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Gloucester set up new team to protect families at risk of abuse

A new team has been created within Gloucestershire Constabulary to help protect those at risk of abuse during the lockdown.

The Vulnerability Safeguarding Team (VST) is made up of existing Vulnerability and Schoolbeat officers and will pay visits to households where people are already known to be high risk.

The force said there has not been a notable increase in reported cases of domestic or child abuse in Gloucestershire since the lockdown began, but this may be due to limited opportunities for victims to report it.

The new unit will also be following up reports from concerned families, friends and neighbours.

The VST will be working alongside the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) and Domestic Abuse teams in order to provide a complete response to all safeguarding concerns within the home.

Detective Chief Superintendent Richard Cooper said: "The lockdown is difficult for everyone, but more so for those who are forced to stay at home with someone they are frightened of. The Constabulary are still here and ready to help.

"We are concerned that long periods of having to stay indoors, possibly feeling unwell and concerned about the future could place extra strain on relationships which could escalate into abuse.

"For those already at risk the lockdown may limit their opportunities to get help. So please, everyone, look out for those around you.

"We've understandably had lots of calls from people with concerns about their neighbours' social distancing but we hope to see an increase in concerned neighbours reporting their suspicions about abuse or neglect. It could be happening next door to any of us.

"It is vital that neighbours are reporting to the police if they believe they can hear someone in danger – a victim's ability to safely report to the police or escape the perpetrator will be greatly affected by the current situation.

DCC Cooper said the force have been working with partners across the Safeguarding Children Executive, Gloucestershire Domestic Abuse Support Service (GDASS), Gloucestershire County Council, the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and a local network of committed individuals and organisations.

"We anticipated these issues and put robust plans in place to ensure that victims of abuse are not let down during this difficult time,” he said.

Martin Surl, Gloucestershire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “My team and I work closely with GDASS and other local support charities through The Commissioner’s Fund, many of whom have raised concern about service users not being safe at home. It’s my sincere hope that the victims of domestic abuse know that even during lockdown, help is still available. And those who are unable to reach out, will instead be reached by the Constabulary’s new team and our partners.”

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