Domestic violence experts are calling on the government to provide emergency funds as shelters prepare for an influx of referrals amid fears the Covid-19 outbreak is fueling violence at home.
At least 15 organizations of violence against women and girls, including Women’s Aid, signed a letter to the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) calling for action against one of the unintended consequences of the coronavirus shutdown.
In a separate intervention, Domestic Violence Commissioner Nicole Jacobs said the government needs to support charities that provide life-saving services to victims of domestic violence throughout the crisis as they face to major financial difficulties.
The letter, composed by the Public Interest Law Center and Solace Women’s Aid, and which was also signed by more than 30 civil society organizations and lawyers, including the Refugee Council and Doughty Street Chambers, warned that the lockdown would result in rate of violence and abuse. at home to increase.
Isabella Mulholland, Domestic Violence Policy Officer at the Public Interest Law Center, said: “We are concerned about the disproportionate impact that the foreclosure measures are having on survivors of domestic violence. It is unacceptable that the government is simply pointing its finger at a general fund that has been allocated to all who need it. Instead, it must secure specific funding for survivors to ensure they can access specialized services and safe and suitable housing.
“The reality is that local authorities are unable – and in many cases unwilling – to effectively support and protect women unless the government provides adequate resources, advice and training. Unless that happens and until it does, the survivors will continue to suffer. “
The letter calls for a separate emergency fund for local authorities to ensure they are able to adequately house survivors of domestic violence in appropriate locations.
Speaking to the Guardian, Nicole Jacobs, who was appointed domestic violence commissioner in September, said early indicators showed an increase in demand for services run by charities for victims of domestic violence.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline, run by the Refuge charity, reported a 65% increase in calls to the hotline on Saturday compared to the same day the previous week, and traffic to its site Web and the use of online chat facilities have increased. Smaller helplines focused on family courts and abused men have also reported an increase in calls.
Jacobs said small charities would come under significant pressure during the crisis and called for government help to keep vital services afloat.
She said: “There is a postal code lottery for the provision of these services. It’s putting more stress on a rock foundation.
“These are great services, but they are going to have financial difficulties if there is no comprehensive government strategy targeting domestic violence and sexual violence services that will struggle to make ends meet and will tap into. the reserves to cross the period. “
Karen Ingala Smith, founder of a pioneering project that records the murder of women by men in the UK, said she had noted an increase in the number of deaths in the past two weeks.
Ingala Smith, chief executive of the Nia charity and founder of the Counting Dead Women project, said initial analysis of her data suggested there had been “a higher murder rate in recent weeks.”
Its figures showed that at least eight women have been killed by men in the past two weeks, with four other cases suspected. This is compared to the 99 women who were killed by partners in the year through March 2019, which equates to almost two per week.
“Women are isolated, trapped with violent men, so they are exposed. Women have less access to support, not just community support, but services like ours; women will not be able to have face to face meetings, ”she said.
The UK government’s official advisory to victims of domestic violence during the public health crisis says it is in regular contact with the charitable sector and the police to ensure support services remain open during the outbreak.
A spokesperson for MHCLG said: “Domestic violence is a heinous crime and its victims must always be fully supported. We will do all we can to help domestic violence support services keep life support fully functional during the Covid-19 emergency. “
“We work closely with charities, organizations and councils involved in providing these services and the Domestic Violence Commissioner to ensure that people fleeing violence have a safe place to go.”
The Scottish Government has announced additional funding of £ 1.35million to Scottish Women’s Aid, to ensure the continuation of key support services and alternative access via online video platforms and text messaging, so that ministers insisted that the stay-at-home message should not deter women from seeking urgent help.
During her daily briefing on Tuesday, Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “There is a real risk that women and children already experiencing domestic violence will feel even more isolated and vulnerable during this crisis, so this funding will help them. ensure access to support services.
Scottish police said they would work actively to identify those most at risk, but it was too early to assess the impact of the coronavirus on domestic violence incidents across the country.