The report by Action For Children has revealed that 690 children are at risk of domestic violence every day, with many children facing domestic abuse living at the mercy of a ‘postcode lottery’ without the support they need from specialist services.
The report, which is based on official figures from the Department for Education, found that in 2018/19, there were 644,700 assessments completed by children’s social care services, of these 252,580 (51%) identified domestic violence as the main contributing factor to the child being in need. On average, there are 692 assessments carried out by children’s social services every day where a child or young person is found to be at risk of domestic violence. However, the charity said the numbers revealed in the report are just the ‘tip of the iceberg’ due to many cases going unreported.
The charity also worked on an investigation with the University of Stirling into domestic abuse services across England and Wales, including in-depth interviews with representatives from 30 councils. Which has raised fresh concerns around the level of support available, specifically for children who have experienced domestic abuse.
It found that more than 10% of councils interviewed had no specialist support services for children affected by domestic abuse. And that access to children’s domestic abuse services was restricted by their postcode in over a third of local authorities, with two-thirds of local authorities interviewed saying their services for children are at risk in the long-term due to limited funding.
As a result, campaigners are urging government bosses to allocate more funding to local authorities to support the services and the children who need them. They are also calling for legislation that recognises the effect domestic abuse has on families to be brought back to parliament after the election.
This comes as the fate of the Domestic Abuse Bill, which has fallen twice as it passed through parliament to become law – firstly due to the government’s prorogation attempt and now because of the general election, hangs in the balance.
Action for Children’s chief executive, Julie Bentley, said politicians must not allow children ‘living in the terrifying shadow of domestic abuse’ to become part of the ‘collateral damage of Brexit’. She said:
‘Every day our frontline workers see the emotional scars of domestic abuse on children. From nightmares, flashbacks and bed-wetting to depression, or even wanting to end their lives, the effects can last a lifetime. Too many are facing these horrors unnoticed or without the right help. and we have to recognise these children for what they are – victims, not just witnesses.
‘These vulnerable children desperately need help from our politicians. We’re urging all parties to commit to prioritising a Bill on domestic abuse in the next Parliament and fund the specialist services children desperately need. And the next Prime Minister must bring in a National Childhood Strategy to make sure children across the country have a safe and happy childhood.”
Cllr Katrina Wood, vice chairman of the Local Government Association’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said the next government needs to ensure councils have the funding to protect children and families. She said:
‘Tackling domestic abuse is an issue that councils take very seriously which is why we support further measures to improve work with local partners to help support more victims and stop this horrendous crime.
‘Surging demand on children’s services means that councils are increasingly being forced to prioritise spending for those at immediate risk of harm, rather than on vital earlier support services and prevention schemes which help stop domestic abuse occurring in the first place.
‘The next government needs to ensure councils have long-term and sustainable funding to help protect children and families from harm.’
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