DOMESTIC violence did not appear to rise in Darlington during Covid, seemingly bucking trends seen elsewhere, a council meeting heard.

However, vigilance was still advised on safeguarding issues as some people's needs may not have come to light yet.

Ann Baxter, independent chair of the Darlington Safeguarding Partnership, said: "Darlington is a bit of an outlier.

"During this period many councils saw a great rise in domestic violence which we didn't see here in Darlington.

"And we feel that was around the strengths of the partnership that was already in place.

"We want to continue that so that link between community safety and safeguarding."

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She said initiatives were in place led by police to make Darlington a safer place, particularly the night economy enabling people out in town to get help and get home safely.

She gave the partnership's report covering 2020 to 2021 to the Darlington Borough Council's adults scrutiny committee this week.

The report says there were 406 domestic abuse incidents involving 576 children, all notified to schools, in April 2020 to March 2021

It states: "Police did not experience an increase in domestic abuse incidents.

"This was supported by children’s services data as the number of contacts received regarding domestic abuse had decreased.

"However, a larger number progressed to a referral to social care which suggested a rise in the severity of the abuse and a higher level of impact/risk/concern for the child."

Other issues highlighted included self-neglect and chaotic, vulnerable lifestyles.

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Councillor Anne-Marie Curry said she was pleased with the partnership's work the emphasis on coercion and control.

She said: "Many people don't realise that is part of domestic abuse and I think the work that has been done in Darlington has been very good on that.

"I think there needs to be a bit more done on that for highlighting it in schools and support groups.

"When you're in that situation, you don't know you're being abused.

"And if you don't have someone who recognises it, it can go on for a long, long time."

Ms Baxter agreed, saying: "If we are going to change the culture, it does need to start in schools and to have those conversations with boys and girls about keeping themselves safe.

"Those conversations are beginning to happen.

"Darlington has had a good focus on that."

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Cllr Bryony Holroyd said: "People can't report safeguarding issues if they don't know if it's happening.

"So that could be another reason that there was mention of no increase in domestic violence.

"That could mean there was an increase but it wasn't reported."

Cllr Mary Layton said: "I feel that there's a real concern that a lot of the issues of people reporting and coming to our attention for safeguarding reasons won't truly come to light straight away.

"I think we need to be vigilant."

She said people were still shielding and home tutoring: "How we would know whether there were any safeguarding issues is really difficult.

"There will be people coming to light who have had 30 months of self-neglect and maybe even 30 months of domestic violence."

Ms Baxter replied they kept a close eye on council, police and health data.

She said there had been a "worrying drop" in referrals to adult services in the early stages of lockdown, then a gradual build-up and rise in requests for help, but "we are coping well" despite pressures.

She added: "We saw the challenges that everybody saw throughout Covid but I would say to you that Darlington really did step up and establish pragmatic solutions to identify vulnerable people and to make sure that services were still in place when we need it."

  • The public can contact Darlington Safeguarding Partnership on 01325 406111 with concerns about an adult, 01325 406222 with concerns about a child, or the out-of-hours emergency duty team on 01642 524552.


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