New analysis from charity Pro Bono Economics, carried out for charity Hestia, highlights the staggering potential cost to UK taxpayers of children exposed to severe domestic violence who are not given support to overcome their trauma.

Around 500,000 children in the UK today have been exposed to severe domestic violence. More than 1 million children each year are exposed to domestic abuse and more than half of those who experience domestic abuse as a child will go on to be a victim in adulthood.

Failure to support children exposed to domestic violence costs UK taxpayers up to £1.4bn

Published in response to the Government’s draft Domestic Abuse Bill, which fails to include specific measures to protect children who live in households where domestic abuse takes place, On the Sidelines: The Economic and Personal Cost of Childhood Exposure to Domestic Violence estimates the potential costs to the taxpayer of children who witness severe domestic violence and go on to develop behavioural disorders as between £480m and £1.4bn. This is made up of:

  • Health & Adult Social Care – up to £70m
  • Crime – up to £110m
  • Education – up to £790m
  • Foster & Residential – up to £460m

The report highlights the need to build better quality evidence on the impact of childhood exposure to domestic abuse. The scale of the potential costs supports calls by UK Says No More, Hestia’s national domestic abuse and sexual violence campaign, for the Domestic Abuse Bill to include measures to better protect children including:

  • Child survivors are given special waiting list status (protected status) for all NHS services including Child and Adolescent Mental Health Support (CAMHS).
  • Children in refuges and those that have had to move due to domestic abuse have priority access to school places, with a duty on local authorities to respond to a change of school request from refuges within 20 days.

Lyndsey Dearlove, Head of UK SAYS NO MORE at Hestia said: 

“For too long children have been overlooked in the response to domestic abuse, seen merely as “witnesses” rather than children who have experienced deep trauma and crisis. This must change. We need measures put in place to support children early on and break the cycle of abuse. The Domestic Abuse Bill is a once in a lifetime opportunity to make this a reality and prevent catastrophic and lifelong damage which costs both individuals and the taxpayer dearly.”

Lord Gus O’Donnell, Chair of Pro Bono Economics said:

“Children exposed to domestic abuse suffer in the short, medium and long-term.  As a society, we have a moral imperative to ensure protection from the immediate risk of such trauma but also provide support whenever – unfortunately – such exposure should occur. While these numbers are striking, and this report timely, there is always a need for more robust evidence with which we can enhance our understanding of such issues, from causes through to effects and solutions. Armed with such information we can better address these concerning social trends.”