THE COVID pandemic fuelled a 10 per cent annual rise in domestic violence, it emerged yesterday as MP’s heard of a looming crisis in services for victims.
Official figures revealed there were 842,813 domestic abuse-related offences recorded in the year ending September 2020 – up from 769,611 during the previous 12 months.
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Victims of lockdown violence in the home were faced with an “extremely serious” situation with support stretched to its limit, Domestic Abuse Commissioner Nicole Jacobs told MP’s.
Calls and contacts logged by the National Domestic Abuse Helpline increased by 34 per cent to 114,986 between April and December, Ms Jacobs told the Commons Home Affairs select committee.
She said support workers stretched by colleagues off sick or isolating were dealing with more than 40 cases each and called for them to be given high priority status for Covid vaccines.
Ms Jacobs said: “These are people who are taking helpline calls at home when their children are trying to study in the other room.”
Lucy Hadley, of charity Women’s Aid, warned the impact of abuse taking place now could be felt into the “next decade and beyond.”
She told MP’s a survey of 27,000 victims showed they took an average of six years to come forward after first being abused.
WHERE CAN I GET HELP?
You don’t have to suffer in silence.
If you are experiencing domestic violence or someone you know is there are groups that can help.
Refuge runs a free, 24-hour helpline on 0808 2000 247.
You can also visit the website or contact Women’s Aid.
Labour committee chair Yvette Cooper described the rise in domestic abuse reports to charities during the pandemic as “deeply troubling” and warned it showed “no sign of abating.”
Meanwhile, quarterly crime figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), showed stalking and harassment offences were up by 15 per cent on the previous 12 months.
A 16 per cent increase in drug offences was recorded between April and June last year, driven by proactive police work in crime hotspots.
Knife crime dropped by more than a fifth during the first lockdown, but went up again to pre-pandemic levels when restrictions eased with an overall 3% annual reduction.
But children’s charity Barnardo’s warned that offences could “erupt” once the latest lockdown is eased.
Its chief executive Javed Khan said: “The coronavirus pandemic and lockdown restrictions have artificially depressed knife crime figures, which were at an all-time high before Covid-19 struck.”
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The total number of offences recorded by police in England and Wales dropped by 6% to around 5.7 million, with substantial falls during the first lockdown.
A separate survey by the ONS showed that when restrictions eased, numbers of people who fell victim to crime went back up to levels experienced before the virus.
Helen Ross, from the ONS Centre for Crime and Justice, said: “The coronavirus pandemic and related lockdown restrictions have resulted in fluctuations in the level of crime…”
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