Refuge records rise in demand for its Helpline, and for emergency accommodation, as lockdown eases

 

Refuge records rise in demand for its Helpline as lockdown eases, and a rise in the number of women seeking emergency accommodation.

  • Refuge, the UK’s largest single provider of specialist domestic abuse services reports rise in demand for its Helpline as lockdown restrictions ease.
  • Since the start of lockdown, Refuge’s Helpline has received more than 40,000 calls and contacts.
  • Large rise in women experiencing domestic abuse looking for refuge spaces.
  • Women experiencing domestic abuse using new ‘live chat’ facility to seek help when calling for support is more difficult.

Refuge, the UK’s largest single provider of specialist domestic abuse services, has recorded record highs in demand for its National Domestic Abuse Service Helpline as Government lockdown restrictions have eased bringing the total number of calls and contacts to Refuge’s Helpline to more than 40,000 since the start of lockdown (this figure includes numbers of women accessing a new ‘live chat’ service). Refuge’s telephone Helpline, which ordinarily logs around 270 calls and contacts from women, friends and family members needing support every day, saw an increase of 77% during June. The first week in July saw a 54% rise in women needing refuge space (emergency accommodation) when compared with the last week in June – the highest number of women needing emergency accommodation during the lockdown period.

During June, 73% of callers to Refuge’s Helpline were from survivors of domestic abuse. 40% of these callers were provided with information on, for example, child contact and housing rights. 17% of callers were supported to make safety plans and 15% were looking for a refuge space indicating they needed to leave their homes urgently.

During the same month Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline website, where women experiencing domestic abuse can access support if they are unable to call, saw an increase of more than 800% compared to pre-lockdown statistics recorded.

In May, in response to COVID, Refuge launched a new ‘live chat’ function. The window to call for help when living with an abusive partner is ordinarily very limited, but becomes increasingly narrow when isolated with a perpetrator and Refuge identified a need to provide women experiencing domestic abuse with new ‘silent’ methods of accessing support. Women have flocked in their hundreds to access this service. 70% of ‘chatters’ are women who are survivors – the majority of whom sought advice on how to remain safe whilst living with an abuser. Refuge’s live chat team are expertly trained and are able in real time to mitigate risk to women and communicate with them over the chat function even while perpetrators are in the house. Refuge’s live chat service provides life-saving support when women are in crisis. The chat functions ‘quick exit’ button means that if they need to, women can access the chat safely and swiftly. With almost 1 in 4 women in the UK experiencing domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime, and 2 women a week being killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales, finding new ways to communicate with women who need support has never been more important.

Jane Keeper, director of operations at Refuge, said:

“We anticipated lockdown being a very challenging time for women living with abusive partners. Refuge was able to quickly adapt its Helpline to ensure it was accessible and safe to call during lockdown. Over the last four months Refuge has seen huge spikes in the number of women who have needed our support during lockdown, and, as restrictions start to ease we are seeing demand rise yet more. While we cannot draw immediate conclusions from this, what it does tell us is that women have remained with their perpetrators during lockdown, which may explain why we’ve seen an increase in the numbers of concerned third parties who have contacted us to seek support. As restrictions have begun to ease, which has given women space to make plans to leave their abuser, we have seen a large rise in the numbers of women requiring emergency refuge accommodation. We want women to know that Refuge’s services remain open, our Helpline operates 24×7 and they are not alone – if women need us we are there to support them.”

Claire * who accessed support from Refuge by using the live chat function during lockdown said:

“Refuge has been a huge support to me. The police suggested I contact their Helpline – but I just couldn’t imagine being able to pick up the phone and talk about what I was experiencing – it felt too raw and too risky. Being able to access support via live chat, knowing there was a quick exit button I could use if I needed to, helped me enormously and meant I could type out my words rather than speaking them, which took such an emotional burden off me. I feel like I can now talk about my experiences without fear – I know I am not alone as Refuge continues to support me.”

If you need to access support, please contact Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline (Freephone) on 0808 2000 247. Or visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk to fill in a web form and request a safe time to be contacted, or to access live chat facility between the hours of 3-6pm Monday-Friday.

For more information please contact the press office on 0207 395 7731 or email press@refuge.org.uk.