'Listen out' for signs of domestic abuse during lockdown, says charity

The chief executive of a domestic abuse charity has urged people to ‘listen out for friends, family and neighbours’ during the second lockdown.

The first lockdown in March saw a huge spike in people suffering from domestic abuse and The Dash Charity’s Alison Bourne says cases have remained ‘very high, pretty much consistently’ since.

Adult referrals to the charity have doubled and children’s cases have trebled. These cases are a mixture of self-referrals and referrals from agencies including social services, the police and schools.

Pre-COVID, adult referrals to the charity were between 10 and 13 a month, but now they are in the high 20s.

In October there were 17 referrals for children compared to six in September.

Alison said a large number of children referred to the charity are referred by schools.

“For many children school is their safe place, and staff are so much more familiar now with domestic abuse,” she said. “I know COVID’s such a complicated thing, but I think we’re keen for kids to stay in school if they can.”

Alison says children are being referred because they are hearing conflict and domestic abuse – including emotional and psychological abuse – and witnessing physical abuse to a parent.

There is an increase in referrals for children aged 14-16 as well as an increase in secondary school children self-harming because of the abuse experienced.

To help support children The Dash Charity provides one-to-one sessions with children’s workers, either face-to-face or virtually.

Alison said: “It’s so important that we can support children experiencing domestic abuse and facilitate healthy relationship sessions so that we stop the cycle of domestic abuse into the next generation.”

The charity’s work takes funding, which is in short supply at the moment.

“We’re scrabbling about for the money for a service that is saving people’s lives and investing in children,” she said. “We’ve taken on additional staff with some of the emergency COVID funding we were able to get, which is great, but the downside is it’s very short term. There’s no guaranteed funding for next year.”

In the meantime the charity will continue to do all it can to help those suffering from abuse, but Alison explained that everyone has a part to play.

“Listen out for friends, family and neighbours in lockdown, that’s so important,” she said.

“Keep in touch with them, and they can call us if they’re worried about anyone that they know, they can call us for advice if the person themselves isn’t able to.”

The helpline is open Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 4.30pm on 01753 549865 and the website can be found at www.thedashcharity.org.uk

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