The Home Secretary has kicked off a public awareness campaign to ensure those experiencing or at risk of domestic abuse know of the help on offer.
Priti Patel, in addition to announcing the campaign on Saturday, has also revealed talks are ongoing to provide charities and the Domestic Abuse Commissioner with an additional £2 million to bolster domestic abuse helplines and online support.
The fresh injection of cash is aimed at ensuring victim support is available after charities reported a surge in activity since the social distancing guidelines came into force almost three weeks ago.
Ms Patel said on Saturday that the National Domestic Abuse Helpline received a 120% increase in calls in a 24 hour period last week.
The Government’s public awareness campaign, under the hashtag #YouAreNotAlone, will aim to reassure those affected by domestic abuse that support services remain available during the UK lockdown.
Speaking at Saturday’s daily press conference, Ms Patel said: “When it comes to hidden abuse, the message is simple: you are not alone and you are not on your own.
“And our message to the abusers and the perpetrators of these crimes is equally as clear: you will not get away with the crimes that you are committing.”
She added: “Our priority is to get the abusers out but sadly this is not always possible so, where a victim and their children do need to leave, we will ensure that they have a safe place to go to.
“Our new campaign will absolutely highlight the support that is available to victims of domestic abuse, and that advice of staying home, obviously, if you are at risk, does not apply.”
Ms Patel also highlighted the risks of an increase in online child abuse.
Shortly after the briefing, the National Crime Agency tweeted a series of resources to help parents protect children online, but the website experienced problems after the link was shared.
The Home Office is encouraging the public to show their support for those who may be suffering by sharing a photo of a heart on their palm.
Ms Patel said: “I ask you and I urge everyone to share this on social media or in the windows of your own homes, just to demonstrate how much we care and how much our country cares.”
The campaign will publicise the support available, including the free 24-hour national domestic abuse helpline number – 0808 2000 247 – run by Refuge, and www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk.
During the press conference, Ms Patel also said that people who need urgent help can call 999, pressing 55 if the person is unable to speak.
From next week, adverts raising awareness of where people can seek help will run across social media and materials will be made available, including to charities and supermarkets.
Tools such as online support services, including a messaging service with domestic abuse experts, will help those most at risk of abuse seek support and help and guidance during periods when it might be difficult for them to talk on the phone.
Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, said: “What is needed now, more than ever, is to ensure every woman experiencing domestic abuse is aware of the confidential support available.
“We hope the Government’s campaign will reach the tens of thousands of people experiencing domestic abuse, helping send the message – you are not alone.”
The announcement follows Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s £750 million boost to the charity sector, which is set to benefit domestic abuse charities to support the most vulnerable in society.
The Treasury cash will support charities providing key services and supporting vulnerable people during the Covid-19 crisis.
Domestic abuse charities are being urged to bid when the new scheme is up and running in the coming weeks.
Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds welcomed the announcement and the helpline, adding that Labour would be supporting the campaign, but he said the new steps were still inadequate.
He said: “These Government measures do not go anywhere near far enough to provide the emergency support necessary to sustain these vital services, as Labour has called for.
“There needs to be real cross-government collaboration to support this sector and this should include ring-fencing some of the Chancellor’s recently announced charity funding to support domestic abuse services and the wider violence against women and girls sector.
“Labour will be speaking with organisations from across the sector next week and work with them to see what more is required to keep some of the most at-risk people in our communities safe throughout this crisis.”
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