Written evidence submitted by the Designate Domestic Abuse Commissioner for England and Wales (COR0200)
Dear Rt Hon Yvette Cooper MP,
I welcome the Home Affairs Select Committee’s inquiry into the Home Office’s preparedness for Covid-19 (Coronavirus) and the specific focus on domestic abuse. I thank the Committee for giving me the opportunity to provide oral evidence on 3 February 2021 and provide written evidence (attached) on the key trends and statistics with regards to the pandemic’s impact on domestic abuse ahead of the session.
While Covid-19 has not in itself caused domestic abuse, what the very necessary public health measures have done is to create a conducive context for it to happen. For many, this period has led to an escalation of violence and abuse, closed down routes for people to escape safely and made it more challenging to bring perpetrators to justice.
Over the course of the pandemic I have convened regular meetings which have brought together central government departments, the police, domestic abuse services and local government representatives to quickly respond to changing circumstances, share learning and escalate problems at an early stage. At the start of the pandemic these meetings were held each week. They are now held fortnightly.
Ahead of next week’s session I wanted to share with the Committee, the key data that has been gathered with regards to the demands for support from victims of domestic abuse over the last couple of months. As part of my written submission I have included the latest data from domestic abuse helpline providers who attend the meetings that I convene to provide the most up to date understanding of the impact of the pandemic on victims of domestic abuse. This data demonstrates both the increase in demand for support through helplines, as well as the increased complexity of cases being responded to. I have also included headline data from the Office of National Statistics’ November release on domestic abuse during the pandemic, which covers the period April 2020 - June 2020 and includes data from helplines and police recorded crime. I have also included the latest data pack from the Ministry of Justice’s Silver Command meeting on Covid 19 and victims and witnesses. This includes weekly stats on the demand for helpline and online support services since the week prior to Covid-19 pandemic lockdown including contextual information from providers, demand for community-based support services for DA and SV victims (Rape Support Fund providers and DA providers funded by PCCs) and refuge provision data,
Designate Domestic Abuse Commissioner for England and Wales
Helplines supporting victims and survivors of domestic abuse
National Domestic Abuse Helpline run by Refuge
- The following data covers the period running from the 6th of April until the week commencing the 21st of December.
National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline run by Galop
- Between April – December 2020/21 the helpline received 5011 calls. This compared to 3679 calls during the same period for the previous year, representing a 36% increase.
- The following data covers the period running from October 2020 to January 2021
The Financial Support Line for Victims of Domestic Abuse is run in partnership between Surviving Economic Abuse (SEA) and Money Advice Plus.
Karma Nirvana helpline for victims and survivors of so-called ‘honour-based’ abuse
- The data in this report compares the number of contacts managed by the helpline between 1 March 2020 and 31 December 2020. Contacts refers to incoming and outgoing calls, and incoming and outgoing emails.
The Respect helpline for male victims of domestic abuse
The following data covers the period from 1 April until 31 December 2020.
Respect Helpline for domestic abuse perpetrators looking for help to stop
The following data covers the period from the 1 April until 31 December 2020.
Suzy Lamplugh Trust
- The helpline continues to see peaks and troughs in demand in line with the changes in pandemic measures – after each significant change we have seen a drop in demand, which then increases back to well above 2019 levels.
- The average increase in call volumes since March is +14%, but this also varies hugely. Average demand change throughout Sept was +14%, and in October was +44%, however at some points there has been an increase in demand up 72% more than this time in 2019.
- In October there were 1610 calls and emails to the Helpline. In November there were 998 emails and calls into the Helpline. However, again this has peaks and troughs; there was a large spike in demand (27.2% higher than 2019) in mid-December just before the additional measures started being discussed.
- There has now been a drop in demand as we have gone back into lockdown, with an average drop in January so far being 5% lower than 2020.
- Even though demand is slightly down, the average call this January is taking about 16% longer, demonstrating increased complexity of cases and need for more emotional support.
The Office of National Statistics Domestic abuse during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, England and Wales: November 2020, Indicators from a range of data sources to assess the impact of the coronavirus (COVID19) pandemic on domestic abuse in England and Wales (published November 2020) – this covers the period April 2020- June 2020
Demand for services
- Between April and June 2020, The 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline run by Refuge’s logged a total of 40,397 calls and contacts on its database, a 65% increase compared with the first three months of 2020 (Appendix Table 21). This equates to an average of 444 calls and contacts per day at the height of the pandemic, compared with an average of 270 per day from January to March.
