Column: domestic abuse support services

The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 17th April:

The Coronavirus outbreak presents one of the biggest challenges our community has ever faced. Our NHS frontline staff, care and key workers are working around the clock to look after us and keep the country running. To them we will be forever grateful.

I’m proud to belong to an area full of caring and generous people. I have heard so many stories of local heroes who have lent a hand to those in need, from delivering groceries to offering companionship through phone calls. When this crisis has ended I am sure we will remember their acts of kindness.

Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on so many families. I have in my thoughts those who have already lost loved ones.

n these uncertain and difficult times households are under immense pressure. This has caused an unprecedented rise in incidents of domestic abuse.

Many domestic abuse victims are now suffering behind closed doors. The National Domestic Abuse helpline has reported a 25% increase in calls and online requests since the lockdown was announced.

Please know that if you or someone you know feels at risk of abuse, there is help and support available. This includes police response, online support, helplines and refuges.

You are not alone.

Physical violence is not the only form of domestic abuse. It can include: coercive control and ‘gaslighting’, economic abuse, verbal abuse, emotional and sexual abuse.

If you suspect a neighbour of domestic abuse please report it to the police.

If you are worried about a loved one please check in with them regularly. If you can set up a code word to indicate that help is needed and ask if there is anything you can look out for that might indicate that they need help.

f you are in danger and unable to talk on the phone dial 999 and cough/tap the handset to respond to the operator. If you call 999 from a mobile, press 55 to Make Yourself Heard- this will transfer your call to the police.

Local services, including IDAS (03000110110) and BSARCS (01226320140), are still offering support around the clock to anyone who needs it. Refuges and helplines remain open. IDAS have extended their online Live Chat service, which is now running from 3pm-6pm Monday to Friday. It can be accessed on their website, offers a discrete way for people to get in touch with them using their phones, tablets or desktop computers.

I will keep pushing for these services to get the funding they need to help victims and their families get through this crisis. My constituency office remains open, albeit with the staff working remotely from home, and we are here to offer help and support as we navigate through these difficult times. If you need assistance please do not hesitate to get in contact, either by leaving a voicemail on 01226 743483 or by email to [email protected]