A charity providing vital support to victims and survivors of domestic abuse has more than trebled the number of phone lines connected to its 24-hour helpline to cope with increased demand amid Covid-19.
Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner Paddy Tipping has provided emergency funding worth up to £16,500 to enable Juno Women’s Aid to install a cloud-based telephone system and put additional staff in place to answer calls for help during the health crisis.
This means, if needed, up to 10 phone lines are now available for victims and survivors calling the service, all of which can be operated remotely.
Since March 23, when the government announced the lockdown measures, the helpline has taken double the number of calls each week compared to the same period last year.
In the three weeks following this date, the helpline received 1,117 calls – up from 538 for the same three weeks in 2019 - while calls to the service during 2020 have already exceeded weekly levels in comparison to 2019, with 2,627 calls to the helpline in January and February 2020 compared to 1,728 in the same months in 2019.
Meanwhile, March this year saw an increase of 8% in comparison to calls in February 2020.
“There has been a nationwide surge in people seeking help from domestic abuse during this lockdown and it’s absolutely imperative we are there for these vulnerable women and equipped to deliver help,” said Mr Tipping.
“Being housebound for weeks on end is a terrifying reality for these victims and many are experiencing an exaggerated sense of isolation and entrapment. The lockdown is not only exacerbating existing patterns of violence but restricting safe opportunities for victims to report it or escape.
“It remains my priority to protect and support each and every one of these women and ensure they know there are people there to help them during this crisis.
“Juno Women’s Aid is working around the clock to meet the increased needs of victims and ensure those who need help urgently receive it. The additional telephone lines will be a massive help, allowing people to reach out for support in a way they may never have before.”
Nottinghamshire’s 24-hour domestic abuse helpline is an essential element of domestic abuse support services in the county and is jointly funded by the PCC, Nottinghamshire County Council and Juno Women’s Aid.
The helpline was established in 1992 when Juno was under its original name Women’s Aid Integrated Services and has been central to its services ever since.
It supports women living in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire as well as children and teenagers who may be experiencing domestic violence in families and in their own intimate relationships, offering the chance to talk confidentially about their situations and any emotional, physical, sexual or financial abuse they may be experiencing, find out what options there are and get practical support.
The helpline also offers help with planning to leave and finding emergency accommodation, which is especially relevant – and challenging - during the lockdown.
Yasmin Rehman, Chief Executive of Juno Women’s Aid, said: “The lockdown situation presents challenges for everyone but much more so for victims of domestic violence who are not safe in their own homes and yet find themselves asked to stay at home with the perpetrator.
“Our Helpline is a vital service and for many survivors a lifeline to support and advice. Juno Women’s Aid are truly grateful to the PCC for his support in helping us to maintain this crucial service and especially the new funding which has allowed additional lines to be put in place to respond to the increased volume of calls we are seeing coming through at this time.”
Usually, the service has three dedicated telephone lines available, however operational issues meant it was not possible to use all of these lines while working remotely. This, together with unprecedented demand, meant not everyone who called the service was able to get through.
The PCC’s funding has paid for the cloud based solution, plus additional equipment costs, and extra staff to answer the helpline for the next four weeks, during which time the new arrangement will be reviewed.
Like other PCCs, Mr Tipping is also looking at additional avenues of financial support to fund extra capacity longer-term and has submitted a funding request to the Ministry of Justice for contingency funding for victim support services up to six months. It is anticipated demand for support from the helpline will continue to increase after the lockdown restrictions are lifted.
The new cloud-based system has been operational since 9am on Monday 20 April and victims can access help 24-hours a day. It is free to call from landlines and mobiles and instant language interpretation is available.
The helpline number is: 0808 800 0340. It can also be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are hearing impaired dial 18002 + helpline number for textphone, or 18001 + helpline number for a telephone call.
Media Enquiries: Sallie Blair - 01283 821012 / 07702 541401
Posted on Wednesday 22nd April 2020