Covid-19 and the domestic abuse sector

Responding to the Covid-19 pandemic was a huge challenge for us and the wider domestic abuse sector. Read more about its impact on the frontline and what we learned.

The Covid-19 pandemic presented a huge and unprecedented challenge for frontline domestic abuse professionals, the sector as a whole and the victims and survivors we all support. Professionals faced these challenges with extraordinary resilience and fortitude, but the pressure was immense and the impact was widely felt.

In April 2020 we launched our #ReachIn campaign, which encourages and people to reach in and start a conversation if they think someone might be affected. As the pandemic continued and lockdowns became a way of life, our amazing Pioneers conceived the Ask for ANI scheme, to help victims ask for help safely and discretely.

Find out more about these initiatives and everything we achieved together in the first year of Covid-19 below.

There were hard days and harder days. But survivors of domestic abuse never give up, and those who have turned their experience into activism never stopped for a second in 2020/21. It's their resilience, energy and determination, even in the very toughest circumstances, which keeps a fire lit for all us in doing this work.

Suzanne Jacob, SafeLives CEO, SafeLives Impact Report 2020-21

The first year of Covid

From March 2020 to March 2021 – how we influenced, supported, listened and acted.

Coronavirus Bill

19 March 2020. We issue a briefing for MPs, warning of an increase in domestic abuse as thousands of victims may have to isolate with perpetrators and flags areas of the Coronavirus Bill which may have unintended negative impacts on domestic abuse victims.

Capacity and demand: the impact of Covid-19

Following the announcement of the first lockdown, we launched several surveys to explore what challenges were being experienced across the sector. 52% of services had to reduce service delivery during restrictions and 90% of specialist services reported an increase in demand.

Ask for ANI

April 2020. SafeLives’ Pioneer survivors put forward the idea of a code word to be used in the few shops allowed to be open – pharmacies. With support from the DA Commissioner and Victim’s Commissioner, we proposed a scheme to the Home Office and worked with them to create ‘Ask for ANI’

Reach In

April 2020. We launch ‘Reach In’ campaign encouraging people to act if they’re concerned someone they know is experiencing domestic abuse during lockdown.

Joint VAWG sector statement

April 2020. Sector welcomes £750m fund to support frontline charities during the pandemic, but calls on the government to act quickly to support frontline VAWG services, with a ring-fenced fund that is simple, flexible, & fair, including support for specialist services for marginalised groups.

Training moves online

We mobilise to take our training online. Since developing remote training programmes we are reaching a wider cohort across the UK than ever before. We have also continued delivery of our ‘Domestic Abuse Matters’ cultural change programme for police forces.

Hidden Harms Summit

21 May 2020. We make the case for a long-term sustainable funding settlement for the domestic abuse sector and calls for more Idvas who provide a vital lifeline to victims and survivors.

Funders lean in

Summer 2020. NatWest donates £1m for the Circle Fund to support victims of economic and domestic abuse, in partnership with SafeLives and local services. Vodafone launches the Great British Tech Appeal with Barnardo’s, British Red Cross and SafeLives. More than 570 mobiles and tablets have been provided to survivors and their families. Trusts and foundations offer emergency support.

Victims recognised in daily press conference

May 2020. SafeLives consistently applies pressure on Government to change public messaging to remind people lockdown restrictions don’t apply if you are not safe at home. The exemption is highlighted in a 10 Downing Street Coronavirus press conference and Prime Minster repeats this again in his 3rd lockdown announcement in January 2021.

Rolling services and survivor surveys

August 2020. SafeLives publishes new data gathered from both survivors and services that show demand for services continues to increase. 61% of survivors not able to reach out for support during lockdown 38% of services reported increases in caseloads 86% cited tech and IT challenges.

The Shadow Pandemic: Domestic Abuse Learning Partnership

October 2020. AAFDA, Chayn, Galop, Imkaan, Respect, Rights of Women, SafeLives, Social Finance, Standing Together, Surviving Economic Abuse and Women’s Aid come together to form a strategic learning partnership – taking a long-term view of the sector’s needs both during and beyond Covid-19. Supported by the National Lottery Community Fund.

Ask for ANI launched

By April 2021, more than 5000 pharmacies including Boots and Superdrug are participating in the #AskforANI codeword scheme, enabling victims of domestic abuse to contact specialist DA services for support and advice. Currently, the scheme is being used once every 30 hours.

Support and wellbeing sessions for the frontline

January to March 2021. With additional funding from the Home Office, we, in partnership with Rock Pool, develop support and wellbeing sessions for frontline domestic and sexual abuse practitioners in England and Wales. The objective is to increase resilience and morale at a time of immense pressure, enabling services to remain available and sustainable for clients.

Government announces £40m fund for rape & domestic abuse victims

February 2021. We play a key role in unlocking new Government funding for specialist services for victims of rape and domestic abuse, including a crucial £27m 2-year fund for Idvas and Isvas as a result of our joint campaigning in the sector.
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Watch: A Year of Covid

At this event, we launched our annual practitioner survey results, focusing on the impact of the Covid pandemic on demand, changes in case complexity and the pressures on frontline workers themselves.

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Shadow Pandemic

This report looks at the impact of Covid-19 on survivors of domestic abuse and on the frontline organisations that support them.

Practitioner datasets

Access our latest national datasets for services supporting domestic abuse victims across the UK.