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New analysis from charity Pro Bono Economics, carried out for charity Hestia, highlights the staggering potential cost to UK taxpayers of children exposed to severe domestic violence who are not given support to overcome their trauma. Around 500,000 children in the UK today have been exposed to severe domestic violence. More than 1 million children each year are exposed to domestic abuse and more than half of those who experience domestic abuse as a child will go on to be a victim in adulthood[1].

Published in response to the Government’s draft Domestic Abuse Bill, which fails to include specific measures to protect children who live in households where domestic abuse takes place, On the Sidelines: The Economic and Personal Cost of Childhood Exposure to Domestic Violence estimates the potential costs to the taxpayer of children who witness severe domestic violence and go on to develop behavioural disorders as between £480m and £1.4bn. This is made up of:

  • Health & Adult Social Care – up to £70m
  • Crime – up to £110m
  • Education – up to £790m
  • Foster & Residential – up to £460m

The report highlights the need to build better quality evidence on the impact of childhood exposure to domestic abuse. The scale of the potential costs supports calls by UK Says No More, Hestia’s national domestic abuse and sexual violence campaign, for the Domestic Abuse Bill to include measures to better protect children including:

  • Child survivors are given special waiting list status (protected status) for all NHS services including Child and Adolescent Mental Health Support (CAMHS).
  • Children in refuges and those that have had to move due to domestic abuse have priority access to school places, with a duty on local authorities to respond to a change of school request from refuges within 20 days.

Lyndsey Dearlove, Head of UK SAYS NO MORE at Hestia said:

 “For too long children have been overlooked in the response to domestic abuse, seen merely as “witnesses” rather than children who have experienced deep trauma and crisis. This must change. We need measures put in place to support children early on and break the cycle of abuse. The Domestic Abuse Bill is a once in a lifetime opportunity to make this a reality and prevent catastrophic and lifelong damage which costs both individuals and the taxpayer dearly.”

Lord Gus O’Donnell, Chair of Pro Bono Economics said:

“Children exposed to domestic abuse suffer in the short, medium and long-term.  As a society we have a moral imperative to ensure protection from the immediate risk of such trauma but also provide support whenever – unfortunately – such exposure should occur. While these numbers are striking, and this report timely, there is always a need for more robust evidence with which we can enhance our understanding of such issues, from causes through to effects and solutions. Armed with such information we can better address these concerning social trends.”

Contact: Josh McLean, Communications Coordinator | [email protected] | 07845 555 995

Notes to Editor

About the report:

Pro Bono Economics’ (PBE) analysis focuses on a chain of evidence that links exposure to domestic violence in childhood to the prevalence of conduct disorders and hyperactivity disorders and the associated additional cost of public service usage.

Evidence suggests that childhood exposure to severe domestic violence could increase the number of children in the UK with conduct disorders by 25,000-75,000 and the number of children in the UK with hyperactivity disorders by around 10,000-25,000.

The long-run cost to the taxpayer from supporting these children is likely to be in the region of £0.5-£1.4 billion. This is equivalent to £1,000-£2,900 per child exposed to severe domestic violence.

More than half of the costs are expected to result from additional educational costs with around a further third resulting from additional foster and residential care. PBE’s approach comprises four key steps:

  • Step 1: we estimate the number of children in the UK today that have been exposed to domestic violence based on an NSPCC survey and ONS population data.
  • Step 2: we establish a baseline prevalence of conduct and hyperactivity disorders using data from the 2017 NHS Digital survey.
  • Step 3: we estimate the increase in the prevalence of conduct and attention disorders as a result of exposure to severe domestic violence based on academic literature.
  • Step 4: we estimate the long-run cost to the government from this increased prevalence of childhood disorders drawing on academic studies.

Copies of "On the Sidelines" and the technical note are available to download here.

About Pro Bono Economics:

 Pro Bono Economics helps charities and social enterprises understand and improve the impact and value of their work, matching professional economists who want to use their skills to volunteer with charities. Set up in 2009, Pro Bono Economics has helped over 400 charities large and small, covering a wide range of issues including mental health, education, employment and complex needs.

Pro Bono Economics is supported by high-profile economists, including Andy Haldane (Bank of England), Sir Dave Ramsden (Bank of England), and Clare Lombardelli (HM Treasury) as Trustees, and Diane Coyle (University of Cambridge), Kate Barker, Lord Jim O’Neill, Robert Peston, Martin Wolf and Lord Adair Turner as patrons. Lord Gus O’Donnell has been Chair of the Board of Trustees since September 2016.

About Hestia:

At Hestia, we support adults and children across London in times of crisis. Last year we worked with nearly 10,000 people including women and children who have experienced domestic abuse, victims of modern slavery, young care leavers and older people. From giving someone a home to helping them to get the right mental health support, we support and enable people at the moment of crisis.

About UK Says No More:

UK SAYS NO MORE, a national campaign focused on raising awareness of and preventing domestic abuse and sexual violence. The campaign is facilitated by London charity Hestia and delivered in partnership with 330 organisations, charities, community groups and Parliamentarian Champions across the UK, who are all working together to bring an end to domestic abuse and sexual violence. UK SAYS NO MORE unites and strengthen a diverse community of members of the public and organisations nationwide to actively take a stand against domestic violence and sexual assault under one powerful, visual symbol. The campaign provides open-source tools and resources for individuals and organisations to take action and get involved in ending domestic violence and sexual assault. Together we are challenging the myths and misconceptions around these issues, sharing resources and information, and ultimately working together to make real positive change.


[1] Hestia, #WhatICanDo [2018]

5th March 2019