Specialist supported housing provider Stonewater has launched its ‘Safe Place’ awareness campaign to show how it responds to and helps people affected by domestic abuse.
The campaign marks the start of 16 Days of Action against Domestic Violence (25 November-10 December) and White Ribbon Day (25 November) around the world, both of which aim to end male violence against women – especially as cases of domestic abuse soar due to COVID-19 lockdowns.
The campaign brings together Stonewater’s experience in providing short-term accommodation with support for anyone experiencing domestic abuse – giving them access to safe spaces and services to help them take their next steps.
Figures from before the coronavirus pandemic show that a staggering one in four women and one in six men are reported to experience domestic abuse in their lifetime.
During the first lockdown, calls to domestic abuse helplines surged – increasing by 700% in just one day, with Stonewater seeing a 131% increase in cases, while a recent Women’s Aid survey showed 61% of survivors living with their abuser reported that abuse worsened under COVID-19 restrictions from March-June 2020.
At the outset, Stonewater created additional Safe Space capacity at its refuges and extending its domestic abuse support service beyond these refuges for others in need – taking advantage of available digital communications to deliver this, including video chats, telephone, email, and text messaging.
As well as putting in place a range of supporting internal initiatives, Stonewater has now launched its awareness campaign to highlight the issue further still.
“Home is supposed to be a safe place for everyone. But for those affected by domestic abuse, it can often be a place of danger and fear,” said Helena Doyle, Stonewater’s Customer Experience director of Wellbeing and Support.
“At Stonewater, our vision is for everyone to have the opportunity to have a place that they can call home: their sanctuary.”
“Having somewhere safe to stay can be the first, vital step forward for someone fleeing from domestic abuse.
“We are committed to providing accommodation and housing support for people experiencing domestic abuse so they can have that safe place to stay and receive specialist help for them to take their next steps.
“The ongoing pandemic has brought an even sharper focus for us on the issue and how Stonewater can help.”
Accredited by the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance (DAHA), Stonewater has a long history in delivering specialist domestic abuse services available to all, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, socio-economic status, sexuality or background.
The housing association’s provision of safe accommodation includes three refuges dedicated to some of the most marginalised people in society – such as its LGBTQ+ Safe Space, South Asian Women’s Refuge for women and their children, and a centre for women with complex needs and their children.
As well as providing immediate safe sanctuary and helping with housing and property requirements, Stonewater has a specialist domestic abuse team of specifically trained coaches and case workers.
This team offers a range of support services for those in need, drawing on multi-agency partnerships with other housing providers, counsellors, and legal and financial aid service providers.
Under these services, while providing a safe space away from domestic abuse, Stonewater can:
- Support with safety planning
- Refer to other specialist services which can minimise the risk to survivors and their families
- Ensure access to independent professional translators as needed
- Provide resettlement support as well as practical advice with housing options
- Signpost to partner agencies who can give advice on legal matters, immigration and financial matters
- Refer to counsellors and therapeutic whole family support
- Access perpetrator management programmes
Stonewater’s own DA initiatives
Throughout its work, Stonewater actively champions initiatives to best support those experiencing domestic abuse, and says COVID-19 has brought a further urgency to ensuring the continuation of its refuge and specialist support services during lockdown.
Stonewater appointed Customer Experience manager Amanda Lowder to lead on its domestic abuse response during the pandemic and into the future.
Amanda is closely involved in the social housing sector’s approach to domestic abuse. As chair of the south-east England arm of the Regional Domestic Abuse Groups, recently launched by DAHA with the support of the National Housing Federation (NHF), she is also part of the NHF’s Domestic Abuse Core Group.
Other initiatives from Stonewater include the introduction of dedicated eLearning as mandatory for all customer-facing colleagues, which looks at the specific risks for those experiencing domestic abuse being at home with their abuser during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Stonewater has also created an internal ‘Champions Network’ to further raise awareness and understanding of the issues around domestic abuse.
Image: Diego Cervo/Shutterstock
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