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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

A new epidemic

The Guardian reports on concerns by the victims' commissioner that refuges providing sanctuary to victims of domestic violence are running out of space, with many full or effectively closed amid an “epidemic inside this pandemic”:

A “perfect storm” of problems is in danger of overwhelming support services for those trying to escape violent and abusive partners, Dame Vera Baird QC warned members of the House of Commons justice select committee.

She also said on Tuesday there was evidence of a newer trend, of older children – principally teenagers – attacking their parents amid frustration about being unable to go outside.

The former solicitor general reinforced concerns about the rapid rise in domestic violence cases during lockdown. Earlier this month, she warned that domestic abuse killings were up to twice as high as normal since lockdown measures confined millions of people to their homes, although the sample size was small.

“There was always going to be an epidemic [of domestic violence] inside this pandemic,” Baird said. “It should have been flagged up a lot earlier. There have been stories from social services of people not being able to obtain admission to [family] homes [to investigate] because they have been told, inappropriately, they haven’t got personal protective equipment (PPE).

“Ministers are working very hard but they are all working in their own silos. It’s imperative that there be more accommodation made available for victims of domestic violence. Refuges are full, others are in lockdown because of coronavirus [so can’t take in new victims].”

There were 72 refuge vacancies in England on 3 April, compared to 170 on the same day last year. The Women’s Aid Annual Survey 2017, carried out on a single day, found there were 3,557 women with 3,919 children and young people staying in refuges across all services in England.

Although this issue is largely devolved, a survey published by Women’s Aid on Tuesday found that over two-thirds of survivors contacted this month said that domestic abuse was escalating under lockdown; 72% said their abuser has more control over their life since Covid-19. Over three-quarters (78%) of victims, the survey found, reported that Covid-19 has made it harder for them to leave their abuser.

This is  a problem that all the national governments need to address as a matter of urgency. More resources need to be allocated to domestic abuse helplines, counselling and support and refuges to meet the surge in need generated by these unique circumstances.
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