Domestic abuse killings double and calls to helpline surge by 50% during coronavirus lockdown

Domestic abuse killings doubled over a 21-day period in the lockdown and a national abuse helpline received 49% more calls, a report by MPs revealed.

If urgent steps are not taken to deal with the increasing levels of domestic abuse during the pandemic we will face "serious consequences for a generation", the home affairs select committee warned.

In its report, the committee said the UK – like countries around the world – had seen a rise in domestic abuse since the lockdown restrictions came into effect last month.

Calls to Refuge increased by 49% in the week before 15 April, domestic abuse charity Chayn reported that visits to its website had trebled in March 2020 and the Men’s Advice Line saw an increase in calls of 16.6%.

Research by Counting Dead Women calculated at least 16 domestic abuse killings of women and children had taken place in the first three weeks of the lockdown.

This is double the average rate and the largest number of killings in a three-week period for a decade.

Credit: PA

The report said there is evidence incidents were becoming more complex and serious with “higher levels of violence and coercive control”.

The committee has called for a comprehensive cross-government action plan on domestic abuse, both for the lockdown and afterwards - when needs will be "acute".

It said the strategy should combine awareness, prevention, victim support, housing and a criminal justice response - with dedicated funding.

MPs have called for the expansion of a "safe spaces" model where victims can assess urgent help in supermarkets and other retailers.

  • Yvette Cooper MP says "safe spaces" may be rolled out across supermarkets - where staff can be trained to spot the signs of domestic abuse - so victims can get help when they are trying to get away from abusers

“Without strong action to tackle domestic abuse and support victims during the Covid-19 pandemic, society will be dealing with the devastating consequences for a generation,” it said.

The report said support services for domestic abuse and vulnerable children needed “urgent and direct funding” – otherwise victims would be put “at much greater risk of harm”.

It urged ministers to set up an emergency funding package, ringfenced within the £750 million fund the Government has promised for charities dealing with the coronavirus crisis.

A full action plan led and co-ordinated by Home Secretary Priti Patel was needed urgently, the MPs warned.

Credit: PA

Committee chairman Yvette Cooper said: “Staying at home is an important part of the strategy to prevent coronavirus from spreading and save lives, but for some people home isn’t safe.

“Urgent action is needed to protect victims and prevent perpetrators from exploiting the lockdown to increase abuse.

“The emotional, physical and social scars from domestic abuse can last a lifetime.

"If we don’t act to tackle it now, we will feel the consequences of rising abuse during the coronavirus crisis for many years to come.”

Safeguarding minister, Victoria Atkins, said: "The government has prioritised those at risk of domestic abuse in this national health emergency."

She said a national awareness campaign had been set up to provide practical help to victims and was supporting charities by giving them funding and resources.

"We are taking action across government," Ms Atkins said.

"Alongside the #youarenotalone campaign, we are increasing funding to boost online services, helplines and technology support at the request of charities, and I am working with the Domestic Abuse Commissioner about how they can use the Government’s £750m fund to further support victims.”

  • Call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline for free and confidential advice, 24 hours a day on 0808 2000 247.

  • The Men’s Advice Line is a confidential helpline for male victims of domestic abuse and those supporting them. Contact on: 0808 801 0327.

  • Galop runs the National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse specialist helpline. Contact: 0800 999 5428. Email:

  • Chayn provides online help and resources in a number of languages about identifying manipulative situations and how friends can support those being abused.

  • BAME specialist services:

  • Imkaan is a women’s organisation addressing violence against black and minority women and girls.

  • Southall Black Sisters offer specialist support, advocacy and information to Asian and Afro-Caribbean women suffering abuse. Contact on: 0208 571 9595.

  • For details of further helplines, visit the website.