Home Secretary launches campaign for domestic abuse victims

11 April 2020, 16:27

Home Secretary Priti Patel was leading her first daily press briefing
Home Secretary Priti Patel was leading her first daily press briefing. Picture: Downing Street
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Home Secretary Priti Patel has launched a public awareness campaign to help domestic abuse victims during the coronavirus lockdown.

The secretary of state said up to £2 million would be put towards online support services and helplines for domestic abuse victims during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ms Patel, who was hosting her first daily coronavirus press briefing on behalf of the government, added that the campaign would ensure those experiencing or at risk of domestic abuse know about the available help on offer.

Domestic violence charities and the Domestic Abuse Commissioner are receiving the funds due to a reported surge in the number of incidents since lockdown measures were introduced nearly three weeks ago.

The campaign, which will be accompanied by the hashtag #YouAreNotAlone, hopes to reassure those affected by domestic abuse that support services do remain available in this period.

People can show their support for those impacted by sharing a photo of a heart on their palm on their social media and ask others to do the same.

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Ms Patel said: "Coronavirus has opened Britain's enormous heart and shown our love and compassion for one another as we come together to help those most in need.

"I am now asking this nation to use that amazing compassion and community spirit to embrace those trapped in the horrific cycle of abuse.

"And to help us all look out for those who need help, we have created a symbol of hope - a handprint with a heart on - so that people can easily show that we will not tolerate abuse as a society, and that we stand in solidarity with victims of domestic abuse.

"I would urge everyone to share it on social media or in the windows of your home, alongside a link to the support available, to demonstrate just how much this country cares.

"And to show victims of domestic abuse: you are not alone."

She reminded people who are suffering from domestic abuse that they can press '55' after dialling '999' if they are not in a position to speak or if they are too scared to speak.

Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, said: "What is needed now, more than ever, is to ensure every woman experiencing domestic abuse is aware of the confidential support available.

"We hope the Government's campaign will reach the tens of thousands of people experiencing domestic abuse, helping send the message - you are not alone."

When pressed to apologise to NHS workers over a lack of personal protective equipment, Ms Patel said: "I'm sorry if people feel there have been failings."

She added that she was "delighted" to be at the press briefing when asked where she had been for all the conferences. Ms Patel said she had been working at the Home Office to offer the NHS and the Border Force the necessary support.

Meanwhile, Chairman of the National Police Chiefs' Council Martin Hewitt - who was appearing alongside the home secretary - said there has been a 21 per cent drop in overall crime in the past four weeks compared to the same period last year.

He added that the police were"unafraid to act" if people do not follow government measures around social distancing.

Police from 37 forces in England and Wales have issued 1,084 fines for breaches of coronavirus regulations as of Thursday, Mr Hewitt said.

National Medical Director Professor Stephen Powis - also present at the briefing - said there had been a levelling off of new coronavirus cases in the UK.

He then added that the NHS remains "open for business" for people with non-coronavirus-related concerns and reminded people they do not need to avoid hospital.

The campaign will publicise the support available, including the freephone, 24-hour national domestic abuse helpline number - 0808 2000 247 - run by Refuge, and www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk.