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Lockdown: abuse victims need somewhere to go to

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women's charities, letter, Rishi Sunak, urgent funding, domestic abuse victims, sexual abuse victims, lockdown, killings“How many more deaths must we see before the government wakes up to this new reality?”

Hotels and over 30 charities have issued a joint call to the government to help women and children escape abuse, as statistics suggest the rates are rising.

Women’s charities are concerned that during the lockdown women and children are trapped in abusive households and at risk of losing their lives and said that alternative accommodation must be made available to them.

At least 16 suspected domestic abuse killings in the UK have been identified by campaigners since the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions were imposed on 23 March, far higher than the average rate for the time of year.

And Women’s Aid has reported a 41 per cent increase in users visiting its Live Chat between 26 March and 1 April compared to the week before, as well as a marked increase in visitors to all its digital support services.

At the end of March, Southall Black Sisters and Compassion in Politics wrote to hotel chains asking them to open up rooms to those fleeing abuse, including domestic abuse and sexual violence, and the response from hotels – including some of the country’s largest chains – was overwhelmingly positive.

However, the hotels require financial support from the government to underwrite the costs of opening their rooms and providing meals and security to occupants.

Explaining this, a spokesperson from one of the nation’s largest hotel chains said: “We recognise and support the need to help domestic abuse survivors at this critical time. We also understand the urgent need for this to happen and the emotional and physical cost of not doing so.

“However, we simply cannot do it without government support. We urgently need them to underwrite for us the basic financial costs involved in opening our hotels so that our staff can be un-furloughed and paid, in addition to the right support and security resources being provided to those who come to us for sanctuary.”

The charities then wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak MP, and the Minister for Home Affairs, Priti Patel MP, asking for them to step in and provide that financial support as a matter of urgency, and pointed out the example set by the French, Italian and Australian governments, who have already put in place similar measures.

The letter has been endorsed by a coalition of organisations, including the Women’s Aid Federation of England, Solace Woman’s Aid, Women for Refugee Women and the Fawcett Society. It also has the support of the London Victims Commissioner, Claire Waxman, and the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Sophie Linden.

The letter says:

‘We believe that the offer made by the hotels/hostels represents a vital opportunity for the government to work with the women’s sector and with hotels to deliver a national action plan on VAWG and covid-19. As of today, hotels and specialist services are ready to support abused women and children. We are waiting for the government to play its part. The government must guarantee the immediate safety of those at risk of abuse.’

Pragna Patel, Director at Southall Black Sisters, said by the third week of lockdown over a dozen women and children had died at the hands of abusive partners and family members.

“Covid-19 is not just a medical crisis but a social, economic and human rights crisis,” she continued

“The hotel-hostel sector is ready and willing to help keep vulnerable women and children safe. Why is the government not ready?

“How many more deaths must we see before the government wakes up to this new reality?”

To sign the petition asking Rishi Sunak MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer, to help domestic abuse survivors during the Coronavirus crisis, click here.

If you, or someone you know needs help, call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247, or go to Women’s Aid’s website.

In an emergency, or if you feel threatened, call the police on 999.

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