Domestic violence victims 'desperate' to escape as lockdown takes effect

Victims of domestic violence are said to be ‘desperate’ to seek shelter ahead of the impending national lockdown.

Charities are warning that the looming coronavirus restrictions will leave vulnerable people in fear of being trapped indoors with their abusers, as movement is curtailed in the run-up to Christmas.

During the first lockdown, groups supporting victims of domestic abuse reported a spike in violence and calls to helplines. The month-long restrictions due to begin on Thursday could again place households under strain, even though anyone seeking help is exempt from the rules.

Women’s Aid warned that support services needed more Government funding to cope with the heightened pressures amid the pandemic as it cited figures showing 61 per cent of survivors had told the charity their abuse has worsened during the first lockdown

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Sophie Francis-Cansfield, Senior Campaigns and Policy Officer, said: ‘Women’s domestic abuse support services were already facing a funding crisis when this pandemic hit. They had little or no financial resilience to meet the unprecedented challenges posed by Covid-19, and now vital specialist services are experiencing a significant financial impact.

‘We continue to urge for a long-term sustainable funding solution for the violence against women and girls’ sector if it is to survive.’

She continued: ‘Women’s Aid estimate that an investment of £393 million a year is needed to secure a sustainable refuge sector and vital community-based support that is available and accessible to all women experiencing domestic abuse.

Director of operations Jane Keeper said: ‘We know that the window to get help is ordinarily very limited – that window narrows even further when isolated at home with an abusive partner.

‘What we saw earlier this year as the country entered the first stage of lockdown was a large spike in demand for our services.

‘We are fully prepared for that to continue as we move into new restrictions. I want to reassure any woman who needs us that our services have remained open and have remained safe during lockdown.

‘There were no disruptions and women who needed us were able to reach us and access the help they needed.’

As well as urging victims not to suffer in silence, many support groups are taking part in 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, an international campaign being led by the UN.

During the first lockdown the Government made £76 million available to support vulnerable people, including those suffering domestic violence.

Of this package, £1million was allocated to 25 domestic abuse charities in September 2020.

The funding was intended to help groups facing additional pressures due to the pandemic and create extra bed spaces for those fleeing abuse.

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