Written evidence submitted by Professor Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay, Professor Caroline Bradbury-Jones, Dr. Joht Chandan, Professor Eddie Kane, Dr. Krish Nirantharakumar and Professor Julie Taylor (COR0052)
Prevalence of domestic abuse/child abuse:
- Although no published studies to date have tracked the national trends in domestic abuse related to COVID-19, several indicators point to a marked increase in domestic abuse during this period. These include reports from charities and some police forces as well as data on numbers of related deaths. The UK’s largest domestic abuse charity, Refuge, has reported a 700% increase in calls to its helpline in a single day, while a separate helpline for perpetrators of domestic abuse seeking help to change their behaviour, received 25% more calls after the start of the Covid-19 lockdown. The number of women killed by men was 14 in the month between 23/3 and 12/4 which is nearly three times the historical average of 5 in other years in the same period. Initial reports suggest a 30% increase in domestic abuse (which is also roughly in line with what the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) is saying) though there appear to be wide variations across police forces. The victim's commissioner warned there was a danger of an "epidemic" of the crime.
- There is also emerging evidence from services such as Childline and National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty against Children (NSPCC) that child abuse has risen since lockdown. They evidence this through the increase in online contacts through live chat channels and websites and telephone calls and texts.
Measures/Proposals to support victims of domestic abuse/child abuse
- We believe that similar to an approach used to improve the management of physical violence in localities such as Cardiff, Glasgow and London, the principles of a public health approach must be implemented to prevent or reduce violence within the home, as well as supporting survivors of such violence. The World Health Organization’s (WHO) public health approach to managing violence consists of four steps, which we believe provides principles that are useful. We have adapted this for application in the prevention of Gender Based Violence (GBV) during this pandemic (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Public health approach to managing GBV during COVID-19 (Adapted from WHO)
- Given the higher risk to individuals of experiencing domestic abuse, there is an urgent need to improve health surveillance during this pandemic. Due to selection biases present, UK administrative datasets have consistently shown underestimates compared to the expected rates of domestic abuse, these underestimates are likely to be exacerbated now. In such a time of crisis, potential approaches to improve surveillance of domestic abuse could include: 1) routine enquiry of GBV exposure through approaches such as making every contact count (feasibly integrated into remote primary care consultations or active syndromic surveillance from local health protection teams) and 2) the urgent implementation of public health led linked datasets between police, health and social care datasets to identify and more effectively monitor and support individuals at risk.
- By improving surveillance approaches, it would be possible to offer targeted support and interventions for those at risk. To date, although there are no published evaluations of interventions specifically targeted at supporting those at risk of domestic abuse during the current pandemic, numerous charities and funded bodies have increased their offer of support techniques and support services. National charities such as (but not limited to) Women’s Aid, Safelives and the NSPCC have all produced guidance for how survivors can both report GBV and keep themselves safe. Charities have supported technological reporting and support options through both hidden mobile applications and telephone support lines, as well as continued online reassurance for reporting any forms of GBV to the police. Given the need to find safe spaces, campaign groups Southall Black Sisters and Compassion in Politics wrote to hotel chains asking them to open up rooms to those fleeing abuse, including domestic abuse and sexual violence. Apparently there have been positive responses. State assistance towards reimbursing costs would encourage more hotels to consider this seriously.
- Finally, it is worth noting that in terms of preparedness, removing children wholesale form schools may not have been optimal.
Professor Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay
Professor of Economics and Director, Centre for Crime, Justice and Policing, University of Birmingham
Professor Caroline Bradbury-Jones
Professor of Gender Based Violence and Health, University of Birmingham
Dr. Joht Chandan
Academic Clinical Fellow in Public Health, University of Birmingham
Professor Eddie Kane
Director Centre for Health and Justice, University of Nottingham and Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Global Innovation, University of Birmingham
Dr. Krish Nirantharakumar
Senior Clinical Lecturer, University of Birmingham and Honorary Consultant in Public Health Medicine, Public Health England
Professor Julie Taylor
Professor of Child Protection, University of Birmingham
 See https://kareningalasmith.com/
 See https://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/life/lockdown-has-exposed-hidden-killers-behind-britains-front-doors/ and https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/apr/12/domestic-violence-surges-seven-hundred-per-cent-uk-coronavirus#maincontent
 GBV is a broad term used for a range of abuse and violence, including female genital mutilation, trafficking and domestic abuse. Domestic abuse refers to a range of abuses that take place within a domestic setting. While the WHO refer to GBV, our reading is that they are referring mainly to domestic abuse
 World Health Organization. The public health approach. WHO 2011.https://www.who.int/violenceprevention/approach/public_health/en/
 The IRIS model currently does this in primary care now in some places which shows that this approach is both possible and evidence based but would need to be adapted to the current opportunities rather than restricted to face to face as currently practised. See https://www.wa-rct.org.uk/the-iris-project
 Please see their websites. A survivor-led rapid response report this week offers guidance for those actions that are considered useful in supporting ‘off radar’ children affected by violence. These include weekly check-ins, safety planning and an urge to widespread political and media campaigns to let children and young people (CYP) know there is support out there and that people will listen. Please see https://www.vamhn.co.uk/uploads/1/2/2/7/122741688/off_radar_c_yp_at_risk_report_part_1_.pdf