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Half of all children in need of extra help experience or witness domestic violence

Half of all children assessed as “in need of extra help” by council protection teams have experienced or witnessed domestic violence, the LGA has warned.

The Queen’s Speech saw the announcement of a comprehensive package of reform around domestic violence, and the LGA has said that this must be centred on a shift to housing on early intervention and preventing abuse from occurring, rather than dealing with the aftermath.

The LGA has called on the government to adequately fund children’s services so that those with the highest level of need are supported and councils can invest in early intervention initiatives.

It also calls for an increase in the number of independent domestic violence advisers in hospital settings, as advocated by charities such as Safe Lives.

Currently only around 10% of hospitals have access to these practitioners, despite their ability to spot abuse early, track behavioural red warning flags, and help victims access the support they need.

Each day, a child is referred to council children’s services every 49 seconds, and last year saw councils start over 500 child protection investigations every day.

The LGA has warned that this means that councils are being forced to prioritise spending for children at immediate risk of harm, rather than on earlier support services that could help families address harmful behaviours, and support children and young people to recover from earlier experiences.

Children’s services face a £2bn funding gap by 2020, and the LGA has said that councils need more resources to cope with the local challenges of domestic abuse.

Cllr Simon Blackburn, chair of the LGA’s safer and stronger communities board, said: “Domestic abuse is a horrendous crime which takes place behind the curtains in our communities, and can be psychological, physical, emotional and sometimes even life-threatening.

“It’s awful to imagine the pain and hurt that perpetrators inflict on victims and to think of children witnessing or even being victims of abuse.”

The last year saw almost two million victims of domestic abuse, as Blackburn explained: “We need the government to include early intervention and preventative measures in its comprehensive package of reforms to address domestic abuse as the best way to tackle this issue.”

In view of the predicted funding gap he called for an “urgent injection of funding” to protect the services that families need to tackle problems or recover from abuse.

“All children deserve the chance of a bright future and we have a moral duty to do more than just pick up the pieces when things go wrong.

“Failure to invest in these services will have long term consequences for our country’s children and families and create crises which are much more expensive to solve in the long run,” Blackburn concluded.

Top image: sturti

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