Domestic abuse victims urged not to suffer in silence during Covid pandemic

By Bill Heaney

A Holyrood Committee has called on the Scottish Government to set out the steps it is taking to ensure women and children at increased risk of domestic abuse during lockdown have access to the support services they need to escape violence.

In a letter to the Minister for Older People and Equalities, Christina McKelvie MSP, the Scottish Parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee asked what actions are being taken to protect vulnerable women during the coronavirus crisis.

The Committee, which is investigating the human rights impact of Covid-19 and the effect of the emergency measures imposed on people across Scotland, has heard evidence that women are at increased risk of domestic abuse due to lockdown restrictions.

Reduced capacity at refuge accommodation has resulted in fewer families being rehoused, while school closures have left children more exposed to risk of harm. A lack of outreach services available has also impacted women from black and minority ethnic communities, who may be living with multiple perpetrators and face additional technology and language barriers.

The Committee urged the Scottish Government to address these immediate concerns and to work with stakeholders and other public bodies in carrying out equality impact assessments and in developing all coronavirus-related law, policy and resource decisions going forward.

Committee Convener, Ruth Maguire MSP, said: “The Committee has heard distressing evidence about the detrimental impact of the response to this pandemic on vulnerable women across Scotland.

“We are asking the Scottish Government what actions it is taking to fulfil women’s right to protection during the coronavirus emergency, including monitoring and responding to the need for extra support, refuge places and housing, and clear communications further promoting the support available and women being lawfully allowed to leave home to escape violence.

“The Committee would like to know what the Scottish Government is doing specifically to help more vulnerable women who experience different and complex barriers, including, for example, where English is not their first language and who therefore cannot access helplines or access the internet to get the support they need.”

Councillor Caroline McAllister, the Council’s Violence Against Women Champion, said: “Domestic abuse leave victims with both physical and emotional scars and it can often mean they are too afraid to ask for help.

“During the current pandemic distancing measures, victims are likely to feel more isolated and vulnerable  than ever, however, the advice to stay at home does not mean that you cannot seek support.

“I know there will be many more women and men who are living in fear in their own homes during this, and I would encourage them to use the numbers below to ask for help.

“I would encourage all residents who have concerns about friends, family or neighbours to contact the police should they hear or see anything suggesting someone is at risk. For non emergency concerns please use the contact numbers below.”

Councillor Diane Docherty, Convener of Housing and Communities, added: “These additional cases highlight the very dangerous situation that some people are finding themselves in when they are following government guidance. Sadly, for a great many, staying at home is simply not safe.

“I want to remind anyone who is suffering at the hands of a domestic abuser – you are not alone and there is help out there, so please get in touch.

“If you are a Council tenant, our No Home for Domestic Abuse initiative can help with practical actions like lock changes, or changing tenancy names, and if you are not a Council tenant we can also offer a range of support and advice. Please do not suffer in silence.”

No Home for Domestic Abuse is a zero tolerance policy introduced by West Dunbartonshire Council in June 2018.

The policy introduced a range of support for victims including immediate access to practical help and legal assistance following any instance of violence in a Council home.

Using Anti-Social Behaviour powers and housing legislation, the Council initiative also supports victims to remain in their home, while the perpetrator is removed and stopped from returning.

Since its launch, the service has helped more than 225 victims.

To contact the No Home for Domestic Abuse team please call 01389 738510, or to contact the Council’s homelessness teams, please call  01389738282, or out of hours please use the emergency Freephone number 0800 197 1004.

Local Support Groups for women, children and young people experiencing violence within the home or an intimate relationship can be contacted as follows:

Dumbarton Women’s Aid offers Refuge, support, advocacy and counselling for women, children and young people.

Tel: 01389 751036

Clydebank Women’s Aid offers support, advocacy and refuge for women, children and young people.

Tel: 0141 952 8118

CEDAR Domestic Abuse Recovery 4-16

A Group work programme for mothers, children and young people.

Tel: 0141 562 8870.

CARA Project – support to information advocacy for women

Women’s Survivors Group -SILK Group – for more information contact Tel: 01389 738595 or Tel: 01389 738278

Women’s Safety Support Service  offers support to women who are experiencing or have survived domestic abuse and if the offence has been referred to court or if you or a partner are receiving criminal justice social work services.

Contact:  01389 738484 and ask to speak to the Women’s Safety Support Officer.

If it is an emergency call Police Scotland on 999 immediately. To report non emergency incidents call Police Scotland on 101.Is there anything wrong with this page?

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