It was 8pm on Monday 23 March when Boris Johnson announced the UK lockdown measures; work from home, don’t send your children to school and only leave the house for exercise or food or medicine.
Domestic abuse has increased significantly under lockdown
National statistics already show that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men experience domestic abuse in their lifetime and a further two women are murdered each week a sobering thought on its own but I feared these figures would now increase dramatically under the lockdown, how were we going to keep our vulnerable customers safe if they couldn’t access traditional support services? Would victims not report incidents to us, agencies or the Police if they were at home all day and night with their perpetrators?
Over the next few days we formed a domestic abuse taskforce made up of colleagues from our Tenancy Compliance and Community Safety teams to find new ways to reach out, support and reassure our customers and colleagues that we were still there to help even during lockdown.
We put a communications plan together to support the Home Office #YouAreNotAlone campaign across our websites, portals and social media, to let those at risk know we were still there to help.
The success of the taskforce
The taskforce has been operating for over seven weeks now and we have seen an increase in our caseloads which mirrors the increase in calls to agencies such as Refuge which reported a 700% increase in calls within the first two weeks of lockdown and sadly in the UK, more than 16 people, including two children, have been killed since lockdown began.
Our colleagues in our trades’ divisions are still delivering essential repairs such as lock changes or installing fireproof letterboxes to increase the safety of customers in their homes. Our teams have also rallied to provide emergency accommodation for anyone that may need to escape their current living situation.
We are continuing to provide telephone advice, referrals and signposting to agencies, and we continue to work in partnership with the police. We’re providing confidential advice and support to anyone in need, including male victims and the LGBTQ+ community. It’s important we, and other housing associations make it clear to customers that isolation rules do not apply if someone is in danger.
Reaching out to colleagues
It’s not just customers who can access our services, we believe it’s important that colleagues have access to support in the same way and we have set up support processes in partnership with our HR department to help and protect colleagues at risk.
We’ve utilised all our internal channels to reach out to colleagues to remind them that we can provide support and offer guidance and it is refreshing to see how many agencies are being proactive by continuing to bring domestic abuse to the forefront of the agenda and adapting their services in such a short turnaround.
We can also refer perpetrators to specialist support services to prevent future abuse.
It’s been a busy seven weeks, our core front line services have been stripped back, we’ve have had to review our customer offer and we’ve had to work remotely and digitally en-masse to help keep our customers safe.
After the latest government update, it doesn’t look like we’ll be back to the offices anytime soon, but the domestic abuse taskforce will keep operating in our ‘new world’ to let those at risk know #YouAreNotAlone.
– Karolyn Barta, Housing Manager and Head of DA Taskforce