The NSPCC is warning of an increased risk of domestic abuse during the Qatar World Cup as new figures reveal a spike in contacts to its Helpline about children experiencing violence and abuse at home during the last tournament.
Analysis by the child protection charity found that during the previous football World Cup contacts to its Helpline about domestic abuse jumped by a third (33%) on the monthly average, reaching more than 1,000.
They said heightened emotional stress, alcohol and betting on the games could act as potential triggers to incidents in the home over the next four weeks.
The charity is concerned that hundreds of thousands of children could be at risk as new Government data revealed almost 250,000 children are impacted by domestic abuse in England
The findings chime with research showing a direct correlation between high profile sporting events and reports of domestic abuse to emergency services, agencies, and charities.
During the last World Cup in 2018, the NSPCC’s Helpline – which takes calls from adults concerned about children – delivered 1,060 child welfare contacts about domestic abuse, a 33% increase on the monthly average for that year.
And Childline, which is run by the NSPCC, saw a 17 per cent increase on the monthly average for the number of counselling sessions delivered to children and young people about domestic abuse.
‘He’s Been Causing Trouble for Years’
A 13-year-old girl, who contacted Childline during the 2018 World Cup, said, “My brother gets very aggressive when he drinks, he shouts at us for no reason and demands money from my mum.
“After the England game, he came home drunk and hit my mum in the face, so I had to call the police. He’s been causing trouble for years and, to be honest, I’m done with him. I wish he could just disappear from our lives so that me and my mum weren’t so scared all the time.”
A parent of another child, who contacted the NSPCC’s Helpline during the last World Cup, said, “My daughter’s best friend told me her dad is hitting her and her mum. He drinks a lot at the pub and then gets abusive and violent when he’s back home.
“They feel they have no way out as they depend on him financially, and they fear he’d punish them if anyone finds out about his behaviour. I worry my daughter and I can be identified if I tell children’s services. I don’t know what to do.”
Jess, whose biological father subjected the family to years of domestic abuse, said, “I remember the ’98 World Cup – the final was on my birthday.
“I don’t think he was a big football fan, it was just another way he was able to control us.
“Of course, if his team lost, we’d all feel the effects. His mood would change, and my mum would be the one who he’d direct most of his anger towards.
“We were always on eggshells but when the football was on, the ending would feel inevitable.”
Children Recognised as Victims
The warning comes after children were officially recognised as victims of domestic abuse as part of the Domestic Abuse Act in January.
The NSPCC said the changes should lead to the impact of domestic abuse on children being better understood, their needs considered, and support given.
But support services for children are patchy with young victims of domestic abuse facing barriers to accessing help in two thirds of local authorities, according to Action for Children research.
This has led to calls for the UK Government to deliver a Victims Bill that is strengthened to ensure specialist support is available for all children impacted by domestic abuse.
The Government published a draft Bill in May, but children and families are still waiting for it to be brought before Parliament.
Sir Peter Wanless, Chief Executive of the NSPCC, said, “The majority of fans across the country will enjoy the World Cup with friends and family but for many children living with domestic abuse it will bring nervousness, fear and even violence.
“Anyone who hears or sees something worrying regarding a child while watching the football can reach out to the NSPCC Helpline for confidential advice.
“Domestic abuse can decimate a child’s confidence and sense of security and without support it can have a devastating impact at the time and long into the future.
“The Government could take a step towards ensuring children have the opportunity to recover from domestic abuse by pressing ahead with a Victims Bill that recognises the needs of the hundreds of thousands of children living in violent homes.”
The World Cup coincides with the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, an annual international campaign that kicks off on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until December 10, Human Rights Day.
The NSPCC firmly supports the important role of sport in childhood and recognises the enjoyment this brings. The charity’s Child Protection in Sport Unit helps parents to engage positively with clubs to help ensure children stay safe in sports settings.
Anyone with any concerns about the welfare of a child can call the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Children can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or visit childline.org.uk
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