The New York Times reports that “there was every reason to believe that the restrictions imposed to keep the virus from spreading would have such an effect,” according to Marianne Hester, a Bristol University sociologist who studies abusive relationships.”
It goes on to say: “hotlines are lighting up with abuse reports, leaving governments trying to address a crisis that experts say they should have seen coming.”
In London, the Victims’ Commissioner has tweeted:
Solace Women’s Aid and the Public Interest Law Centre have written an urgent letter to Robert Jenrick MP, the Secretary of State for Communities, Housing & Local Government calling for “urgent measures…to ensure that those who are at risk of domestic abuse are properly protected and supported during the current outbreak of Covid-19. It is widely acknowledged that during this time of nationwide lockdown, domestic abuse has, and will, increase. We are deeply concerned as to the absence of a robust response from the UK Government regarding this issue.”
The letter has been signed by Trade Unionists and over 15 organisations working in the field. Their key demands include:
- Immediately provide a separate emergency fund to Local Authorities to ensure they are able to adequately house survivors of domestic abuse in hotels or other appropriate locations, as has been allocated for rough sleepers. Any such funds must be accessible and appropriate to meet the needs of the diverse range of women fleeing abuse. This demand is in addition to the need for the Government to deliver emergency funding to refuges and guarantee their sustainable long-term funding future
- Introduce an urgent statutory instrument to amend the Housing Act 1996 to include within the ‘categories of person in priority need’ those who have had to leave accommodation because of violence or threats of violence from another person, without having to also satisfy the vulnerability criteria and temporarily suspend the eligibility criteria to include those with no recourse to public funds
- Introduce a safe system of coordination, developed in conjunction with specialist VAWG providers and with Local Authorities, to allocate hotel spaces alongside specialist support to those deemed in priority need as a result of domestic abuse
- Publish clear information for domestic abuse survivors (in the form of targeted adverts on television and social media) to ensure the above is brought to their attention. This communication must be accessible to all communities, including in different languages
- Publish guidance for Local Authorities on any new measures and, vitally, on the relaxation of the Government’s guidance on ‘Staying at home and away from others (social distancing)’ to disapply it in cases of domestic abuse
- Provide training materials to all Local Authorities to ensure they adequately train their staff on any new policy, procedure and/or guidance
- The above actions to be made both accessible and exercisable to all women regardless of their immigration status. In terms of wider concerns relating to No Recourse to Public Funds, we would endorse wider demands made by The Joint Council of the Welfare of
Immigrants and Project 17, Migrant’s Right Network and Public Interest Law Centre.
The End Violence Against Women Coalition has been briefing saying that predictions on the likelihood of increased domestic abuse, sexual violence, assaults on girls, online abuse and the invisibility of many women and girls during the crisis.
EVAWC calls for abuse experts to feed into the Government’s COBRA planning immediately, emergency funding for the charities which protect and support victims, public awareness campaigns aimed at potential perpetrators and at neighbours/family/friends rather than solely aimed at victims and the abolition of the “no recourse to public funds” rules which stop migrant women accessing refuges.
End Violence Against Women Coalition Director, Sarah Green said:
“We must not get to the end of this public health emergency and look back on it as a period when a ‘secondary’ predictable disaster was allowed to happen.”
Lewisham Council lists domestic abuse services on its website here