As the coronavirus pandemic continues, we’re still seeing a high level of domestic abuse across the UK. Domestic Abuse charity Refuge has reported a 25 per cent increase in the number of calls as many of those affected continue to be trapped at home with their abuser.
Although lockdown is slowly being lifted, there are still major challenges in supporting victims as they struggle to access support through the usual channels. Those that do not have English as a first language encounter further barriers to getting help, with messaging previously only being available in English. There are now Home Office resources available here in the following languages, as well as in English here:
There are some useful contact numbers below, with the National Domestic Violence Helpline and Respect offering multiple language or interpreter options:
What we’re doing at Yorkshire Housing
Yorkshire Housing front-line staff have been issued with guidance detailing warning signs to look for and what to do if they believe a customer is at risk. The housing association has also made a number of vacant homes available to customers who need alternative accommodation.
Safeguarding lead Julie Lawton explains how staff are trained to help those they are concerned about: “We make sure that staff know that abuse can happen to both men and women and it can take many forms such as psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional and can vary in severity.
“Our customer-facing teams have been provided with a step-by-step factsheet for where there are concerns about domestic abuse, including reporting internally as a safe-guarding risk, and they are instructed to report those they believe to be in immediate danger to 999.
“We’re also encouraging customers who have their smartphone monitored by perpetrators to download the app Bright Sky if they feel safe to do so – it looks like a weather app but is a directory of specialist domestic abuse support services and is available in four languages: English, Urdu, Punjabi and Polish.”
Julie also mentioned some of the warning signs that staff are to look out for, which include:
- Unexplained injuries, such as broken bones, occurring regularly
- Dismissing injuries as “being clumsy” or “accident prone”
- Emotional difficulties
- Pattern of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour
She added: “Yorkshire Housing isn’t just about houses, we build communities and we look after the people within those communities. The onus is on us to make sure our customers are safe and are referred to the right services. Having the Home Office resources available in seventeen languages is a positive step to reaching those who don’t have English as a first language.”
How we helped Amy
We’re really proud of the work that our colleagues do to help those who are experiencing domestic abuse, and the story of Amy* is just one example of how the work we do has positively impacted the life of one of our customers.
Amy was referred to our Lettings department as a direct nomination for a property. This was due to domestic violence from her ex-fiancé and issues with her ill health which resulted in her being homeless.
The referral was received in April 2020, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. As the government had introduced restrictions at this point, the usual process of conducting a viewing, signing paperwork and handing over the keys to a new property wasn’t possible.
While working remotely, people across the business worked together to ensure that Amy could move in as soon as possible. Kady Lee from the lettings team managed the process and liaised with various contractors to ensure all health and safety compliance was completed quickly and safely and the property was ready to let.
On 1st May Amy was able to sign her tenancy agreement remotely using Assur Sign. Once this was complete, she was emailed a new tenancy pack along with the property’s key safe code and Amy was able to start afresh and move into her new home.
*Amy’s name has been changed to protect her identity