THE number of people reporting concerns about children caught up in domestic abuse has dramatically risen by a third in the West Midlands in a year, says the NSPCC.
The child protection charity referred 544 such reports made to its helpline to agencies such as police or social services last year – an increase of 36 per cent on the previous year.
Across the UK, 4,037 contacts from people concerned about violent and abusive behaviour around children were referred to the authorities in 2016/17 – up from 3223 the year.
Callers were seeking guidance from the NSPCC’s trained advisers after witnessing distressing things such as visible bruises, parents being hospitalised, children being exposed to rage and rough handling, and aggressive behaviour towards parents of young babies.
NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: “Domestic abuse can have a huge impact on a child’s physical and emotional wellbeing, and this sharp increase in reports shows that more people are speaking up on behalf of frightened children living in violent homes.
“We all have a part to play in tackling domestic abuse, and it’s important to pick up the phone if you’re concerned so that our trained advisers can offer non-judgemental advice, discuss possibilities and take action where necessary.
“Stepping in early and putting the child at the heart of all decisions in domestic abuse cases is vital in keeping children safe.
“It is vital that young people affected by domestic abuse have access to the right kind of support.”
One Helpline caller said: “The mother is always covered head to toe in bruises and I have seen both mother and the father screaming at each other in the street in front of the children.
“The father is very aggressive and controlling towards her and the children and I’m worried about what the two children might be experiencing in the home. I have previously seen the father handle the children very roughly and they both seem terrified of him.”
NSPCC research shows one in five children has been exposed to domestic violence, with a third of those also experiencing another form of abuse.
The NSPCC says it is piloting an early-intervention service called Steps to Safety which helps families to reduce stress, manage emotions, and respond calmly to conflict. And the charity’s Domestic Abuse, Recovering Together (DART) service works with survivors to help get their lives back on track.
Children and young people who are worried about domestic abuse can call Childline on 0800 1111.