Consistent with the period of lockdown, services received reports of children being exposed to increased levels of abuse due to: prolonged contact with perpetrators when they are not returned after contact; perpetrators' drug and alcohol abuse in the presence of children; the impact of the perpetrator's psychological abuse and monitoring behaviours on the non-abusive parent and their parenting capacity. Some services reported that, where the perpetrator had coerced their way back into the victim's home, this had a significant impact on children who had started their recovery journey. Some specialist children's organisations reported cases where children's recovery has been reversed by the presence of the perpetrator and children were experiencing high levels of fear, anxiety and stress.
There were some reports of children who had fled domestic abuse and were housed in temporary accommodation experiencing challenges accessing online schooling due to the lack of secure internet or smart devices. Similarly, some organisations received reports of children who had fled abuse suffering severe isolation, as digital exclusion prevented remote engagement with friends and the limitations of face-to-face contact.
Most services communicated that remote engagement with younger children, particularly those aged 8 and under, was very difficult. In relation to Cedar (Children Experiencing Domestic Abuse Recovery, a domestic abuse recovery programme for children and young people that operates in nine local authority areas in Scotland), restrictions mean that therapeutic group work stopped across all projects for all ages of participants. A number of Cedar projects chose to provide one-to-one support or virtual group sessions for children, young people and their mothers that focused on wellbeing activities (rather than recovery from domestic abuse specifically), while one project adapted the Cedar model to begin to deliver therapeutic group work online from July onwards.
Some services reported a cumulative effect for victims with caring responsibilities for children with additional needs. Victims reported struggling to keep children sufficiently engaged and supported, particularly in cases where specialist support services were unavailable or additional support/special school places were limited. For some, this challenge was exacerbated in Phase 3 during the school holidays as children no longer had school work to structure their day, and options for holiday activities were limited due to remaining restrictions.