There has been a surge in domestic abuse incidents reported in West Lothian since the covid lockdowns began almost a year ago.

And the area has the highest increase in incidents in Scotland - higher than the country’s largest cities.

That may be down to a robust reporting system and partnership teams able to offer help and refuge to the mainly women and children, but also men, who report domestic abuse.

A report to the council’s Social Policy, Policy Development and Scrutiny Panel (PDSP) revealed West Lothian has had a 17.8 per cent increase during the pandemic compared to the same period the year before. The number of reported incidents in the 41 weeks from 16 April 2020 was 1824, up from 1549 in the previous reporting period. An increase of 275.

Thirteen local authority areas including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Renfrewshire reported decreases but West Lothian accounted for 29 per cent of the increases for Scotland. The estimated figure for Scotland was 44,028, a 2.2 per cent increase on the year before.

The figure for Scotland is estimated because local authorities collate figures in different ways and some rely on third party agencies for support.

Tim Ward, senior manager of the council’s Criminal Justice team said the increase was higher than Scotland overall and higher than most comparable authorities.

West Lothian is one of the few local authorities to core fund a Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault Team (DASAT) to work with the police and other council teams including social work and housing as well as charities and aid groups. It also provides specialist housing advice and support for domestic abuse victims in re-homing and finding safer accommodation.

Mr Ward said demand had been “solid” throughout the lockdown and illustrated a 59 per cent increase in demand for the month of January for all services provided by the team as the second lockdown kicked in.

He added: “My personal sense of things is that DASAT has been in place for a long time. At some levels the increase may be because services are well known and access to services is very good.

“DASAT knew that without doubt one of the biggest risks of the lockdown would be an increase in reporting and we prepared for that. Women are still reporting that they feel safer for the work that we are doing and the services are responding well to the increased demand. We continue to ask women and children if they are feeling safer as a result of the responses we have provided, and their responses have been positive.”

Mr Ward said that in the longer term the criminal justice team would carry out a strategic services review working with other local authorities to make improvements.

Mr Ward said that there had been many first time reported cases and in some cases long-term abuse had been revealed as victims had decided to speak out.

Local police teams have also been running high-profile social media campaigns highlighting their zero tolerance policy against domestic abuse and Scottish Fire and Rescue officers are also trained to be alert to the signs of domestic violence in homes where they are working fitting smoke detectors or carrying out safety surveys.

Executive councillor for social policy, Angela Doran-Timson, said: “The police figures are extremely worrying. Community planning partners have been responding to an increase in reports of domestic abuse throughout the pandemic.

“Council services are responding to reports and providing support and guidance to the individuals and families affected.

“I’d urge anyone experiencing domestic abuse - or if anyone is worried about a friend or family member - to reach out for help.”

To report Domestic Violence please call - West Lothian Domestic and Sexual Assault Team (DASAT) on 01506 281055 or email [email protected] for confidential and friendly support

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