We know that the government’s advice on self or household-isolation will have a direct impact on women and children experiencing domestic violence and abuse in Northern Ireland. Home is often not a safe place for survivors of domestic violence and abuse. We are concerned that social distancing and self-isolation will be used as a tool of coercive and controlling behaviour by perpetrators and will shut down routes to safety and support. Safety advice and planning for those experiencing domestic abuse should be included in the national government advice on COVID 19.
The impact of self-isolation will also have a direct impact on specialist services, who are already operating in an extremely challenging funding climate and will be rightly concerned about how to continue delivering life-saving support during the pandemic. They could see challenges in funding, staff shortages and further demand for their help. We welcome today an announcement from the Department of Communities who fund our refuges and outreach services that there would be no impact to the voluntary and community sector.
As an organisation, we have made provisions in order to continue our key frontline work. Women’s Aid have major contingency plans which have been put in place by all our local groups in a bid to continue to support women and children using multi communication formats, where face to face contact may be a current health and safety risk. Please contact your closest local Women’s Aid groups to get more info on these diversified services.
Women’s Aid across Northern Ireland is made up of nine local groups and Women’s Aid Federation NI. We are continually working together to understand the impact COVID 19 is having on women and children experiencing domestic violence and abuse and their service provision.
We are calling on our local Assembly to consider the safety and specific needs of survivors of domestic violence and abuse in Northern Ireland and services as a fundamental priority within their advice, guidance and contingency planning for COVID 19. We also call on Government to recognise our workers within frontline services as ‘key workers’. Our work is critical to the Covid-19 response regarding prioritisation for education provision.
If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse you can contact your local Women’s Aid group for information and support. Our local groups’ information can be found by clicking the link below.