Domestic abuse charities have said they expect to experience a surge in women seeking help when lockdown eases.
But just as more people might need assistance, Scottish Women’s Aid said it is concerned it will have to cut services if the pandemic creates a recession.
The organisation’s chief executive, Marsha Scott, said she fears “we will see major parts of our network close”.
Scottish Women’s Aid has had “big increases over the last weeks” in calls to its domestic abuse helpline, she said.
Addressing MSPs on Holyrood’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee, she said: “It is really clear it is not that the epidemic is causing domestic abuse but (it is) the lack of available access to services and the concerns about whether women can move freely, take their children and flee.
“The impact on refuges has been very significant and very concerning, there are accommodations where the pandemic has meant we have had to really shrink the capacity.
“All of our refuges that have communal shared spaces, many of them have been moved from multiple families to single family accommodation, which really reduces the total amount of families we can rehouse.”
All of Scottish Women’s Aid refuges are full, she said.
But she added: “The demand has not stopped and we expect as lockdown eases that we will see a surge in demand.”
Similarly Girijamba Polubothu, the manager of Shakti Women’s Aid – which helps ethnic minority women and children suffering from domestic abuse – said there are “a large number of women who are waiting to leave after the lockdown”.
She said: “We are expecting a huge demand on the service, I don’t think we will have the resources or the staff to support the demand when the women leave.”
Scottish Women’s Aid also highlighted concerns about how funding could be impacted after coronavirus.
Dr Scott said she was “really, really worried about the impact of what we all think is a coming recession on the funding for services”.
She told MSPs: “We know that the last time there was a major economic challenge, when the financial crisis happened in 2008, as a consequences of that and austerity policies and cuts to local services, we saw the stability of our network destroyed.
“In some cases we lost some services, some had to combine and they have been fragile ever since.
“I am desperately worried that as we go to do our economic planning for recovery, that unless it is very clearly stated that we need to change the way we fund services in order to protect them from these kind of dynamics then we will see major parts of our network close.”
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