As we’ve previously reported, the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown restrictions are having a serious impact on the lives of families living within domestic abuse households. Troubling statistics tell a bleak picture: the domestic abuse support charity Refuge reported on 27th May that calls and contacts to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline for England and Wales had experienced a 66% rise when compared to the same period last year.
With the Government’s overhaul of the way family courts support survivors of domestic abuse and their children bringing this issue back into the headlines, we’re delighted to share details of the overwhelming local support and donations that have been keeping our Shropshire Domestic Abuse Service (SDAS) going during these challenging times.
Donations have been pouring in from local dignitaries, organisations, businesses and the incredibly supportive general public. One of the most significant donations came from Oswestry Town Council, with Oswestry Mayor Cllr Duncan Kerr recognising the strain placed on domestic abuse support services at this time and donating his Mayoral allowance of £4950. This followed a £5000 donation from fire safety firm AICO, with support from the High Sheriff of Shropshire, an individual donation of £5000 from a local resident, and further gratefully received donations from Church Stretton, Ludlow and Shrewsbury Rotary Clubs.
"We know that the recent restrictions on households has exacerbated domestic abuse and has led to increases in demand for services to victims and survivors. In response, I decided to decline the allowance that would otherwise have been paid to me as the mayor and ask the Council to grant it instead to SDAS so that it can be used to benefit local residents. I hope that this will be the first of many such donations over the next twelve months as I raise further money for them". – Mayor Cllr Duncan Kerr, Oswestry Town Council.
Much of this generously donated money goes towards supporting the SDAS refuge and other supported accommodation across Shropshire. The refuge is a safe space for the victims of domestic abuse and their children. Trained staff are on-hand to help victims to learn about the abuse they’ve been subjected to, come to terms with the impact and rebuild (where necessary) the skills around financial stability, health and finding safe permanent housing.
Donations have been used to purchase locally-sourced fresh food for the refuge, ensuring residents have access to good-quality, affordable food. Money has also gone towards appropriate clothing and support to access education and childcare, enabling victims to have some sense of a normal family life.
With Women’s Aid defining domestic abuse as “a single incident, or pattern of incidents, of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour”, it’s not surprising that domestic abuse often has a significant impact on victims’ long-term mental health. These incidents sadly frequently involve psychological, emotional, sexual or financial abuse, and/or harassment and stalking. With these issues in mind, SDAS uses donations to purchase therapy for victims.
“A local therapist helped us support one victim by offering 12 months’ therapy at a charitably discounted price. This is just the latest example of the incredible community support we’ve received – thank you!” – Wendy Bulman, Shropshire Domestic Abuse Service Manager.
Lockdown restrictions are beginning to ease, but this doesn’t mean the work SDAS do will be getting any easier. There are concerns that an uncertain economy and job losses could exacerbate familial strain and patterns of abuse. But one thing is certain: your generous donations are really making a difference to all those this crucial support service.