The government has pledged £76m to fund measures to support domestic abuse survivors, children and rough sleepers during the coronavirus crisis.
The package includes money to provide safe spaces and fund helplines for “the hidden thousands for whom the current lockdown has been nothing short of an inescapable nightmare,” said the justice secretary Robert Buckland, in an article for the Daily Telegraph.
The lockdown, he said, “has turned It has turned a daily risk into a constant threat. I am, of course, talking about the victims of domestic abuse.
“Faced with the prospect of day after day, trapped 24/7 with their abuser, one can scarcely imagine their sense of isolation and helplessness. And all this at a time when vital services which can provide a lifeline from this misery face huge challenges in the face of the current pandemic.
“It is not enough to wait for this unprecedented situation to pass and then pick up the pieces. We must act now.”
‘Priority need status’ for local housing
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick told today’s daily press briefing, the £76m will pay for safe spaces and accommodation for the domestic abuse sufferers and their children, as well as funding counsellors to help victims of sexual abuse.
Charity helplines will also receive financial support from the government with victims, Jenrick pledged, being given “priority need status” for local housing.
The government has clarified lockdown advice to make it clear anyone suffering abuse is allowed to leave their homes to get help, or to get to safety. A national helpline reported a huge spike in the number of people seeking help last month, with a 120% increase during the early stages of the lockdown.
Accommodation shortages for victims of domestic abuse have been reported by refuges while it is feared the low numbers of incidents reported to the police “masks a ‘tsunami’ of victims unable to break free from their abusers”.
‘You are not alone’
Janrick told abuse victims: “You are not alone, you do not have to stay at home, you can and should leave the home if you’re in danger.”
He added: “Our outstanding police will be there for you, they will help you.”
The housing secretary said as the “father of three girls” he could “not even imagine women and young children being put in this situation”.
“But they are,” he continued. “We must be alive to the reality of what is happening in all too many homes across the country.
“I want us to defend the rights of those women and those children wherever we can, and that is what we’re going to do.”
£76m is part of Sunak’s £750m package
Some £38 million will go towards protecting vulnerable children and the victims of modern slavery, including those exploited by county lines gangs. £28 million will help with accommodation, safe spaces and new online services for domestic abuse victims, and £10 will help charities safeguarding victims of sexual violence.
The Telegraph states the £76 million announced today “is part of the £750 million package announced by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak”