The Victims' Commissioner for England and Wales, Dame Vera Baird QC, has today written to the Prime Minister highlighting the importance of ensuring that victims continue to receive proper support throughout the Coronavirus pandemic.
We all recognise the Government must introduce emergency measures to protect those who are vulnerable to coronavirus and to ensure that services are not overwhelmed. Nevertheless, I have concerns about the impact these measures may have on victims of crime, particularly victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault.
Early evidence from China following the Covid-19 lock down there indicates that the number of victims of domestic abuse doubled over the period. Hurricane Katrina saw domestic assaults against women nearly double, and both men and women reported increases of psychological abuse. 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 that 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. This vulnerability also needs to be recognised in guidance to statutory agencies and the Police to ensure that they recognise the additional danger victims of domestic abuse will face in these circumstances.
My letter to the Prime Minister can be found here.