VICTIMS of domestic abuse in Barnsley will now be able to report incidents via a dedicated online portal - after a charity warned it’s already witnessed a rise in calls as a result of the lockdown.

The Independent Domestic Abuse Service (IDAS) has refuge and outreach services in Barnsley and works alongside the council to deliver support to victims and survivors.

The charity has been forced to work remotely due to the coronavirus outbreak - and statistics suggest there has already been an upsurge in people requiring its help.

While it is too early to release detailed figures, a spokesperson for the charity said more people appear to be accessing IDAS’ online support services than normal.

The rise follows a national trend, and the charity expects further increases once the current period of lockdown is over.

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The police-run portal, which went live on Monday, is available to victims of domestic abuse who may be finding it difficult to report incidents over the phone.

Superintendent Shelley Hemsley, force lead for domestic abuse, said: “We understand that the current pandemic is a time of worry and anxiety for many, but especially for victims of domestic abuse who may be spending more time in their homes with their abuser.

“We also appreciate that in these circumstances, seeking help or telling someone what’s happening over the phone may be incredibly difficult to do and you might have concerns that you could be overheard, or prevented from making a call for help.

“It is in response to these concerns that we’ve created a dedicated online reporting tool for victims of domestic abuse. People can quickly access the portal via a smartphone, tablet or laptop, and give us information about what’s happening.

“Those reporting can be reassured that this information doesn’t end up in a digital inbox somewhere that nobody is looking at - we will have staff working 24/7 to monitor those reports and I want to stress that we will respond to that report in the same way as though they had reported it over the phone via 101.

“We will risk assess the information provided and the reporter will receive an appropriate response based on what we know.

“I would, however, urge anyone in an emergency situation to please still call 999 and make use of the silent solution - press ‘55’ so our operators can listen to what is happening in the background and make a risk assessment so that the right response is sent.”

Barnsley East MP Stephanie Peacock added: “In these uncertain and difficult times households are under immense pressure. This has caused an unprecedented rise in incidents of domestic abuse.

“Many domestic abuse victims are now suffering behind closed doors. The National Domestic Abuse helpline has reported a 25 per cent increase in calls and online requests since the lockdown was announced.

“Please know that if you or someone you know feels at risk of abuse, there is help and support available. This includes police response, online support, helplines and refuges.

“You are not alone.”