Communities across County Durham are being asked to look out for vulnerable adults and children during the coronavirus pandemic.
Many women, men and children face a higher risk of abuse whilst isolating at home and Durham County Council’s safeguarding teams are concerned that the stay-at-home message could be causing increased anxiety for those at risk.
Victims should not worry about leaving their home if it is to escape abuse.
Residents are also being reassured that police and local support services are still available to help keep everyone safe across the county.
More information on domestic abuse and what help and support is available in County Durham can be found on the council’s website: www.durham.gov.uk/domesticabuse
Concerns are also being raised for children who may be witnessing domestic abuse in the home and the impact that has on young people.
With the majority of children currently not in school, safeguarding teams are stressing that it is more important than ever to protect vulnerable children exposed to any form of abuse.
Residents are therefore being encouraged to report any worries they have around potentially vulnerable children.
Key signs of those include concerns around children shouting and crying from a home, concerns that a child hasn’t been seen in the garden or any outside space when it would be expected, and concerns that a child has been out on their own when it isn’t appropriate to their age.
Although those signs don’t necessarily mean a child is being abused, professionals can help to assess the situation and take appropriate action.
Cllr Angela Surtees, Cabinet member for social inclusion, said: “No matter how stressful these times are, domestic abuse is never acceptable. It is so important that anyone who is either experiencing domestic abuse or feels at risk of it, knows that help and support is still available 24 hours per day.”
“I would also encourage anyone who is worried about their friend, family member or neighbour being at risk of abuse to report their concerns. Specialist support can be offered to victims – young and old – and to perpetrators of abuse to help us break the cycle for everyone. If you see something, please say something.”
Superintendent Dave Ashton, of Durham Constabulary’s safeguarding unit, said: “Whilst following the government’s advice to stay at home will save lives, for some home is not a safe place and we recognise that restrictions will be causing worry for many victims of domestic abuse.
“For those already living with domestic abuse these restrictions will have left them fearful of being even further isolated. Victims may feel like there is nowhere to go for help and are unable to meet the family and friends who act as a support network.
“That’s why it is so important to get the message out that we continue to be here for all vulnerable people and if you feel you are in immediate risk of danger, please call 999 and we will come to your aid.
“Abuse of any kind is never acceptable and we will continue to do all we can to help victims. We have also been working closely with our partner agencies to combat the problem and reach out to victims to encourage them to come forward.”
To report concerns about the safety of a child or vulnerable adult, people should contact First Contact on 03000 267 979.
If there is an immediate threat, call 999. Anyone unable to speak will be able to use the Silent Solutions service and directed by an automated system to press “5 5” for help.
More information can also be found online: https://www.durham-scp.org.uk/parents-carers/what-to-do-if-you-are-concerned-about-a-child/.