Rise in demand for domestic abuse support after lockdown

This can be the most dangerous time for those experiencing abuse.
Image: Laura DodsworthImage: Laura Dodsworth
Image: Laura Dodsworth

Domestic abuse support services in Edinburgh have seen a recent spike in demand coinciding with the easing of lockdown restrictions.

This is thought to be because as lockdown eases those experiencing abuse are finally in a position to be able to think about leaving their domestic situation.

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But the moment at which someone leaves the perpetrator of abuse is the most dangerous time for them, and it is crucial that they have access to support if needed.

Edinburgh Women’s Aid said the organisation has seen a “surge” in requests for support in recent months since the end of full lockdown, and expects this demand to continue.

The charity has applied for extra funding to cope with its higher workload and increased need for its services.

The likelihood of women and children experiencing abuse rose during lockdown, when there was no escape from perpetrators, and the charity expects the impact of this to be felt long-term.

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Those experiencing abuse have also needed more financial and emotional support because of hardships caused by the pandemic alongside other difficulties.

It comes after a report by Scottish Women’s Aid found that in general demand for support across the country dropped at the beginning of lockdown, and then began to rise again in April and May.

During this time there was also a noted spike in women from England seeking refuge accommodation in Scotland when the lockdown there was eased.

The report details findings from surveys of 32 service providers in the Women’s Aid Network, and is the most comprehensive review of domestic abuse service providers in Scotland carried out during the pandemic.

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The report also found a decrease in demand for services for children and young people, reported by 14 of the 29 services which responded.

Many mentioned school closures as a reason for children not being referred to get the help they needed.

Circle, which supports people in Edinburgh facing domestic violence as well as poverty, substance abuse and social inequality, has also seen a rise in need for its services.

The charity, which often supports children in social care, has moved its activities to telephone and video calls as well as social media.

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A support worker for the charity, who wishes to remain anonymous, said:

“Domestic abuse by its very definition is often hidden from view.

“During COVID, the measures put in place have served to further isolate victims and their children. Unfortunately for families this isolation has frequently been with the abuser.”

Both Circle and Edinburgh Women’s Aid have received funding from Foundation Scotland, which is now urgently looking for other organisations in Edinburgh to support.

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There is funding of £1,000-£5,000 available for all small charities and organisations, but the organisation is particularly keen to fund those supporting victims of abuse.

Programme Manager Helen Wray said: “Working in partnership with the National Emergencies Trust we have identified clear and specific priority areas of need.

“These are the areas which we believe are delivering some of the services currently most in demand and thus, require additional support.

“This includes those charities and groups supporting those in, or at risk of, domestic abuse situations.

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“Through our existing relationships we understand that the pandemic has considerably increased the need for support for women and families at risk.

“This is now particularly apparent as restrictions change and lift as this is when these groups have witnessed a significant surge in demand as women have been in a better position to flee from the perpetrator.

“We therefore recognise these groups urgently need additional financial aid to allow them to deliver services in greatest need.

“We are therefore encouraging organisations to get in touch to access vital funding to help meet demand.”

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Mark Kennedy, CEO of Circle said: “The lockdown has been an extremely challenging time for families who have been cut off from a range of community resources that they rely on.

"This is particularly true for families suffering the effects of domestic violence. Vital crisis funding from Foundation Scotland has ensured we can continue to provide emotional and practical support to some of the most marginalised families during this difficult period”.

Alison Roxburgh, Operations Manager at Edinburgh Women’s Aid said “Foundation Scotland have provided a real lifeline for our charity and those we seek to support.

"The recent crisis award of £5,000 enabled us to respond almost immediately to needs we could not have anticipated prior to lockdown. For example, we were able to buy additional supermarket vouchers so that women with no recourse to other funds could feed themselves and their families.

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"It allowed us to put together and distribute 60 therapeutic support activity packs for children recovering from the trauma of abuse.

"Further to this we were able to purchase essential items for two new flats, allowing women to move out of refuge and into more permanent accommodation. This then freed up much needed refuge space for women in crisis and new to the service. We are extremely grateful for the support at this incredibly difficult time.”

Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline is also available 24/7 via phone on 0800 027 1234, email [email protected] or web chat at ww.sdafmh.org.uk. Specially trained staff are available to offer support and information for anyone experiencing domestic abuse, those concerned about someone else and professionals with questions.

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