06/04/20 – Helen Clark Writes about Children and Domestic Abuse During the Coronavirus Pandemic

The necessary isolation rules advised by the Government due the COVID-19 pandemic have seen an alarming, but sadly predictable, rise in the instances of domestic abuse as victims are forced into close confinement with their abusers.

The untold harm and danger already unfolding has been highlighted by SafeLives, the UK charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse ‘for everyone and for good’ and they have estimated that the lockdown conditions created by the pandemic (in particular, the enforced isolation of families) could lead to a doubling of the number of victims of domestic abuse.  Read more here

SafeLives has produced a briefing for parliamentarians about the risk outcomes of the present situation  stating that thousands of additional adult  and child victims of abuse will be ‘locked in’ with their perpetrators. They have called upon the Government (amongst other demands) to:

  • Issue Public Health England guidance for statutory agencies on how to support domestic abuse victims and child victims  who are self-isolating or otherwise endangered by the current pandemic
  • Include  domestic abuse professionals as key workers so that they can access childcare as they continue to work to support those who may be facing serious harm or murder
  • Provide support for a full range of specialist domestic abuse services that women and children will need to access- showing how together, these all form critical national infrastructure for vulnerable people
  • Reiterate that the Police will not be allowed to use the pandemic to downgrade domestic abuse or sexual violence.

In relation to the new Coronavirus legislation, SafeLives expresses serious concern about the proposed delay in assessing needs under the Care Act 2014.

This legislation will:

  • make changes to the Care Act 2014 in England and the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 to enable local authorities to prioritise the services they offer in order to ensure the most urgent and serious care needs are met, even if this means not meeting everyone’s assessed needs in full or delaying some assessments
  • these amendments would not remove the duty of care they have towards an individual’s risk of serious neglect or harm.

This could impact upon children and vulnerable adults who are living isolated with dangerous perpetrators depending on how serious neglect or harm is defined at local authority level in relation to domestic abuse. As the multi-inspectorate Joint Targeted Area Inspection on Domestic Abuse reported:

‘domestic abuse is persistent and widespread. It is the most common factor in situations where children are at risk of serious harm in this country. It can have a detrimental and long-lasting impact on a child’s health, development, ability to learn and well-being.’

Helen Clark, APPG Lead Author said:

‘Scarcely a day goes by now as every aspect of life in the UK is engulfed by the pandemic crisis – when children are not endangered  or put at risk in some way. As SafeLives has shown, the lives of the most vulnerable children are endangered. I am now calling upon the Government to address these issues publicly and without delay and to ensure as first step that:

An official who will speak specifically about the needs of children is present at EVERY daily COVID-19 Press Conference

and

All items of Government advice or policy in relation to COVID-19 contain specific mention of how  a) children will be affected  b) children will be safeguarded and protected by the new measures and c) any financial spend as a result of the policy  will be met in full by the Government.

The APPG on A Fit and Healthy Childhood has argued consistently since its  inception that a Minister at Cabinet Level for Children and Young People is not a luxury but a necessity.’

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