I’ve called on the government to take urgent action to tackle the surge in domestic abuse during the coronavirus pandemic as new statistics show a shocking increase in abuse since the coronavirus lockdown was introduced.
I have consistently pushed for the government to introduce greater protections for victims of domestic abuse. Last year, I proposed a Bill in Parliament to remove the automatic parental right of men who have fathered a child through rape and to establish an inquiry into the treatment of abuse victims in the family courts.
Calls and contacts to the national domestic abuse helpline run by the charity Refuge were 49% higher in the week prior to 15 April than the average prior to the pandemic. On 6 April, traffic to the the charity’s helpline website increased by 700% compared to the previous day.
Similarly, Chayn, a website that addresses gender-based violence, has reported that visitors to its website had more than trebled last month compared with the same period last year.
The Met Police has seen domestic abuse calls rise by around a third and the organisation Counting Dead Women has calculated that there were fourteen domestic abuse killings of women and two of children between 23 March and 12 April.
In response to these figures, the Home Affairs Select Committee has issued a stark warning to the government that “Without strong action to tackle domestic abuse and support victims during the Covid-19 pandemic, society will be dealing with the devastating consequences for a generation.”
The Committee has called on the government to set out a cross-Government strategy on domestic abuse to cover both the period of lockdown and the period immediately after lockdown, when need for support is also likely to be acute.
While it is right that the government has implement a lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus, victims of domestic abuse and their children are now more isolated than ever, putting them at even greater risk.
Labour is calling on the government to take overdue action to provide urgent, emergency funding to domestic abuse charities. This plan would deliver £75 million to the frontline rapidly, to help keep women and children safe from abuse.
These women and children are some of the most vulnerable people in society, and the government must take action to protect them now.