The impact of COVID-19 on women and children experiencing domestic abuse, and the life-saving services that support them
We know that the government’s advice on self or household-isolation will have a direct impact on women and children experiencing domestic abuse. Home is not likely to be a safe place for survivors of domestic abuse. We are concerned that social distancing and self-isolation will be used as a tool of coercive and controlling behaviour by perpetrators, and will shut down routes to safety and support. Safety advice and planning for those experiencing domestic abuse should be included in the national government advice on COVID 19.
The impact of self-isolation will also have a direct impact on specialist services, who are already operating in an extremely challenging funding climate, and will be rightly concerned about how to continue delivering life-saving support during the pandemic. They could see challenges in funding, staff shortages and further demand for their help.
As an organisation, we have made provision for all of our national Direct Services support workers to work from home. They have all of the equipment and access to systems that they need to continue to deliver support to women experiencing domestic abuse. We do not anticipate any break in service.
We know from speaking to some women, that accessing support online can be a safer or preferred option than calling for support if they are not able to leave the household, as the perpetrator could overhear them on the phone. We are continuing to support survivors directly through our online services: Live Chat, the Survivors Handbook, emails and the Survivors Forum.
We are developing and sharing guidance and best practice for our national network of member services, who provide life-saving services including refuges and community based support across England. We will be working closely with them to understand the impact COVID 19 is having on women and children experiencing domestic abuse and their service provision.
We are also working with other sector partners to collectively develop our understanding and responses to the impact of COVID19 on survivors and the services supporting them.
We are calling on the government to consider the safety and specific needs of survivors of DA and services as a fundamental priority within their advice, guidance and contingency planning for COVID 19.
If you, or someone you know, are experiencing abuse, please visit our information and support page, where you can access support from national online and telephone services or connect with a local service https://www.womensaid.org.uk/information-support/ In an emergency, call 999.