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Record rise in demand for National Domestic Abuse Service Helpline during lockdown

Rise in the number of women seeking emergency accommodation

Refuge, the UK's largest single provider of specialist domestic abuse services, has experienced record highs in demand for its National Domestic Abuse Service Helpline as Government lockdown restrictions have eased. The total number of calls and contacts to Refuge's Helpline has been more than 40,000 since the start of lockdown (this figure includes numbers of women accessing a new 'live chat' service). Refuge's telephone Helpline, which ordinarily logs around 270 calls and contacts from women, friends and family members needing support every day, saw an increase of 77 per cent during June. The first week in July saw a 54 per cent rise in women needing refuge space (emergency accommodation) when compared with the last week in June – the highest number of women needing emergency accommodation during the lockdown period.

During June, 73 per cent of callers to Refuge's Helpline were from survivors of domestic abuse. Forty per cent of these callers were provided with information on, for example, child contact and housing rights. 17 per cent of callers were supported to make safety plans and 15 per cent were looking for a refuge space indicating they needed to leave their homes urgently.

During the same month Refuge's National Domestic Abuse Helpline website, where women experiencing domestic abuse can access support if they are unable to call, saw an increase of more than 800 per cent compared to pre-lockdown statistics recorded.

In May, in response to COVID, Refuge launched a new 'live chat' function. The window to call for help when living with an abusive partner is ordinarily very limited, but becomes increasingly narrow when isolated with a perpetrator and Refuge identified a need to provide women experiencing domestic abuse with new 'silent' methods of accessing support. Women have flocked in their hundreds to access this service. Seventy per cent of 'chatters' are women who are survivors – the majority of whom sought advice on how to remain safe whilst living with an abuser.

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