WOMEN and children in Inverclyde are more at risk of domestic abuse now than ever before, experts from a leading charity have warned.

Inverclyde Women's Aid, who run a refuge locally and offer a lifeline to victims, say there has been a growing increase in demand for their services over the last year.

They are now calling for urgent action from the authorities to help as Covid-19 lockdown places women in intolerable situations, trapped indoors with their abusers and with no way of escape.

This comes after recent figures revealed the number of domestic abuse incidents being reported to the police locally is falling.

Fears are growing that some victims no longer trust the system to help while others feel they have no opportunity to come forward.

Manager Marilyn McGill said: “This past year has been intolerable for women and children experiencing domestic abuse.

"Lockdown has meant abusers have been able to further isolate, control and harm women and children.

"We are concerned that the system's responses to this are failing to appreciate the dynamics of coercive control.

"At Inverclyde Women’s Aid our team have worked incessantly in the past year to ensure we can continue providing much needed support for women and children – continuing to operate our refuge and moving support services online.

"We have seen a steady increase in the number of women and children looking for support, and women have told us that they’re finding it harder and harder to find moments of solitude to reach out."

The charity says the closure of schools and nurseries and workplaces has meant there is no respite for women facing abuse at home, with little opportunity to seek help.

Inverclyde Women's Aid says the recent drop in reports to the police is not the good sign it may first appear.

Manager Marilyn added: "We know that many women choose not to report for fear of repercussions from their abuser, or potential impact on their children, or a lack of confidence that they will be believed and compassionately responded to by the justice system.

"Covid-19 is heightening these concerns.

"Court closures and backlogs in cases coming to court are giving abusers a heightened sense of immunity."

The team at IWA are encouraging victims to reach out to them.

Marilyn added: “Despite the difficulties of the pandemic, we want to remind anyone experiencing domestic abuse across Inverclyde that we are here for you.

"We can still offer support, and lockdown restrictions do not mean you cannot leave your home to seek support.

"You are not alone."

*Anyone in need of support from Inverclyde Women's Aid is urged to contact the helpline on 01475 888505 or visit www.inverclydewomensaid.co.uk