A well overdue development means that up to 150 local children from in and around Blaenau Gwent who have been affected by domestic abuse will be given help and support. This is thanks to a grant of £36,000 from Monmouthshire Freemasons to the Phoenix Domestic Abuse Services charity.

Children have often been described as the hidden victims of domestic abuse, with their needs overlooked and minimised. This is something that will hopefully change over time, with recent changes in legislation now recognising that children witnessing domestic abuse as direct victims themselves.

These children and young people can experience a wealth of negative impacts that can follow them into adulthood. The repercussions of witnessing domestic abuse from and on a loved one can be devastating and affect all aspects of their lives. All children on this project have witnessed domestic abuse within their immediate family, either from a parent/carer, or a sibling.

Domestic abuse can also take away a sense of security from a child and hugely damage their self-confidence. It has a multitude of short or long term effects, physicallly, mentally and emotionally.

Children on the project experience nightmares, flashbacks; physical pain such as headaches, high levels of anxiety, depression, isolation, anger and frustration and feelings of guilt. Socially, they can have difficulties in forming positive friendships, with many feeling powerless and lonely.

Longer term effects can last past childhood, as their experience could make them vulnerable to child sexual exploitation in the community, as well as having a poor understanding of healthy relationships and often having difficulties with their mental health.

During the pandemic this risk increased as children experiencing abuse were trapped at home and largely cut off from their support networks during lockdowns.

The grant will fund a Recovery Worker to help the charity deal with increased demand. Each young person will receive one-to-one tailored support, with the free sessions taking place at venues such as school. This works to allow the beneficiary to feel safe and will last on average for 10 weeks, although will be extended if needed.

The aim is to help the child to develop more positive relationships, be able to overcome the negative impacts of what they have experienced and be able to feel safer.

The NSPCC states that in 2020/21, “Police made almost 245,000 referrals to social services for domestic abuse”, and it is feared that these numbers only represent the tip of the iceberg in terms of children affected. These high numbers are evidence that children are witnessing abuse at home on a growing scale.

The grant from Monmouthshire Freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales.

Catherine Hill, CEO of Phoenix Domestic Abuse Services, stated “We’re very grateful to Monmouthshire Freemasons for their generous grant, which will help us to provide more help and support to children who have been affected by domestic abuse, with reactions ranging from fear and anxiety through to poor concentration and anti-social behaviour. This is a problem that has got noticeably worse as a result of lockdown and our service is more important than ever.”

Richard G. Davies from Monmouthshire Freemasons, added to this, saying, “I’m delighted we’ve been able to help Phoenix in their hugely important work with children and young people who have been affected by domestic abuse.

It’s a reminder that domestic abuse causes harm to the whole family that can last for many years. It can cause significant damage to children’s education as well as preventing them from forming healthy friendships and relationships.”