A DRAMATIC drop in reports of domestic abuse in Oxfordshire during the lockdown is no cause for celebration, authorities have warned.

The number of police records of violence at people's homes in the county dropped by as much as 50 per cent after the start of lockdown on March 23.

However Sarah Carter, the county's strategic lead officer on the subject, has warned that 'the abuse is still there but the support is not being accessed'.

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Speaking to the county’s health improvement partnership board last week, Ms Carter said that as the lockdown was imposed there was an initial drop in referrals for domestic abuse.

She told the meeting: “We saw lower callouts of police – that is obviously very concerning.

"With other areas a drop in referrals might be seen as a good thing, but for domestic abuse we know that’s not a good thing.

"The abuse is still there but the support is not being accessed.”

A report to the board said the initial drop in police call-out and referrals to the council was between 30 per cent and 50 per cent in the first two weeks.

After that, the number did start to rise again, and it has risen again since according to Ms Carter.

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She added: “It is a positive sign that people are getting more access to support.”

The report also warned that domestic abuse services are now expecting a spike in referrals when the lockdown eventually ends.

In the run-up to March 23, Oxfordshire had looked at countries which had locked down ahead of the UK for lessons on how they helped people who lived with abusive family members.

It said those countries ‘saw the impacts being reported including a spike in incidents’.

It also said the lockdown made it easier for domestic abusers to exert control over victims, as well as make it harder for victims to get help or leave their homes.

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During the board meeting, there was also discussion of a poster campaign to tell the victims of domestic abuse where they could get help during the lockdown.

The posters, placed in shops and public places, include a message which resembles the government's Covid-19 awareness campaign.

But it is also accompanied by contact information, telling people where they can get help.

Oxford city councillor Louise Upton asked whether the posters were ‘too subtle’ because they blurred the distinction between support for domestic abuse victims and the government’s coronavirus pandemic awareness campaign.

But Ms Carter said it was an ‘intentional subtlety’ so victims could see the message in public places without drawing attention from their abusers.

Helplines, refuges and other support services are still operating during the pandemic.

The Oxfordshire Domestic Abuse Service contact number is 0800 731 0055