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One of the most negative consequences of the lockdowns in different countries has been a rise in domestic violence and abuse (DVA). In Wales, during the lockdown period, calls to the Wales national helpline Live Fear Free, rose by up to 49%, and call times trebled with those making contact to the helpline often reporting more frequent abuse with shorter escalation periods. Similarly, website visits to Live Fear Free increased. Figures from across the UK also showed a surge in calls and websites visits to specialist DVA services.
As lockdown restrictions in the UK and Wales ease, services are anticipating a surge in demand as opportunities for individuals to seek access to support increase.
Guidance for practitioners
Dr Sarah Wallace, a Senior Research Fellow at the Welsh Institute for Health and Social Care at the University of South Wales who's experience of undertaking research with domestic abuse organisations and has previously worked in the third sector providing support for women and men experiencing domestic violence and abuse shares some guidance for practitioners to recognise and respond to DVA.
DVA is serious health and social care issue. Anyone can experience DVA regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, sexuality, economic status or background.
To ensure individuals are safely supported, we have identified some resources for professionals.
The first two resources provide guidance for professionals to recognise and safely respond to DVA.
- A ‘Recognising and responding to domestic violence and abuse - quick guide for social workers’ produced by Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). The guidance includes advice about asking someone about DVA, responding to a disclosure, and specialist services. This version has been updated to reflect the Welsh context.
- SafeLives, a UK wide domestic abuse charity, have developed the second resource ‘Getting it right first time’. Aimed at professionals who do not work in DVA services, it includes three steps ‘identify, ask, and act’ to help if you suspect someone you are working with or supporting is experiencing DVA.
Whilst the easing of lockdown restrictions and a move towards more people returning to work from furlough, it is important to acknowledge that there will still be those experiencing DVA who are at home (including those who have been made redundant/unemployed) as a result of the pandemic.
- The UK Government published advice and guidance for those experiencing or who felt at risk of experiencing DVA during the outbreak. This guide provides an overview of DVA and the contact details of specialist organisations.
- Roasalise O’Neale and Leonie Burnham of eSafety Women, Australian Government have published a blog about online safety help. This resource is primarily targeted towards domestic and family violence workers. However, it provides key advice about communicating safely online with families/parents who you suspect might be at risk of/or are experiencing DVA.
- The Covid 19 Bystander Toolkit developed by Welsh Women’s Aid, provides information about how to act safely and how to support (which is particularly helpful).The toolkit also includes guidance for volunteers, and a manager’s briefing to supporting staff who are experiencing DVA and working from home.
With more people returning to their place of work, there are increased opportunities for those who have been isolated with their abuser to disclose DVA. Some organisations may have their own DVA work policies to support staff. Other resources that may help employers and colleagues safely respond to DVA in the workplace:
- SafeLives provides guidance to respond to colleagues experiencing DVA and Public Health England has developed a toolkit for employers.
- Everyone’s Business Advice Line, funded by the Home Office, is a resource for employers to advise them on how to respond to disclosures of domestic abuse by their employees. They will also signpost staff to specialist domestic abuse services.
Help and advice
If you or someone you know is suffering physical or emotional abuse at the hands of a partner the Live Fear Free helpline is available 24 hours a day – call free on 0808 8010 800 any time, if you can do it safely. You can also text 0786 007 7333, email at email@example.com or webchat
If you can’t talk in safety, but you need help immediately, police forces across Wales will respond to a silent 999 call – dial 999 followed by 55 to indicate that you can’t talk, but need help.
If you have a question or if you can't find what you are looking for get in touch with us.