THE COVID-19 Support Fund, established by the insurance and long-term savings industry, will donate over £7m to Women’s Aid, Victim Support, and the NSPCC to support women and children affected by domestic abuse. The funding will enable all three charities to boost the support they offer to victims and help the long-term recovery of domestic abuse services.
Domestic abuse charities have alarmingly reported a significant increase in demand for their services since the first lockdown, with 61 per cent of survivors reporting that the abuse they suffered worsened during the lockdown, and 78 per cent of those living with an abuser said they could not leave or get away because of the pandemic.
Women’s Aid will receive £2.9m to reach 450,000 victims and survivors of domestic abuse including women, children, and young people. The funding will support their work with Imkaan, a national women’s organisation dedicated to addressing violence against Black and minoritised women and girls, to support the resilience of the domestic abuse sector as it recovers from the impact of COVID-19. They will provide support to domestic abuse services across the UK, assisting them to navigate and respond to the challenges COVID-19 has presented. They will also assist local domestic abuse services to maintain, improve and evidence the quality of their services, which have often been greatly reduced due to COVID-19 and funding challenges.
This includes providing subsidised access to sector qualifications, training, and support to achieve a sector quality mark. The Fund will also help provide regional communications support, ensuring that member groups continue to effectively use social media platforms to reach women, children, and young people. Survivor engagement has suffered as a result of the pandemic, but the donation will be used to strengthen this, providing survivors with platforms to share their unique experiences and a feedback loop to policy and decision makers leading on COVID-19 strategic responses.
Victim Support will receive £2.9m to deliver a free and confidential specialist support service to victims affected by domestic abuse through their new programme, ‘Spot and Stop Domestic Abuse’. The programme will employ specialist staff, including a National Domestic Abuse Lead, to deliver early help to those at risk of domestic abuse and continue supporting existing victims and survivors. A preventative course called I Matter, for women aged 16+ living in England and Wales, will be delivered in multiple languages and aims to empower women to have control over their environment by looking at intimate and close relationships and addressing conflict. The donation will also allow Victim Support to bolster their 24/7 Supportline and Live Chat service to provide immediate assistance to anyone affected by domestic abuse.
Finally, the funding will enable Victim Support to develop tailored interactive guides on their online resource platform, My Support Space, where victims can choose how they want to be supported after a crime. These guides will give victims, their family and friends, a secure and confidential space to get information on how to spot the signs of domestic abuse, the support available and how to help a loved one in an abusive relationship.
Sadly, home isn’t always a safe place, and COVID-19 restrictions have increased the risk for children suffering domestic abuse. Since the start of the pandemic, the number of monthly reports made to the NSPCC’s helpline about domestic abuse by concerned adults have risen by 53 per cent.
NSPCC will receive £1.5m to strengthen the capacity and capability of their helpline and answer many more thousands of contacts about children experiencing domestic abuse and other harms. Fourteen new members of staff will be recruited to the helpline, including two independent domestic violence advocates with specialist expertise, to help meet the surge in demand for support. Training for staff across the helpline will be enhanced to help embed best practice and provide a strengthened service in response to domestic abuse contacts. The funding will also provide an opportunity to make important upgrades to the helpline’s technology, such as introducing a ‘hide the page’ function on their website that visitors can use to quickly navigate away from the page. With a commitment to sharing what works to keep children safe, the NSPCC will monitor and evaluate the work supported by the Fund and will share what they learn with professionals and communities to help them tackle domestic abuse.
Colm Holmes, Chair of the COVID-19 Support Fund Governance Committee & Aviva’s Global CEO, General Insurance, said:
“One of the many distressing realities of the pandemic’s impact is that the services of Women’s Aid, Victim Support and the NSPCC are needed more than ever. The ambition of the COVID-19 Support Fund is to help those who need it most and firms across the insurance and long-term savings industry are proud to support the vital work these charities do across the UK.”
Farah Nazeer, CEO of Women’s Aid, said:
“Thank you to the COVID-19 Support Fund and all of the Fund’s donors for their support in ending domestic abuse and Violence Against Women and Girls. With this support we will be able to give survivors hope for the future as we look forwards, towards the end of the pandemic. Our report, A Perfect Storm, has shown the devastating impact of COVID-19, with over 90% of respondents currently experiencing domestic abuse saying the pandemic had negatively impacted them in at least one way. With the announcement of this funding, we will navigate through the coming months and respond with positivity, giving both survivors and domestic abuse services vital, holistic support.”
Diana Fawcett, Chief Executive of Victim Support, said:
“We are incredibly grateful to receive such generous support from the insurance and long-term savings industry through the COVID-19 Support Fund, which will enable us to provide specialist support to more survivors of domestic abuse.
“Lockdown restrictions have exacerbated abuse, heightening the pre-existing controlling behaviours of abusive partners whilst also narrowing the opportunities for victims to seek and access support. This funding will enable us to reach thousands more women who need immediate assistance or are at risk of abuse and offer support in a range of different ways to ensure their safety. These services are all crucial to ensure those affected by domestic abuse feel safe and supported.”
Sir Peter Wanless, CEO of the NSPCC, said:
“We are really grateful for this incredibly generous donation from the COVID-19 Support Fund. Thanks to the insurance and long-term savings sectors’ generosity, this money will enable us to expand our helpline’s capacity and capability at a time when increasing numbers of adults are reaching out to us with concerns about a child’s wellbeing.
“Domestic abuse is a particular concern at the moment, with our latest figures showing a 53 per cent rise in the number of monthly reports made to us since the start of the pandemic. This donation will ensure we can be there for even more people in need of support and advice and also take swift action if we believe a child’s safety could be at risk.”