NSPCC accuses ministers of 'turning a blind eye' to children affected by domestic abuse in lockdown
Minister have been urged to boost protections for children
The NSPCC has accused ministers of "turning a blind eye" towards children impacted by domestic abuse amid soaring numbers of reported cases.
The children's charity said calls to their helpline had surged by almost a third since the start of the coronavirus lockdown as they urged the Government to strengthen support for children suffering from domestic violence.
More than 1,500 calls were made by adults concerned about the welfare of children since the crisis began, with May seeing the highest number of cases related to domestic abuse since 2016.
The warning comes after the new Domestic Abuse Bill entered the committee stage in the House of Commons last week.
But the charity said ministers had repeatedly failed to take heed of advice from experts who claimed the new legislation failed to adequately protect children.
And the group warned the virus had made it harder for victims to come forward, saying abusers were using the crisis as an excuse to "withold access to children, cut off contact with family and friends, and monitor victim's movements under the pretext of keeping them safe".
Emily Hilton, NSPCC senior policy officer, said the volume of calls had highlighted the "daily nightmare" facing children impacted by domestic abuse.
"The [Domestic Abuse] Bill has the chance to transform the help available for these children but, despite pleas from multiple experts, the Government is deliberately turning a blind eye to the impact it has on children," she said.
"The Government should grasp the landmark opportunity offered by the Domestic Abuse Bill and ensure children get the protection and support they need."
Shadow Domestic Abuse minister Jess Phillips told PoliticsHome the figures were a "shock but not a surprise".
"Even pre-coronavirus, the situation of children being considered witnesses rather than victims was clear," the Labour frontbencher added.
"The Government should look at the NSPCC and listen to the children's sector on their demands in the Domestic Abuse Bill and that is that children need to be included in the definition of domestic abuse."
Meanwhile, Lib Dem home affairs spokesperson Christine Jardine urged ministers to go further in providing support for victims.
"Domestic abuse leaves a devasting, lifelong impact on survivors. To know that cases have spiked to a record level during the coronavirus lockdown is terrifying," she said.
"Ministers must act. Not only must the Government address shortages in services but ministers must also use the Domestic Abuse Bill to strengthen protection and support for survivors."