MINISTERS are 'deeply concerned' as helpline referrals about children living with domestic abuse rose by 30% during the pandemic.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children warned that the numbers could rise even further under current lockdown restrictions.

The latest data reveals that the average monthly number of referrals over domestic abuse from the NSPCC to Scottish agencies, such as police and local authorities, has risen from 32 in the first three months of last year to 42 in the remainder months.

Across the UK, the average monthly number of contacts to the NSPCC helpline about this issue has increased by more than 50%. Concerned neighbours have increasingly reported hearing non-stop arguing and kids crying to the charity’s confidential helpline for adults worried about children.

The NSPCC’s frontline teams are concerned that the risk of young people suffering the toxic consequences of domestic abuse has been heightened.

The Scottish Government said it was "deeply concerning that referrals to services have increased during the pandemic adding that they were "working tirelessly to ensure frontline services continue supporting adults and children experiencing domestic abuse, despite pressures in these unprecedented circumstances".

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The NSPCC warned that left unaddressed the abuse can have profound and long-term impacts on children’s physical and mental wellbeing that can last into adulthood.

HeraldScotland:

Joanna Barrett, NSPCC Scotland's policy and public affairs manager, said: “With families facing increased pressure behind closed doors, lockdown restrictions have made some children more vulnerable to experiencing domestic abuse, as well as other forms of abuse and neglect.

“It is vital that no child becomes invisible at this time, and support is available and provided now to all children and families who need it.

“It is also so important that people speak out if they are concerned about a child. Our helpline experts are there to answer any questions and concerns, provide reassurance or take quick action if we feel a child is in danger.”

One member of the public who called the Helpline for advice said: “For the past few weeks, I’ve been hearing loud and aggressive shouting between a man and woman who live a few doors away from me. They’re at it pretty much every day and it generally lasts a couple of hours. Sometimes I hear their children crying when the parents are arguing. I’ve only really noticed this since I’ve been at home on furlough. I’m worried the kids aren’t being looked after properly.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We have provided more than £5.75 million in additional funding to services that such as Women’s Aid, ASSIST and Rape Crisis Scotland, and worked with the UK Government on a codeword scheme in participating pharmacies, offering help in the community.

“We continue to fund Childline which receives £198,000 annually through the Children, Young People and Families Early Intervention Fund. Childline has also received support through the Scottish Government’s £350 million funding package through the COVID-19 Communities Fund and £50m Wellbeing Fund, to adapt and respond to rising demand since the start of the pandemic outbreak.

“Police Scotland continues to prioritise domestic abuse cases and we would encourage anyone experiencing domestic abuse to get the support they need.”