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Blog: Protecting the vulnerable during the coronavirus lockdown

01/04/2020

Work will continue to protect the vulnerable, trapped at home with domestic abusers during the coronavirus lockdown.

Blog from APCC Victims Leads, Julia Mulligan, North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner and Sophie Linden, London’s Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime:

The statement this weekend from the Home Secretary, on support for domestic abuse victims, was both timely and welcomed. As Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs), we all need to be working, closer than ever, with our Chief Constable and commissioning partners to ensure that victims are still able to get the help and support they so desperately need during the coronavirus lockdown.

PCCs are responsible for commissioning the majority of local support services for victims of crime, which includes services for women, children and men experiencing domestic abuse.

We know that, whilst the necessary guidelines on social distancing and self-isolation will be trying for a lot of people, for those who are living with abusive partners they represent a real and present danger, magnified by feelings of nowhere to flee to and general helplessness.

We want victims of this devastating crime to know that we have not forgotten them. We are working with police and partner organisations as well as the Government, to make sure they are looked after and they continue to get the help and support they need. More than ever, a public health response is required to keep victims safe. We are also adapting the ways we are offering support.

In North Yorkshire, we are working with our commissioned domestic abuse service, IDAS, (Independent Domestic Advice Service) to offer more innovative ways for victims to access support and advice whilst at home, including extending the Live Chat service to provide a discrete way to get help and advice when they may not be able to make a private phone call. The Live Chat service is staffed by specially trained domestic abuse support workers to offer practical and emotional support to anyone who may be affected by domestic abuse and is, in addition, offering online video calls, messaging services, telephone and email support. We have also commissioned Foundation UK to support perpetrators of domestic abuse and are currently exploring options to temporarily accommodate perpetrators for longer periods. This will help provide respite for victims and their families.

In London, we are working closely with the Metropolitan Police Service, the Criminal Justice services, our commissioned services and with the VAWG (violence against women and girls) sector in the city to understand the impact of this unprecedented situation and to ensure that vital services for victims and survivors can continue to operate. Working with London Funders and the City Bridge Trust, the Mayor has pledged £1m investment to an emergency fund for civil society groups affected by the coronavirus. City Hall is working with charity partners and others to ensure there is suitable accommodation available for women fleeing violence and those who are at risk of violence. It’s also vital that we see national leadership on this issue, and the Mayor has called on the Government to show its commitment to tackling domestic abuse, backed with further funding to ensure services can continue to operate during this exceptionally challenging time.

More examples of how PCCs are continuing to support local key services for victims include:

Northumbria PCC, Kim McGuinness, has announced that she will bring forward her annual £200,000 Community Fund to help local charities and community groups to continue their vital work which have been impacted by the current crisis.  Her office will take applications for grants of up to £5K, particularly from those helping people at risk of domestic abuse and organisations helping young people experiencing abuse, neglect or the impacts of poverty, now that the stability and support of schools has been taken away.

Martyn Underhill, PCC for Dorset, is running the ‘You Are Not Alone’ campaign on social media, alongside Dorset Police. The aim is to reassure victims that despite the current uncertainty, support is still available for them and they don’t need to wait for lockdown or self-isolation to end before they get help. His campaign reminds victims of the wide range of available support, including the Dorset ‘Victim Support Live Chat service’.

The PCC for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Alison Hernandez, has also teamed up with the local police force and the Victim Care Network to ensure that help is on hand to those who need it, including to victims of domestic abuse, by also pushing out the ‘You Are Not Alone’ message.  The campaign will be rolled out via digital media and will include mobile phone banner-messaging. It aims both to raise awareness that domestic abuse may increase with people self-isolating, and to reassure people that help is available during these unprecedented times.

Avon and Somerset PCC, Sue Mountstevens, is continuing to work closely with commissioned victim services and will be launching the ‘Stay Home but #BeHeard’ campaign. The aim is to reassure victims that, although it is important for local people to stay at home, the PCC and support services still want them to come forward, speak out and be heard. The campaign will also be celebrating the resilience of such services who continue to adapt in these unprecedented times to continue to help victims.

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