Rise in NSPCC referrals for children living with domestic abuse but ‘help is not in place’

The number of referrals of children believed to be living with domestic abuse has risen by a quarter in a year, NSPCC figures show.

The child protection charity passed on 6,642 concerns from its helpline advisers about children they suspected to be living in households with domestic abuse in 2019.

This is up 25% from the previous year, when 5,322 referrals were made following calls from the public and professionals concerned about a child.

Of last year’s referrals, around 10 a day (3,786 over the year) were made to children’s services which have no legal duty to provide specialist services for children who experience domestic abuse.

Over half (57%) of referrals were made to children’s services, 42% to police forces and 1% to other agencies.

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The NSPCC is calling for the government to make local authorities and agencies legally obliged to provide support for children who experience domestic abuse.

This would help professionals protect children at risk and ensure there are specific services available to help young people overcome trauma, it says.

Without this legal duty, it warns that the new domestic abuse bill risks failing children who are living in households that are affected.

Emily Hilton, NSPCC senior policy and public affairs officer, said: “Domestic abuse creates a corrosive environment at home which can put children at huge risk of physical and emotional harm, as well as affecting their long-term mental health.

“Our helpline is increasingly having to raise the alarm with local authorities about children living with domestic abuse.

“But without legal recognition of the impact domestic abuse has on children and a duty on local authorities to provide support services, the help they need is just not in place.”

More than a quarter of a million children in England are estimated to be living with domestic abuse.

Jess, who is in her early 20s and from Wales, said she will be affected for the rest of her life after her family experienced years of domestic abuse from her father.

She said: “I was six the first time I saw him hit mum. He grabbed her by the throat and slapped her. When I walked in, he threw her to the ground.

“I have anxiety now and can’t be in noisy environments.

“It will affect me for the rest of my life but I want to raise awareness of domestic abuse and how it can affect children as well as adults.”

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