ALARMING figures which reveal a sharp hike in children being referred to social services due to suspected domestic abuse could be the ‘tip of the iceberg’, according to the NSPCC.

New NSPCC analysis of data from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) shows there were 657 cases locally in 2019/20.

However, in 2020/21, this dramatically climbed to 1,613 - a 59.3 per cent increase.

Barnsley Council currently has a statutory duty to provide accommodation-based support services, when families and their children need to leave their homes to escape domestic abuse.

But they do not have the same requirement to provide specialist, therapeutic services in the community for victims who remain at home after suffering domestic abuse.

Last week marked the start of children being officially recognised as victims of domestic abuse as part of the Domestic Abuse Act - and the NSPCC hopes this will make it more likely that their needs are considered by professionals on the frontline such as social workers and police.

Anna Edmundson, head of policy and public affairs for the NSPCC, said: “Sadly, we know these figures are the tip of the iceberg as domestic abuse often goes unreported.

“Domestic abuse can derail a childhood - it is unacceptable that support to recover remains patchy and what is available risks being axed by cash-strapped councils.

“We urge the government to address this and ensure young victims of domestic abuse have easy access to professional services within their community so they can rebuild their lives.

“Without a legal obligation this could dwindle further in the future with councils diverting more resources to accommodation-based services despite the majority of victims using community-based services.”

Working alongside Barnsley Council, South Yorkshire Police now oversee a weekly multi-agency child exploitation (MACE) meeting to allay concerns locally, a report revealed.

It added: “Social services in Barnsley Council have recently invested in this area with the appointment of a new safeguarding manager, who leads partnership exploitation meetings to discuss children identified at risk within the last 24 hours.

“This meeting includes representation from the police, social care, children’s mental health service (CAMHS) and the youth offending team (YOT).

“On a weekly basis, a MACE meeting is convened to discuss the ongoing risk to specific children, highlight key locations and hotspots of concern in the local community.

“This will be enhanced further to address potential perpetrators of child exploitation.

“Children raised at MACE are run through a nationally-recognised vulnerability tracker to determine the current level of risk.

“It is generally initiated following police attendance at a domestic abuse incident in the preceding 24-hour period.

“The investigation of child neglect, abuse and exploitation offences is a key priority for the district.”

A council statement said: “If a child is in danger, call 999 or 01142 202020.

“If you’re concerned about a child, but they’re not in immediate danger, it’s still important to share the information with us as soon as possible.

If you want to report your concern urgently and our offices are closed you can contact our emergency duty team on 787789 - they work on weekends and bank holidays and deal with issues that can’t wait until usual office opening hours.

“If you have even the slightest concerns about a child or young person’s welfare, don’t ignore it - do something about it.”