EXCLUSIVE: Child-to-parent abuse surged during lockdown, GMB investigation finds

Thousands of children have attacked their own parents during lockdown, according to new domestic violence figures obtained by GMB.

The number of reported incidents of abuse towards parents surged by a quarter compared to the same period last year.

Speaking about her young teenage daughter, who started abusing her at the age of 12, ‘Kath’ told GMB: “I can’t describe the desperation I feel. I felt angry, powerless, I felt desperately worried about her, wanting her to get the support she needs because this comes from a position of mental health issues. This is not a happy healthy child that behaves like this. 

“She started out with smacking, it escalated… She had me up against the wall with her hands around my throat, she chased me with a piece of wood to try to attack me with it.”

She went on: “There have been times when I’ve felt genuinely in danger, from the thought that this could go wrong, I could fall down the stairs or she could hit me and I could hit my head wrong. 

“Often it’s come to me having to call the police just to de-escalate the situation and have her removed from the environment and to be honest at times like that I feel utter relief just to have some breathing space.”

A GMB investigation suggests an increase of this hidden kind of abuse during lockdown. Around half of police forces in England and Wales responded to a Freedom of Information request. In total, they recorded 4274 between March and June, up 25% on last year, with many forces witnessing an increase in figures.

Jane Griffiths, Founder and Director of CAPA First Response, a charity set up to help family members experiencing this violence, said: "It’s that hidden part of domestic abuse... there is not a lot police can do other than go down the criminalisation route, which is something we really advocate not to happen.”

She added: “Young people that use child to parent abuse are doing so out of fear, lack of being in control and feeling unsafe. When you add Covid into that mix and there’s a lack of routine and a lack of safety, that behaviour is going to be magnified and intensified.”

The charity founder said having to stay at home, work and home educate children during the pandemic had caused a pressure cooker experience making it much harder for families.

She said there were often complex issues behind this kind of ‘hidden abuse’, including mental health issues, bullying at school, trauma or substance misuse and it had nothing to do with parents not implementing boundaries. 

“It’s been much harder for families to get hold of professionals, groups have had to stop. We are now playing catch up and how do we support families given the fact that groups are not likely to be running until early next year,” she said.

The government announced £2million for domestic abuse services in April and said it’s working to better understand child-to-parent abuse.

You can find all the information you need about child-to-parent abuse and the helplines here.