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COVID-19’s hidden victims must not be forgotten

PSA President Paul Griffiths has published a blog on the importance of supporting those vulnerable in communities during the COVID-19 lockdown:

Since the UK has been in lockdown, our association has joined all national policing partners to face the threat posed by COVID-19.

The necessary lockdown and restrictions on movement have created a situation for some, where we are protecting them from an external, biological threat, but unknowingly pushing them towards danger at home. For most of us, home is a place of sanctuary and comfort. Sadly, for others – children and adults at risk of abuse – it’s a place of harm and fear.

When I spoke to the Home Affairs Select Committee at the beginning of April, I highlighted this as a major concern for policing this pandemic, with a clear need to understand how we will communicate to people who have had their usual social safety networks taken away.

Official crime figures from the 15th April show a 3% rise in reports of domestic abuse.  We won’t have access to the next round of these statistics until mid-May, but reports from our third sector partners tell us this figure is likely to have significantly increased.

Media reporting has shown stark updates from charities seeing drastic upsurges in calls for help, with Refuge reporting a 49% increase in the week before 15 April and domestic abuse charity Chayn reporting a trebling in visits to its website.*  Similarly, calls to the NSPCC have increased by 20%**

The national response to this risk has been put in place rapidly, with additional government funding announced for the NSPCC and to specifically support domestic abuse charities.

Similarly, the Police Service has worked at pace to do all it can with partners to understand where our most effective communications channels lie, so we can support and encourage people to reach out for help.  

We need our communities to join this effort.

Our children are not at school, our colleagues are not joining us in the workplace, and our friends are not meeting with us to talk.  These are the networks that vulnerable people depend on.

In their place – we need communities to be our eyes and ears in different ways. 

Tell us if you hear something that worries you, call us if you see something that suggests someone is at risk.  Reach out if you know that someone could be struggling. No one needs to be alone.

Coronavirus should not be responsible for harming even more lives, when we have the power to intervene and stop it by creating safety networks for those most in need.