URGENT action to protect Swindon’s vulnerable children is to be taken after it emerged that 1,000 youngsters had been exposed to domestic abuse and violence in the last year alone.

A report presented to Swindon Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board yesterday revealed that an alarming number of young people were affected by abuse within their home, usually between parents.

More than 40 per cent of them were under the age of five. A further 30 per cent were of primary school age. Many had witnessed domestic incidents on more than one occasion.

According to the review compiled by the council’s public health team, more than 800 of them did not have any contact with social services.

Of those known to social services, less than two per cent had been placed on a child protection scheme and only one per cent were put in care. In order to tackle the issue and swiftly identify victims and youngsters at risk, the board voted to review its priorities and approved a series of measures yesterday, which will each be made the responsibility of a different agency or organisation in Swindon in March.

Senior public health manager Janet Janeway told members that it was becoming more apparent that domestic abuse and violence had to be seen as an issue affecting the whole family.

“It is a complex social problem that happens within families and children in a sense are the hidden victims of domestic abuse,” she said. “The consultation we carried out showed that young people felt there was nobody for them to talk to. A lot of what we have to do is reprioritising. They need to know they can seek help.”

The large number of children exposed to abuse in Swindon may seem high but she insisted there was no reason to believe it was worse than other parts of the UK.

The recommendations adopted by the board included additional training for relevant staff members to allow them to identify domestic abuse earlier, as well as increasing data sharing so relevant agencies, such as the police and social services, are able to communicate more easily to highlight problems.

Some of these measures have already been put in place to some extent by the Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB).