More than 450 domestic violence calls made a week in Leeds during first Covid wave

There were more than 450 domestic violence calls a week in Leeds during the first six months of the pandemic, new figures show.

A report by Leeds City Council officers called the numbers of incidents in the city an “ongoing concern”, adding the Covid-19 pandemic was a “terrifying” time for victims.

Between April and September 2020 in Leeds, there was a weekly average of 452 domestic incidents reported to the police, with 97 calls made to the Leeds Domestic Violence Service.

Data from Leeds City Council also shows around 40 per cent of domestic violence incidents are repeat calls while, in the last 12 months, 6,054 domestic incidents in the city had a child present in the home.

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A report by Leeds City Council officers called the numbers of domestic violence incidents in the city an “ongoing concern” (stock image)
A report by Leeds City Council officers called the numbers of domestic violence incidents in the city an “ongoing concern” (stock image)

The report stated: “There is an ongoing concern, that the demand on the Leeds Domestic Violence Service (LDVS) helpline has increased and we’re working with them to identify ways to increase their capacity.”

It added that problems such as “forced coexistence, economic stress and fear about the virus” may have contributed to its increase during the lockdown. It also said the instances of domestic abuse vary significantly between different wards in the city, with “more economically deprived areas” experiencing a greater volume.

The report said: “There has perhaps never been a more dangerous or frightening time for victims of domestic abuse trapped in lockdown with an abusive partner or family member.

“Victims and families are now spending much more time at home with their abuser and are much more isolated from help and support which significantly increases their risk of harm. Home is not a safe place to be for people living with an abusive partner of family member.

“Their ability to seek help is extremely compromised as they cannot leave the house as they wish or make a phone call without been (sic) overheard.

“During lockdown there is also less opportunity for professionals, agencies or family and friends to pick up on signs of abuse as there is such a reduction in both face to face and telephone contact.

“In the current climate of self-isolation including from friends or family outside the same household, whilst necessary to reduce the spread of coronavirus, will also impact on the opportunity for victims of domestic abuse to escape control and seek and obtain such help.”

Council officers say a tactical group was set up to provide a way of monitoring trends and responding to them, while the LDVS has had to secure government funding for an extra seven properties to increase the refuge’s capacity for those fleeing domestic violence.

The report follows the Domestic Abuse Act, which was recently introduced by Government. The act places a duty on local authorities, such as Leeds City Council, to provide accommodation support to victims of domestic abuse in refuges and other safe accommodation.

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government has allocated Leeds an extra £1.8m for the coming year to do this.

The council report states that it has set up a domestic abuse partnership board, and is also in the process of developing a new strategy to help tackle domestic abuse.

The LDVS website is www.ldvs.uk and the 24/7 helpline number is 0113 246 0401.