Priti Patel’s response outlines measures to help victims during lockdown
The Home Secretary Priti Patel MP has responded to the Victims’ Commissioner Dame Vera Baird QC setting out how the Government aims to protect victims during the Coronavirus lockdown.
The Home Secretary’s letter Home Secretary’s letter is in response to one sent by Dame Vera along with other victims and domestic abuse Commissioners to senior Government Ministers on 19 March urging them to take action to protect victims of abuse during the lockdown.
In her letter Dame Vera said: “We know that these kinds of crises put victims at greater risk. I would like to see the Government recognising this increased risk of domestic abuse in their contingency planning.
“This means ensuring local authorities have enough specialist domestic abuse and sexual assault support workers to continue providing a service and that these staff – and indeed all victim support professionals – are allocated as key workers so that their children can continue to be cared for.
“I would also like to see the Chancellor allocate more funding to domestic abuse services and helplines in recognition of the increase in the numbers of vulnerable people likely to need support over this period.”
In her response, which was sent on 20 April, the Home Secretary said “I want to reaffirm that I fully understand your concerns about the potential unintended consequences of the current crisis, particularly in relation to potential victims of domestic or sexual abuse and violence. I recognise that for some people their home is not a safe place.
“[And] You will be aware by now that those working with victims of crime both at the front line and via helplines or other services supporting the delivery of key services have already been included in the definition of key worker. I hope this will help to ensure that such staff can continue in their roles.”
Ms Patel goes on to set out what action the Government has taken highlighting the £750m which has been made available to charities announced by the Chancellor and the Domestic Abuse digital awareness campaign launched by the Home Office.
She also committed to developing a ‘safe word’ scheme to be used in places which remain accessible to Domestic Abuse victims during the lockdown such as supermarkets and pharmacies – which has been strongly advocated by both Dame Vera and the Domestic Abuse Commissioner Nicole Jacobs and discussed when they gave evidence to the Home Affairs Committee last week.
Ms Patel said: “My officials will also be working with you, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner and other key stakeholders on developing a codeword, or similar scheme, that victims of abuse may be able to use at retail outlets if they do not feel safe accessing help by other means.”
Since the letter was sent the Ministry of Justice has announced that a further £600,000 is to be made available to fund helplines and online support service for sexual abuse survivors.
The Home Secretary’s letter can be read here