due to begin the committee stage on Monday.

The NSPCC is calling for an amendment that would legally oblige all local authorities to fund community-based recovery services for child victims.

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People who experience domestic abuse in childhood can experience difficulty learning, depression, eating disorders and addiction as they go through adolescence and into adulthood.

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The charity fears that without a statutory obligation, budgets for community-based support could be diverted to fund services such as refuges.

When the bill becomes law, councils will have to ensure all those who become homeless as a result of domestic abuse are prioritised for emergency housing.

The NSPCC wants funding for community-based services – such as those that provide counselling to help child victims of domestic abuse to recover – also enshrined into law.

It is also calling for adequate funding for local agencies so they can meet all their obligations once the bill passes.

In one call to the charity, a member of the public said they heard a couple shouting at one another for several hours a day, often while their children were crying in the background.

He told the NSPCC: “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.”

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Anna Edmundson, the NSPCC’s 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 NSPCC runs the Domestic Abuse Recovering Together (Dart) programme, which is delivered across the UK to help victims in need of support but who have not been placed in a refuge.

As well as, helping victims rebuild their lives and relationships, it also allows them to meet with others who have lived through similar experiences.

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Children’s charity Barnardo’s also warned that without a legal provision for community-based services, the Domestic Abuse Bill risked creating a two-tier system.

Chief executive Javed Khan said: “As it stands the bill risks creating a two-tier system – with adults and children living in refuges having access to specialist services, but the majority of victims who remain in the family home falling through the cracks.

“I’m urging the House of Lords to support a cross-party amendment – backed by charities supporting women and children – which creates a clear duty on public authorities to provide support for all victims, regardless of their age or where they live.”

Safeguarding minister Victoria Atkins said: “Domestic abuse is a truly awful crime which can have a devastating impact on children and young people.

“Throughout this pandemic we have invested millions to support and protect vulnerable individuals, including three million for specialist services to help children, increased support for the NSPCC helpline, and provided additional funds to support local authorities.

“We are taking important action to better protect the victims of abuse and their children and bring perpetrators to justice.”

 Sky News

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