By Peter McLaren-Kennedy • 01 February 2022 • 10:01
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The NSPCC has found that police made an average of 669 child protection referrals to social services every day last year because of incidents of domestic abuse across England and Wales.
Data from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) shows there were 244,197 referrals in 2020/21, an 8% increase from the previous year.
The findings come as Dominic Raab, the Deputy Prime Minister and Lord Chancellor, has been urged by charities to ensure all child victims of domestic abuse have access to specialist, therapeutic services in the community to support their recovery. A consultation on the victims’ bill, which aims to improve the government’s response to the victims of crime, is due to close on 3 February.
Many children were trapped in homes during the pandemic according to police, e4xperiencing abuse and largely cut off from vital support networks during lockdowns.
Despite the intervention of police and referrals to social service several cases were reported where toddlers and young children were killed.
December saw details emerge of the murder of six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes from Solihull, West Midlands, who was poisoned, starved and beaten during a campaign of abuse by his stepmother and father. Social workers, notified of bruising to the boy, found “no safeguarding concerns” despite visiting him two months before he was murdered.
In the same month, a public outcry followed the case of Star Hobson, a 16-month-old who was murdered by her mother’s partner after months of “neglect, cruelty and injury” and despite five referrals from concerned family members to social services.
Changes to the Domestic Abuse Act that came in last week marked the start of children being officially recognised as victims of domestic abuse, which the NSPCC hopes will make it more likely that their needs are considered by professionals on the frontline such as social workers and police.
The change to the law came after campaigning by charities to reflect the impact experiencing domestic abuse can have on children, harming their confidence and sense of security and can have a devastating impact on their emotional wellbeing and mental health.
The law does place a statutory duty on local authorities to provide accommodation-based support services, such as refuges, when families and their children need to leave their homes to escape domestic abuse. They do however, not have the same requirement to provide specialist, therapeutic services in the community for victims who remain at home after suffering domestic abuse.
Provision of support is already patchy across the country, and without a legal obligation this could dwindle further in the future with cash-strapped councils diverting more resources to accommodation-based services despite the majority of victims using community-based services.
Anna Edmundson, NSPCC Head of Policy and Public Affairs, said: “Domestic abuse can derail a childhood and it is unacceptable that support to recover remains patchy across the country, and what is available risks being axed by cash-strapped councils.
“We urge Dominic Raab to use the ‘victim’s law’ to address this and ensure young victims of domestic abuse have easy access to professional services within their community so they can rebuild their lives no matter where they live.”
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Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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