- Refuge also saw a 700% increase in the number of visits to its Helpline website (from 26,320 to 210,620)
- The ManKind Initiative operates a confidential helpline available for all men across the UK suffering from domestic abuse. The total number of calls to the ManKind Initiative helpline each month in 2020 has been consistently higher than the previous year, with the exception of January and May
- There was a particularly large increase (32%) in the total number of calls to the ManKind initiative helpline in June 2020, and demand has remained around this level since then, up until the latest available data for September. This increase appears to mainly be driven by a 38% increase in calls from victims in June 2020 compared with the previous month, while the number of calls on behalf of the victim increased by 16%
- The weekly number of domestic abuse cases handled by Victim Support dipped below the January-March average in the first four weeks of lockdown, but then steadily increased following the easing of lockdown 4 measures in mid-May and has remained above average since then.
- The Live Fear Free helpline (run by Welsh Women’s Aid) received a total of 6,041 calls between April and June 2020, an 18% decrease compared with the same period in the previous year (Appendix Table 19). The total number of calls received was lowest in April 2020 (1,916), during the full UK lockdown, and increased slightly in the following two months as lockdown measures began to ease
Police recorded crime
- Looking specifically at the period affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the police recorded 259,324 offences (excluding fraud) flagged as domestic abuse-related in the period March to June 2020 (Appendix Table 1 ). This represents a 7% increase from 242,413 in the same period in 2019 and an 18% increase from 218,968 in 2018. As the number of offences flagged as domestic abuse-related has been increasing in recent years, it is not possible to determine what impact the coronavirus pandemic may have had on the increases in 2020.
- The number of offences flagged as domestic abuse-related increased each month from April to June 2020, with the largest month-on-month increase (9%) between April and May 2020 (Figure 1). This increase coincides with the easing of lockdown measures from 13 May 2020, when it may have been safer for victims to contact the police.
- The London Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) received a total of 41,158 calls-for-service for domestic incidents 1 between 25 March (following the lockdown restrictions imposed on 23 March) and 10 June 2020. This is a 12% increase compared with 36,727 calls over the same period in the previous year. The weekly 2 number of calls from victims remained at similar, sometimes lower levels to the previous year, however, there were large increases in calls from third parties
- In April, May and June roughly one-fifth (21%, 20% and 19%) of all offences recorded by the police were flagged as domestic abuse-related, which represents an increase of around five percentage points compared with the same period in previous years (Appendix Table 2). As the lockdown measures eased, the proportion of all offences that were domestic abuse-related decreased slightly. This is likely because of the overall reduction in police recorded crime during the lockdown period, particularly in April, followed by increases in police recorded crime as lockdown measures eased.
- The police recorded 206,492 violence against the person offences flagged as domestic abuse-related between March and June 2020, a 9% increase compared with the same period in 2019 (Figure 2). The number of offences flagged as domestic abuse-related in this period increased for all offence groups compared with the previous year, with the exception of sexual offences and other offences, which decreased by 3% and 6% respectively.
- Provisional data show there were 64 domestic homicides recorded by the police in England and Wales between 3 January and June 2020, of which 30 occurred in the period April to June (Appendix Table 3). This represents an increase in the number of domestic homicides recorded by the police compared with the same six-month period in the previous year (55), but a slight decrease compared with 2018 (67).
- HMICFRS collects data from police forces on arrests and voluntary attendances for domestic abuse-related 1 2 crimes (Appendix Table 4). The data show that between 1 April and 30 June 2020: the police made 64,283 arrests for domestic abuse-related crimes (in the 40 police forces that could supply adequate data) there were 3,242 instances of voluntary attendance (among the 29 forces able to supply adequate data) of 27 The total number of arrests and instances of voluntary attendance between 1 April and 30 June of 2019 and 2020 were compared for police forces that supplied data for both time periods.
- The number of arrests for domestic abuse-related crimes between 1 April and 30 June 2020 increased by 24% compared with the same period in the previous year (from 49,534 to 61,275 in the 37 police forces that could supply adequate data for both periods). This follows a 11% increase in the number of arrests for domestic abuse-related crimes in the year ending March 2020, compared with the previous year (in the 38 police forces that supplied data in both years). In contrast, the number of instances of voluntary attendance decreased by 35% between 1 April and 30 June of 2019 and 2020 (from 4,756 to 3,106), in the 26 police forces that supplied adequate data for both periods.