A WORRYING decline in the number of domestic abuse victims reaching out for help during the coronavirus lockdown period is causing ‘serious concern’ for charity bosses across Lancashire.

The fall in contact is deemed even more of an issue in Blackburn with Darwen, where there has been a ‘significant’ decrease in those using domestic abuse hotlines, despite the number of calls being made to other helplines rising by as much as 25 per cent in other parts of the country.

Shigufta Khan, CEO of the Wish Centre in Blackburn, said charities across the county are now looking for alternative ways to ensure they can provide a much-needed lifeline to those who need it most.

She said: “What we have seen is that prior to the lockdown the calls and cases were coming in as normal and how we would have expected them to, but since the quarantine period began there has been a dip which is obviously raising issues and concerns with us.

“We can’t understand why and it’s gravely concerning to see that here in Blackburn things are not in line with the national trend – there has to be a reason for that.

“Where a perpetrator and a victim are living together, it's really difficult for the victim to make safe contact with us and the only time they may ring will be when in serious distress and they are able to get hold of a phone because something has happened which is significant. This is something that we are looking to resolve collectively between domestic abuse services and the police.”

To combat their concerns, bosses at the Wish Centre have opened an online chat in the hope those who may not be able to speak on the phone can use the helpline for guidance.

The helpline, which is available through the Wish Centre’s Facebook page, is open everyday from 10am for two hours, with a view to extend the service.

Ms Khan said: “This is something we are trialling at the moment and if that gives us an indication that people are using it we will work to set something up as an online helpline, like a chat system. We’re just looking at different options.”

Meanwhile Refuge, the UK’s largest domestic abuse charity says calls to its helpline have risen by 25% since lockdown measures began.

Chief executive Sandra Horley CBE said: "Since the UK lockdown measures were announced, Refuge has worked round the clock to ensure its life-saving services remain open and accessible to any woman who needs them.

“Prior to the lockdown measures being introduced, the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, run by Refuge, logged on average 270 calls and contacts per day.”