The coronavirus pandemic is challenging us to adapt the way we live our lives on an almost daily basis. And while we are all doing our best to respond to the advice and guidance of the government, we know that, for some, the difficulties and challenges of the current situation are even more heightened and severe, because home is not a safe place.
Refuge, the UK’s largest domestic abuse charity, said earlier this week that calls to its helpline had increased by 25% since stricter restrictions on movement began last week and traffic on their website had increased by 150%.
And just as our teams across our business continue to prioritise the essential needs of our customers and communities, the wellbeing and safety of our people is our top priority. And we’ve recognised that for some of our colleagues, this may be a particularly anxious time as the safe haven of home is not something they can all rely on.
We want to help any of the members of our team who need support whether they’re currently remaining in their situation, or leaving it. We already have a range of support measures in place to assist victims and survivors of domestic and financial abuse, but the current situation has increased our focus on making sure additional support is available so that individuals know they are not alone.
Our new Emergency Assistance is a free service that has been established to help any of our people who need it to leave an abusive environment and find a temporary place of safety in a hotel.
We know that leaving an abusive environment can be overwhelming and we want to do all that we can to make that step as simple and safe as possible. We are not the experts, of course, and so we’re also working with our charity partner, Surviving Economic Abuse, who will support victims after this initial stage with the advice, guidance and support materials to put a more long-term solution in place.
And we’ve been very clear that this will be a permanent offering for our people, not just a temporary measure to address the current unusual circumstances we find ourselves in.
We’ll continue to work with our people who have experienced domestic and financial abuse to make sure we are doing all we can to support any of our people in this situation.
We have found the support and guidance provided by our charity partners such as SafeLives; Surviving Economic Abuse and Tender to be particularly helpful.
We’re also providing training and guidance to everybody to make sure we can all recognise the signs of a loved one, friend or colleague who may need help.
The last couple of months have been as difficult a period as any of us can remember. The Coronavirus crisis has not created domestic abuse, but it has put a spotlight on how important a safe, stable home is in order to maintain both physical and mental health and wellbeing.
We hope that this Emergency Assistance will be an important addition to the action we have already undertaken.