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22 April, 2020

Domestic abuse and Covid-19: Victims and perpetrators need alternative accommodation ‘urgently’

The lockdown has led to a steep rise in calls to domestic abuse helplines in the UK. While they offer vital support, alternative accommodation is essential to enabling people to escape their situation, but Co-APCC Victims lead on domestic abuse Julia Mulligan says refuges are all but full and more accommodation is urgently needed.

Alternative accommodation for victims escaping domestic abuse and perpetrators recognising the lockdown could trigger them must be found as a matter of priority, according to Police and Crime Commissioners, who are reporting their local refuges are full.

Since the lockdown, domestic abuse helplines have recorded huge increases in calls from victims and perpetrators. Refuge, the UK largest domestic abuse charity, reported a 700 per cent increase in calls in one day, but calls from perpetrators seeking support have also risen by 25 per cent. Inevitably, some of these calls will result in a need for the victim or perpetrator to be offered alternative accommodation, but refuges are either at capacity or about to reach it. Refuge accommodation is vital to enabling victims to escape abuse. Refuge reported that more than half of the women entering its premises in 2018 had suffered life threatening injuries.

Julia Mulligan, the co-APCC Victims lead on domestic abuse and Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire said the lack of follow-on accommodation needed to be addressed urgently.

“We need follow-on accommodation now. It is vital to helping victims leave their abusive partners, but also for perpetrators who need to remove themselves from the risk. This needs to be tackled now. We need proper plans in place.”

Independently of government intervention, there are pockets of innovation happening across the country. At least two universities have opened their halls of residences to victims. Julia Mulligan welcomed the move, but she said coordinated government Intervention was needed to avoid a ‘postcode lottery’ response to the problem.

While some crime has fallen during the pandemic, domestic abuse is one crime area that has risen across the world. In the UK, one of the roles of the Police and Crime Commissioner is to commission local specialist services to support all victims, including victims of domestic abuse, and PCCs have responded quickly to the anticipated impact of the lockdown. PCCs have been contacting their local services to understand what is needed and many PCCs have expanded their live chat facilities while others have launched a new online resource for victims called My Support Space.

“It is the job of PCCs to understand the needs of their local community. Coupled with the data from elsewhere, we knew as soon as the restrictions were imposed that the lockdown would have an impact on domestic abuse,”

said Mrs Mulligan.

Read more of this interview on the Policing Insight website.