Victoria Atkins MP
Minister for Women
I am writing to urge you to do more to support charities that work with the survivors of domestic abuse.
While charities in my constituency have benefited from emergency Government funding, a more sustainable solution is urgently needed if the coronavirus crisis is not to be accompanied by a devastating increase in the suffering caused by domestic abuse.
It is well understood that the lockdown, while a necessary response to coronavirus, has contributed to an extremely worrying rise in cases of domestic abuse. In April, as the lockdown took effect, Refuge reported a 66% increase in calls and contacts to its helpline and a staggering 950% rise in visits to its website (where women can request a safe time to be contacted). In my own constituency, the domestic abuse charity RISE is receiving three times as many calls compared to the period before the lockdown.
Charities in Brighton have received support from the MHCLG Domestic Abuse Safe Accommodation fund, which will undoubtedly make a difference to the provision of frontline services. In addition, they have bid for support from the PCC-administered Ministry of Justice Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Support Services fund, and are awaiting the results of these bids.
However, in both cases, a condition of the funding is that it has to be spent by the end of October 2020, severely limiting its benefit. Domestic Abuse Commissioner Nicole Jacobs, told the Home Affairs select committee that ‘there will be people who are waiting and trying to survive every day and then will access support as quickly as they can when some of the lockdown is lifted’. I’m hearing the same concerns from local services too.
The current spike in demand and likely further surge as lockdown eases, both come at a time when it is extremely difficult for charities to raise funds. As 22 domestic abuse charities noted in an open letter to the Prime Minister at the start of April, their fundraising is ‘down across the board’.
I therefore urge you to make sufficient funds available, based on need and as soon as possible, with no time limit on when the money can be spent. I support the select committee’s conclusion that ‘the Government should follow up the immediate injection of funding with a longer-term guarantee of support, taking account of the sector’s need to plan for a second surge in demand when the lockdown is lifted.’
This crisis will not simply disappear at the end of October, and the Government must do all it can to support those charities doing such vital work to help domestic abuse survivors.