Violence prevention experts in Nottinghamshire have scaled up the protection and support of survivors of domestic abuse and their children amid unprecedented demand for help during Covid-19.
Calls to helplines and support services for victims of domestic abuse in Nottinghamshire have surged since the start of lockdown, with one provider experiencing a rise of 158% compared to the same period last year.
And during one week in July, when restrictions had eased and more people had returned to work, calls to the service increased by 253% - resulting in an extra 16 calls per day.
Across the globe, levels of domestic abuse have escalated significantly during the pandemic leading the United Nations to describe the crisis as a “Shadow Pandemic”.
The conditions of lockdown have magnified existing violent and abusive behaviour and created new risks with additional tensions to manage including loss of income, a reduced support network from friends, family and colleagues, social isolation, and alcohol or drug abuse.
In response, Nottinghamshire’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) is working closely with the Police, local authorities, community engagement specialists and public health experts to understand the data and commission new evidence-based interventions to support victims and survivors.
More than £74,000 of emergency funding secured from the Home Office has been allocated to micro-charities working with vulnerable young people in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire to support their work and expand outreach services, safe spaces and counselling and mentoring provision.
The VRU has also commissioned one-to-one interventions for children and young people growing up in a home impacted by domestic violence.
Like the majority of the services commissioned by the VRU, engagement and intervention has moved online, with providers developing and adapting their services to continue protecting those most at risk.
Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner Paddy Tipping, chair of the VRU, said: “Across the UK and globally, the unprecedented circumstances of Covid-19 and the lockdown have put victims and survivors of domestic abuse at additional risk of harm and we are already seeing a magnification of existing levels of violence.
“The VRU has acted swiftly to respond to the Shadow Pandemic with the recruitment of additional professionals and expanded support services across the county to cope with the rise in demand locally. Our experienced specialists are also developing additional infrastructure to support vulnerable children who have suffered adverse childhood experiences and will need professional intervention to help them process trauma.
“This crisis will not end with Covid-19 and there will be a need for sustained investment in support and recovery services for a long time to come. Our partners are working flat out to adapt support and reach victims in innovative ways to ensure anyone needing help receives it regardless of the current health challenges but there is much more to do.”
Figures from Nottinghamshire Women’s Aid Ltd (NWAL) – a specialist domestic abuse support organisation commissioned by the VRU and serving North Nottinghamshire, Bassetlaw, Mansfield and Newark and Sherwood – show a 158% increase in calls to its main phone line between 5 March and 21 August 2020 – 65 more calls per week and eight more, on average, per day.
Between 6 July and 10 July, the service responded to 145 calls – a 253% increase on the previous week and resulting in 16 extra calls a day with a further 104 calls made over the following five working days.
In one case, a victim forced to shield during lockdown because of a serious health condition faced continual harassment by her ex-partner, who used an app on his mobile phone to monitor people coming and going to the property via her home security cameras and later interrogated about her interactions. When the survivor turned the cameras off, the perpetrator became angry. He also repeatedly attended the address to speak to her and the children, causing her condition to flare up through stress and increasing her exposure to the virus.
NWAL has supported the survivor throughout the health crisis and as the abuse and harassment continues.
Erin Devitt, Business Development Coordinator for NWAL, said: “The organisation has coped with the composition of a high number of survivors, and complexity of need, by supporting each other.
“We could not do what we did, do or will do, without each other’s abilities and skills.
NWAL pride itself on our resilience, and our ability to pivot to support our community and our passion and motivation has remained.
Mandy Green Head of Services for NWAL said “We appreciate and are grateful for every single member of our staff, and every person who supports us. NWAL is an organisation which is constructed to manage high levels of need and survivor numbers, we have always been active and our processes are built on that foundation.”
Police data shows a spike in the reporting of domestic crimes in Nottinghamshire in recent weeks, with 88 additional crimes between April 27 and May 30 compared to the same period last year (29 April to I June 2019) which equates to an increase of 6.7%.
Data prior to this period indicates a 5.7% fall in the level of domestic crimes reported, with 76 fewer recorded between March 23 and April 26 compared to the same period last year.
Nottingham City has seen a higher rate of increase in the reporting of domestic crime at 6.5% compared to the county rise of 5.6%.
Chief Constable Craig Guildford added: “I’m pleased that the PCC has secured additional funds for victims of domestic abuse and would encourage anyone who has been effected by this type of crime to come forward either directly or indirectly to the Police in order that we can safeguard you and your loved ones.”
Media Enquiries: Sallie Blair - 07702 541401 / 01283 821012