This is the archived version of Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner. To view the new website click here
Banner Image

Domestic abuse referrals set to soar when kids go back to school, warns PCC

7th August 2020


LOCAL domestic abuse support services predict their referrals will soar when children head back to the classroom this September, and we must be ready for it says Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness.

In recent weeks, Kim has spent time with a range of organisations that support families who have experienced domestic abuse. All are predicting that when school gates re-open there’ll be a surge in the number of young people needing help to cope and recover from experiences at home.

After what was, for many, a worryingly low number of referrals during the peak of lockdown, many victim services are now reporting a sharp increase as the easing of lockdown enables more victims to reach out for help.

One such service is Gateshead Domestic Abuse Service, which has seen an almost 40 per cent rise in referrals over the last six weeks, in comparison to this time last year. The difference not only highlights the increased risk of abuse during this time but also reveals the devastating impact on young people.

Although referrals are on the up, there are still many children at home suffering in silence, ‘and it’s these children we have to shine the light on and rescue’ says Police Commissioner Kim McGuinness.

She explained: “Schools provide so much more than an education for our children. Walking through the school gates can be like entering a place of sanctuary for some. It’s these children who have had the longest, toughest summers and seeing the friendly, familiar face of a teacher may lead them to open up about their experiences at home.

“There will also be those who aren’t ready to talk but fortunately, through initiatives like ‘Operation Encompass; The Next Steps’, which I fund through my Violence Reduction Unit, we have many teachers in our region who are trained to spot the signs so they can help.

“In fact, many of the services I’ve spoken to have praised their education colleagues for their continued efforts in finding ways to get out and speak to families of concern, even while schools are closed. Some teachers have played a really valuable part in keeping strong links to support going, and to them we are very grateful.”

Earlier this year PCC Kim McGuinness launched the Children Affected by Domestic Abuse emergency fund, which made £120,000 in Home Office funding available to specialist organisations. The money was to help children at risk by supporting services adapt to new demands as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. One organisation that benefitted from funding was Acorns in North Tyneside.

Kim continued: “There’s been a lot of talk about the rise in demand for services during lockdown but we now have to prepare for the aftermath of lockdown – an expected surge once term starts. Fortunately, services like Acorns in North Tyneside and Gateshead Domestic Abuse Service, have been planning for this for some time, recognising this is a crucial period in a much wider recovery. Now is the time to give those who have experienced abuse a voice, encourage them to share their experiences so they can be supported and move on with their lives.

“Of course the pockets of funding from Government have been welcomed but throwing small pots of cash at the problem won’t fix it. It’s a start, and yes we are seeing society, the media, MPs and so on are all talking about the problem more, which is great, but we need a long term funding commitment to ensure help reaches everyone. What we are seeing now is just the tip of the iceberg, and it’s crucial we now look to prevent future generations accepting abusive relationships as the norm, they’re not and there is real work to be done improving lives to prevent this appalling crime.”

Cllr Gary Haley, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People at Gateshead Council, said: “In Gateshead we have long recognised the traumatic impact that living with domestic abuse has on those affected, including children and young people. Aided by funding from the OPCC, Gateshead Council’s Domestic Abuse Team continues to reach out to adults and children affected by domestic abuse to let them know that they are not alone. The Domestic Abuse Team offers holistic practical and emotional support to keep children and adults safe, break the cycle of abuse and aid the road to recovery.”
Abby Burton, Project Manager at Acorns Project in North Shields, said: “We know from our work that early intervention and support can make a huge difference to adults, children and young people who have gone through these very traumatic, usually multiple experiences of domestic abuse, giving them the best possible chance of recovery. It is imperative that fami-lies are able to reach out, and when they do, that our services are there for them, not just in the short term, but over the coming months and years”.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse, you can report an incident by ringing 101 or visiting Also in a non-emergency situation you can text the police on 07786 200814.
In an emergency, always call 999. If you dial 999 and are unable to speak, the emergency operator will ask you to dial 55 and to follow their instruction to quickly put you in touch with police.
The OPCC commissions a range of specialist support services for children and young people affected by domestic abuse. More info can be found here.
Help is also available From Victims First Northumbria, who can be found at or on 0800 011 3116.

PHOTO: Kim and the team at Acorns