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CHARITIES are demanding urgent action from the government to protect victims of domestic abuse by putting the issue at the heart of its response to the Covid-19 crisis.
Domestic abuse charities have made repeated warnings that lockdown measures could escalate violence in homes as survivors are trapped with their abusers.
These fears were heightened today after charity Refuge reported a 25 per cent soar in calls to the Domestic Abuse helpline.
The group said that the number of calls spiked over a five-day period commencing from March 30 — a week after the government instructed people to stay at home.
Refuge chief executive Sandra Horley said that self-isolation has the potential to “aggravate pre-existing abusive behaviours” by perpetrators.
“While in lockdown or self-isolation, women and children are likely to be spending concentrated periods of time with perpetrators, potentially escalating the threat of domestic abuse and further restricting their freedom,” she explained.
Women’s Aid published a letter signed by 24 charities today, calling on PM Boris Johnson to implement a strategy to protect women and girls.
“The government is taking unprecedented measures to support businesses, workers and vulnerable people during the Covid-19 crisis,” it reads.
“The ongoing planning of the response must also include a strategy to protect women and girls and to prevent abuse.”
The groups argue that the severity of the problem means it should be factored in at the “highest level” of the government’s response to Covid-19.
To achieve this the domestic abuse commissioner should attend ministerial Cobra ministerial meetings where Covid-19 response planning for the country takes place, the letter recommends.
The groups also call for an urgent cash injection into the sector to ensure refuges and groups supporting survivors can continue operating, while ending the “no recourse to public funds” conditions that prevent migrant women accessing benefits and housing.
The letter informs the government that organisations working with survivors had already seen instances of perpetrators using lockdown rules as a “tool of coercive and controlling behaviour.”
It comes after reports that eight women were killed by men in the last two weeks of March.
The acting chief executive for Women’s Aid Nicki Norman warned today that there’s a “real risk” the number of murders will rise.
“Three women are murdered by their partner or ex-partner every fortnight in England and Wales,” she said.
“With reported domestic abuse cases rising worldwide during the pandemic, there is a real risk that murders may rise further still.”
Ms Norman added that the crisis had been made worse by years of “debilitating” government cuts that have seen refuges close across Britain.
“This current crisis could not come at a worse time for specialist domestic abuse services after years of debilitating cuts,” she charged.
“We call on governments and other funding bodies to provide the sector, nationally and locally, with an immediate cash injection to adapt services to remote working and cope with the additional demand caused by Covid-19.”
A government spokesperson said: “We are actively working with partners including the police, charities, councils and the domestic abuse commissioner to protect people and ensure those facing abuse have a safe place to go.
“If someone is in danger they should call the police and can disregard orders to stay at home if they need to seek immediate refuge.”
Coronavirus patient deaths rose by 439 across Britain today, bringing the total to 5,373.
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