Calls for help from domestic abuse victims have rocketed during lockdown, with one council receiving seven times the usual number of calls and a charity in West Cumbria expecting a 'tsunami of calls' now that lockdown is easing.

A spokesperson for Carlisle City Council said emergency presentations are higher than usual around the county, but all district authorities have provision in place to deal with an increase in housing assistance.

They said: “The average range of domestic abuse related emergency presentations are normally between 10 and 12 per cent across the county; current levels are 16 per cent countywide.

"All district local authorities have developed additional provision to deal with a further anticipated rise in demand for services both in terms of accommodation and support; and are working closely with all key agencies/services to ensure that all who require domestic abuse housing assistance can access this in a timely manner including sanctuary support measures.”

Vicky Pike, project manager at Freedom Project West Cumbria, said there has been a 56 per cent increase in referrals during June, rising from 22 to 39. They usually get 400 referrals annually.

She said lockdown has given perpetrators of domestic abuse the perfect environment for control and coercion, but now that lockdown is easing and they are beginning to return to work, they are expecting many calls from people.

She said: "There has been monitoring of calls, texts, emails, no way of contacting the outside world and now they are getting the chance to reach out as lockdown eases. We are expecting a tsunami of calls."

She added that the number of male victims getting in touch has also increased. They usually get six a year and during lockdown to July 14 they were contacted by 18 male victims.

She said media reporting has highlighted the scale of this hidden crime and helped raise awareness, adding that one male rang them and he didn’t know he was being abused until he saw articles on coercion and control.

She added: "At the start of lockdown family and friends were contacting us with concerns, we’ve never had that before, there was a noticeable increase."

There is now a waiting list of 61 at the Freedom Project. But by highlighting the issue of domestic abuse their charity has been able to get funding to increase counsellors hours and to employ a support worker.

She said: "In Allerdale and Copeland we usually support more than 400 cases a year and 120 of them are children and young people. I think the lockdown has raised a lot of awareness of domestic abuse issues and recognised a need for funding. We have been able to get pots of funding to increase counsellors hours and we are employing a support worker to be able to give a friendly ear to victims that have reached out.

The Freedom Project was initially set up for victims of abuse in 1997, but soon a demand led to an increased provision of help for perpetrators of domestic abuse and for children.

Their team of professionally-trained counsellors work with victims but also with perpetrators and with children. "Because we know that there is a cycle of violence, it goes from generation to generation and people learn those bad behaviours, our counselling aims to help people to understand their emotions, why they behave in certain ways and challenge their world view that says that domestic abuse is ok", she said.

Anyone needing help should call their helpline on 07712 117986, or use their website at or by email –

Assistant Chief Constable Andy Slattery, from Cumbria police, said that they had seen slightly higher levels of domestic abuse, which could be attributed to people coming out of lockdown and getting back and about and being able to report it. But said the significant rise has been in post-pub alcohol fuelled domestic violence incidents, once people were allowed to go back out to the pub.

Officers have held regular domestic and child abuse Facebook surgeries to encourage more victims to come forward during lockdown and at least 10 new victims have been found this way.

Anyone who believes they might be a victim of domestic abuse can contact the Cumbria victim care team on 0300 303 0157.

Copeland council has seen seven times the usual number of calls to them regarding domestic abuse

A spokesman for the council said: “We have had a significant rise in calls to us regarding domestic abuse. There were 21 people present to us having suffered domestic abuse in between April and June 2020, compared to three in the same period last year."

They urge people to come forward to their housing team if they are experiencing domestic abuse. To contact the council’s prevention and crisis support officer email or call 01946 427070 (24 hours a day).

Over the last two years Copeland council has supported 200 men, women and children to leave abusive homes.

They introduced a specialist role to support victims of domestic abuse and sexual exploitation in 2018. So far their prevention and crisis support officer has provided vital help to 102 men and women, and 98 children who had nowhere safe to stay.

The officer works with those who have suffered domestic abuse or sexual exploitation, linking in with the housing team to provide emergency accommodation if necessary. Some of these properties have been expertly designed specifically for people with children.

Copeland mayor Mike Starkie said: “It is clear that the Covid-19 crisis has brought about an increase in domestic abuse incidents across Copeland.

“I am urging people who are suffering domestic abuse to contact Copeland Council. We will help you.

“We have helped over 200 people over the past two years, and I am saying to people in this position that you do not need to be afraid to come forward.

“Everyone deserves to live safely and happily, and this includes you too. So please, let us help you.”

Anyone in immediate danger of abuse should call 999.

Those who are affected by these issues but have somewhere safe to stay can call the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247 or email