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Press release

At least 16,000 children likely to be exposed to domestic abuse this Christmas

Figure likely to be “just the tip of the iceberg” as so much domestic abuse is hidden in the home


23 Dec 2021


This release highlights the changes needed to improve support for children and families who are affected by domestic abuse, and highlights the potential extent of the problem over Christmas.

This Christmas at least 16,000 children could be exposed to domestic abuse, warns a leading research charity. The Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) says this Christmas period could be particularly stressful for families, which may lead to more domestic abuse.  

Data suggests that in a given month, nearly 35,000 children are exposed to domestic abuse, but this could be the “tip of the iceberg” this Christmas and New Year. These figures show that more than 400,000 children could be the victims of domestic abuse in 2022. 

The charity warns experiencing domestic abuse as a child can have a lasting impact. Children who have experienced domestic abuse are significantly more likely to experience abuse in their own adult relationships, to misuse drugs or alcohol, and to have lower levels of wellbeing. 

In a report earlier this year, the charity identified a significant lack of evidence on what support works to effectively support children who have experienced, or who are at risk of experiencing, domestic abuse. The report stated: “Local commissioners, funders and service providers are hampered by the lack of evidence about what is effective, for whom, and in what circumstances.”  

The same report also stated that: “Local authority funding constraints and uncertainties remain a major challenge to the provision of local services. Across the country, directors of children’s services are trying to balance budgets and find ways to rationalise services, retaining the most effective support offer possible for children and families within these constraints. In this context, domestic abuse services tend to focus on crisis support and reducing the immediate risk of harm.” 

Dr Jo Casebourne, chief executive, Early Intervention Foundation commented: “Given the numbers of children affected by domestic abuse, it is vital that we fully understand how best to help them. The domestic abuse strategy must focus on improving services for child victims of domestic abuse. There are longstanding gaps in provision for families, including in relation to the availability of prevention services and long-term therapeutic support, support for babies and very young children and culturally specific interventions for minority groups.  

“That’s why we are calling on Safeguarding minister Rachel Maclean to ensure that the domestic abuse strategy includes a commitment to fund and evaluate the most promising support, in order to build crucial evidence of what works for families affected by domestic abuse.” 




A report by the NSPCC in 2011, which despite its date remains the most robust UK-wide, research-based indication of the prevalence of child abuse and neglect available, estimated that 3.2% of the under 11s and 2.5% of the 11–17s reported exposure to domestic violence in the last year. Applying that to the latest ONS population statistics for the United Kingdom implies that at least 15,948 children will be exposed to domestic violence over the two-week Christmas period. 

About EIF:  

The Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) is an independent charity that champions and supports the use of effective early intervention to improve the lives of children and young people at risk of experiencing negative outcomes. For more information, see:     

Other info: 

The cost of domestic abuse is estimated to be approximately £66bn for victims of domestic abuse in England and Wales for the year ending March 2017. 

In the year ending March 2021, the number of callers to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, run by the charity Refuge, in England increased by 22% to 49,756 compared with 40,859 in the year ending March 2020. (Source: ONS: Domestic abuse in England and Wales overview: November 2021

The number of police recorded domestic abuse-related crimes in England and Wales rose 6% in the year ending March 2021 to 845,734; this follows increases seen in previous years and may reflect improved recording by the police alongside increased reporting by victims. (Source: ONS: Domestic abuse in England and Wales overview: November 2021)  

Media contacts:   

Andy Ross, Senior Press Officer – 07949 339 975 / 

About the contributor

Dr Jo Casebourne

Jo is CEO at What Works for Early Intervention and Children's Social Care.