Over 827,000 children estimated to have experienced domestic abuse this year, with concerns of increase at Christmas underscoring urgent need for stronger support

18th December 2023

Staggering new figures reveal that at least 827,000 children in England and Wales may have suffered domestic abuse by the end of 2023, with incidences likely to rise over the Christmas holidays. With a lack of robust evidence about what works to prevent domestic abuse from happening and how best to support child victims, Foundations is calling for an urgent focus on testing the most promising approaches to strengthen support for children. 

There are concerns numbers of children affected by domestic abuse have escalated, with an increase in police reporting and an almost 50% surge in calls to the NSPCC relating to children during 2020.1 On Christmas Day alone, a staggering 669 child protection referrals are expected at a minimum, underscoring the need for urgent action.2 Domestic abuse is the most common reason for referrals to children’s social care, yet right now, the evidence isn’t available to guide agencies on how best to prevent domestic abuse or support child victims. A range of services are offered, but many rely on short-term funding and have not been evaluated. They are often provided by the voluntary and community sector, and dependent on piecemeal funding from a range of sources, leaving them in a precarious position. Local councils cannot resolve these systemic issues on their own. Urgent action is needed to fund and evaluate promising support services and find out what works, and to then apply this knowledge in local service delivery.  

“Children’s exposure to domestic abuse and the long-term harm it can do to children’s lives is one of society’s most profound challenges as we head into 2024, yet the current lack of evidence about what works to improve outcomes for child victims is not good enough. This evidence gap means we consistently fail to give children the support they need and deserve” says Dr Jo Casebourne, Foundations’ Chief Executive. 

“This critical issue can no longer be pushed to the sidelines: it must become a priority for society and for whoever wins the next election. We need a radical shift in the use of evidence to find out how best to prevent domestic abuse and support child victims. Public money must be spent on services that will make the most difference. Children deserve support that has been shown by rigorous evidence to reduce trauma and improve wellbeing, not just during the holiday season but throughout the entire year”. 

Interviews with Dr Jo Casebourne available upon request. 

Contact: Charlotte Kelsted, Senior Press Officer: 07773 647 480 / charlotte.kelsted@foundations.org.uk 

Notes to editors

About Foundations  

Foundations is the What Works Centre for Children & Families. We believe all children should have the foundational relationships they need to thrive in life. We’re researching, generating, and translating evidence into practical solutions that shape better policy and practice and lead to more effective family support services. Foundations was formed through the merger of What Works for Children’s Social Care (WWCSC) and the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) in December 2022.  

Definition of domestic abuse 

Domestic abuse is defined here as an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, in the majority of cases by a partner or ex-partner, but also by a family member or carer.  


There are approximately 467,532 adult victims of partner abuse living in households where there was at least one child under the age of 16 present in the house at the time of the abuse.3 To estimate the number of individual children this represents, we multiplied the number by the average dependent children per household (1.77).4 We estimate 827,532 children in England and Wales were present in the household where there was partner abuse between adults in the last year. 

  1. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/articles/domesticabuseprevalenceandtrendsenglandandwales/yearendingmarch2022https://www.nspcc.org.uk/about-us/news-opinion/2020/domestic-abuse-calls-rise2/ 
  2. This projection is based on NSPCC data from 2020/2021: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/about-us/news-opinion/2022/record-number-children-affected-domestic-abuse/ 
  3. The ONS uses self-reported incidence of partner abuse in the CSEW and 2021 Census data to estimate that the number of people aged 16 and over that experienced partner abuse in the last year was 1,443,000. The CSEW found that, of those adults that reported being victim of partner abuse, 32.4% reported that there were children present in the household. We are unable to extrapolate how many children were living in households where there was partner abuse using the CSEW. 
  4. The ONS Labour Force Survey found that there are on average 1.77 dependent children per household where there is at least one dependent child in England and Wales. The figure of average children per household from the Labour Force Survey does not tell us the average number of children individual adult victims of partner abuse have. This could be higher or lower than the average number of children per household.