Major rise in referrals of children affected by domestic abuse

By Gabriella Jozwiak

| 15 May 2017

The number of children affected by domestic violence has increased significantly, a child protection charity has said.

Buttle received 9,909 referrals in 2016 about children affected by domestic abuse. Picture: Lucie Carlier

Buttle UK, which provides support to children in crisis, has published figures showing it received 9,909 referrals about children affected by domestic abuse during 2016.

The figure represents an increase in referrals of just under a third (33.1 per cent) - on the previous year, when the charity supported 7,446 children affected by domestic abuse.

In 2016, 3,384 of children referred were aged four or under (34.2 per cent) -  in 2015 the figure was 2,501 (33.6 per cent).

The majority of cases involved children witnessing physical, mental and sexual abuse in the home on an ongoing basis. The charity said children often displayed withdrawn or challenging behaviour.

Buttle chief executive Gerri McAndrew warned that actual numbers of children experiencing domestic abuse are likely to be higher.

No official statistics exist on the number of children living in an abusive household, but research published by the NSPCC in 2011 estimated the figure to be 20 per cent of children in the UK.

McAndrew also suggested the specific issues children faced in such situations are typically unmet by statutory support services.

"Support services often assume that a child's needs can be met by addressing the needs of the abused parent," McAndrew said. 

"The current government's policy on domestic violence has no specific provision for children affected by domestic abuse.

"During this election we are calling for all parties to identify and prioritise the needs of these children in their manifestos. 

"We hope the next government will drive forward systemic change in how support services account for the needs of children." 

Research published by the Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) in December 2016 suggested domestic abuse, alongside parental mental health and parental substance misuse, was increasingly a reason for child protection involvement with families. 

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