How we’re responding to increased demand for domestic abuse support and safe accommodation

Andrew King
Andrew King

Andrew King, 29 May 2020

At the time of writing, the National Domestic Abuse Helpline is seeing a 66% rise in calls for help and advice, and we have experienced three times our usual number of referrals for our LGBTQ+ safe space since lockdown began.

As a national housing association delivering specialist supported housing services, we are only too aware of the need to be more agile than ever before, as we respond to the unprecedented demand for our services.

This was sadly a concerning trend that we, like many others, foresaw; which fuelled us to begin planning early on as to how we could increase our capacity to support domestic abuse survivors. We have a highly skilled team of coaches who work in our domestic abuse services, specialising in supporting women struggling with substance misuse, South Asian women and children, and those who identify as LGBTQ+. This incredible team have come on board with us to extend the support they deliver beyond their refuges, allowing us to increase our overall capacity by 20 bed spaces.

How have we done it?

The majority of the supported housing services we deliver are commissioned by local authorities and provide accommodation and support for a fixed client group. However, a small number of our non-commissioned bed spaces have seen a lull in applications since lockdown began, and it was obvious to us that these rooms could provide a safe place to live for someone who was experiencing lockdown with a perpetrator of domestic abuse.

Our coaches have been largely delivering support through digital means of communication since lockdown began, so did it matter if the customer wasn’t living in a dedicated refuge? The answer was a resounding “no”. It did, however, matter that a survivor had somewhere safe to go once they have found the right support to leave.

Customers referred to this extended domestic abuse support service are allocated a coach who works through the Recovery Toolkit with them, carries out safety planning, and provides strengths-based support through regular one-to-one sessions; albeit by taking advantage of the reams of digital communication available to us, including video chats, telephone, email, and text message. The buildings we are using have night concierge staff, secure door entry systems and CCTV in communal areas, and in addition there are experienced staff teams on-site to provide tenancy management support and guidance on local amenities.

We have set up a directory of national and local partners and support agencies, and the team hold regular case conferences to ensure everyone is receiving a high-quality service through this remote model.

How can someone access this new service?

We are now accepting direct referrals from professionals working with individuals who need a safe space to live and recover. For more information or to discuss a referral, please send an email to safespace@stonewater.org and a member of our team will be in touch the same day.

If your organisation want to do something similar, please do contact our Head of Supported Living, Andrew King, at andrew.king@stonewater.org for details on how we mobilised this new service.