My colleague Zara Jordan at TLT has just written the following article which I repost to ensure that those who need support know where to find it and to confirm that at TLT we are able to help and support when it is needed most.
Domestic violence charities all over the UK are experiencing a rise in demand since the Government restrictions on movement came into place to limit the spread of COVID-19. Refuge, the UK’s largest domestic violence charity, has reported a 25% increase in calls to its helpline and enquiries via its website.
Campaigners have described the current lockdown conditions as a perfect storm for domestic violence as victims are required to stay indoors for prolonged periods with their perpetrators with no means of escape. Close proximity, financial pressures and deteriorating mental health are all factors leading to escalating tensions within households.
Many of the daily reprieves usually afforded to victims such as the school run or a trip to the shops have now been shut off or severely limited leaving victims feeling isolated, vulnerable and exposed.
If you are experiencing domestic violence or know someone who is, don’t assume services are closed. Many refuges remain open albeit with reduced staff and charities have re-routed secure helplines to private spaces within call handles’ homes.
The Home Secretary has confirmed that victims are able to leave their homes and seek refuge despite the lockdown restrictions in place. Equally, if a court order is made excluding perpetrator from a property to protect a victim then the perpetrator will have to move to alternative accommodation. The police are also able to enter homes and will continue to provide support to victims.
Family courts are still operating and have prioritised cases where urgent assistance may be required through an injunction, non-molestation or occupation orders. An occupation order can remove an individual from a property or order that you can live in a certain property. The Family Law Act 1996 can order that one party should continue to pay the mortgage or expenses upon a property.
At TLT we are able to advise you on the steps that can be taken to protect you and we may be able to recover your legal costs from your partner (if you are not eligible for legal aid), depending upon your circumstances.
We are able to talk with you at a time that is convenient, whether this is out of hours or when your children/partner are not around. An essential trip to the supermarket may provide an opportunity to speak in confidence.
If you are fearful for your safety but do not feel able to leave then regardless of the lockdown, we would advise you to have an emergency bag ready containing essential clothes, any important documents such as your passport or driving licence for ID purposes (also children’s passports), a credit or debit card or cash and a list of useful telephone numbers written down in the event that you do not have your phone.
If you, or anyone you know, is experiencing domestic abuse please consider the following sources of support:
- Refuge’s national domestic violence helpline is open 24 hours a day and can be reached on 0808 2000 247
- Respect Men’s advice line can be reached on 0808 8010 327
- Police “Silent solution” – if you require police assistance but are unable to speak, make yourself heard by coughing , tapping the handset or, once prompted by the automated system, pressing 55. These calls are treated as a priority.
Depending on your financial circumstances, you may be eligible for legal aid. Whilst we do not offer legal aid at TLT, we can help you if your finances mean you can apply for legal aid, and will point you in the direction of someone who can help if you are eligible.
You can assess whether or not you would qualify for legal aid by using the online Government calculator https://www.gov.uk/check-legal-aid You will also need to provide evidence and the attached list can be found at https://www.gov.uk/legal-aid/domestic-abuse-or-violence
The National Centre for Domestic Violence will also help those not eligible for legal aid for free https://www.ncdv.org.uk/are-you-suffering-domestic-abuse/how-ncdv-will-help-you/
Please do not hesitate to get in touch for further advice and guidance. Even if you do not feel able to take action right now, simply taking advice on what your options are can make you feel empowered about your future.
As indicated previously with thanks to Zara Jordan at TLT for allowing me to publish the above article.