A Sellafield boss says demand is rising for the domestic abuse charity she set up 21 years ago.

Shirley Fawcett, who is head of public affairs at Sellafield, set up West Cumbria Domestic Violence Support - better known as the Freedom Project - in 1997 along with Susan James and Carole Launder.

The charity provides free, community based support to adults trapped in abusive relationships in Allerdale and Copeland.

It also works with perpetrators, families and children and is the only organisation offering long term support in West Cumbria.

The charity estimates in the last 22 years it has supported over 10,000 individuals, and it could be helping even more as services contract and public sector funding decreases.

Shirley said: "Whilst domestic abuse is five pre cent higher in West Cumbria than the rest of the county, we have seen a big change in how it is perceived and the awareness of the help that is now available. I became involved over 21 years ago because nothing was being done, and it was either not talked about or simply brushed off as ‘a domestic’. There was absolutely nowhere for victims to turn to. This is changing and we are proud of the role we have played. It’s been heartening to see such a collaborative multi-agency response in recent years.

“But there is a shortage of funding, and an ever-increasing demand. We have worked hard to attract funds and our community is very supportive but it's becoming more difficult. We need people to do more if they want to keep this service.

“Our annual expenditure is approximately £185,000 a year which is all fundraised via grants and donations. We hope community-minded businesses could provide regular support, in kind or financial, and that people share our new social media fundraiser video and donate via JustGiving

“£10 runs the helpline for two days, £25 pays for a child to attend a group support session and £500 pays for a whole week of group sessions for 20 women and 14 children" added Shirley.

Between April 2017 and March the group received 390 new referrals, a 57 per cent increase on the previous 12 months. Of the new referrals 156 were victims, 44 were perpetrators and 190 of those needing help were aged between five and 19-years-old.