Domestic abuse at Christmas: Social services take high number of calls over festive period

A "significant number" of domestic abuse incidents were referred to social workers in Wakefield over Christmas.

Thursday, 23rd January 2020, 1:13 pm
Updated Thursday, 23rd January 2020, 1:14 pm
Social services were told of a large number of domestic abuse incidents during December.

Campaigners and police have long identified the festive period as a time when violence in homes tends to spike, with alcohol and family stress believed to be among the factors.

Although no exact figures have been released, Wakefield Council confirmed that they'd taken a high number of calls about domestic abuse in late December.

The council's service director for children's social care, Vicky Schofield, said that schools and members of the public reported fewer concerns to children's services over the Christmas period because of the holidays.

Abuse within the home tends to spike around Christmas time.

But speaking to councillors at a scrutiny committee on Wednesday, she added: "The police don't stop referring to us over Christmas.

"We often see increases in some types of referral over Christmas. We did have a significant number of domestic abuse referrals over Christmas."

The issue was raised as the council's recent performance in children's services was assessed.

Ms Schofield said that in some areas of the department performance had dropped during December because of annual leave taken by social workers.

Only two thirds of assessments were carried out within a 45 day period during December, slightly below a target of 75 per cent.

She said: "It's a slightly unusual month, because we don't close down children's services like the rest of the council do between Christmas and New Year, but we do often have a reduced capacity.

"We don't get as many referrals and we've always got fewer staff because people want to spend time with their families."

Ms Schofield added that there had already been "significant improvement" on a number of measures during January.

Committee member Keith Garforth said he "understood" why social workers were on leave over Christmas, but added: "I'd have thought at Christmas time you'd see a peak (in referrals).

"I'd have thought families being at home together there's more friction going off. Are children more at risk at school or at home?"

Ms Schofield replied: "We don't tend to generate our own extra work as an organisation.

"Other agencies and members of the public tell us about the children they're worried about.

"I see what you're saying - children may be sometimes more vulnerable.

"But the children we know who are in need or are at risk that we've been told about and assessed - we continue to see them over Christmas and New Year.

"We don't reduce the frequency of those visits."