Coronavirus: Solace Women’s Aid welcomes £750m funding for frontline charities as domestic abuse incidents soar in lockdown

PICTURE POSED BY MODEL. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/ PA

PICTURE POSED BY MODEL. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/ PA - Credit: PA

A leading domestic abuse charity says the £750million of extra funding for frontline third sector organisations announced on Wednesday is “fantastic” – but should have come sooner.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak speaking at a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on Coronavirus (COVID

Chancellor Rishi Sunak speaking at a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on Coronavirus (COVID-19) - Credit: PA

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the funding for charities struggling amid the Covid-19 pandemic – with £360million of the pot for agencies providing key services and supporting vulnerable people.

Solace Women’s Aid, in Brewery Road, offers advice and support to victims of domestic abuse and life-saving refuges for women and children fleeing violence.

CEO Fiona Dwyer told the Gazette: “It’s a fantastic announcement, I suppose the devil’s in the detail really for us. We haven’t seen any of the detailed plans about where it’s going or how it’s going to be distributed.

“But we have been pushing the government for emergency funding because they already gave it very quickly in Scotland and a lot of European countries, France in particular, when they started seeing an increase in women being killed [during lockdown].

Matt and Jess Turtle from Museum of Homelessness. Picture: Jess Turtle

Matt and Jess Turtle from Museum of Homelessness. Picture: Jess Turtle - Credit: Archant

“In the UK we have already had 12 [homicides], with potentially four more, since lockdown, which is a huge increase. It’s usually two women a week.”

Solace has been forced to crowdfund so it can keep its vital services running – and there has been an increase in domestic abuse incidents because women are stuck at home with the perpetrators.

As of Monday, Fiona says police call outs for domestic abuse incidents in Islington were up by about 6 per cent. But the true figure could be higher because people may be unable to call for help if they’re living with an abuser.

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Solace is still running its refuges but they’re full, and it has asked the government to block book hotel rooms so survivors have somewhere safe to social distance. The government has backed a similar scheme for rough sleepers after lobbying from groups such as Museum of Homelessness and Streets Kitchen.

Islington Boxing Club has closed its doors due to the coronavirus pandemic (pic Reggie Hagland)

Islington Boxing Club has closed its doors due to the coronavirus pandemic (pic Reggie Hagland) - Credit: Archant

Fiona added: “It happened very quickly with rough sleepers, and the challenge is homeless women are much less visible than men so women tend to be sofa surfing, so they aren’t really part of the numbers accommodated so far.”

Solace has been working with the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime [MOPAC] and the Greater London Authority and is now part of a group looking into how hidden homeless women can be supported during the pandemic.

Fiona said: “We have been disappointed by the lack of action. Domestic abuse has always been the poor relation of lots of other areas anyway – funding for the sector has always been really poor and never touched the surface.

She added: “When people are able to leave their homes again there will be a huge rise in demand for our services. After Christmas, for example, we always have a huge increase in demand. We know the calls are high risk cases, they are woman who are homeless, many have no recourse to public funds.

“The woman who are coming to us during this period are destitute and they have literally taken the one chance to flee and left with nothing.”

Museum of Homelessness

Social justice charity Museum of Homelessness is helping run Islington’s Covid-19 Homeless Task Force, by making food packages for those self-isolating in temporary accommodation.

Co-founder Jess Turtle said: “Islington residents are extremely generous and have been donating to the fund and for the activity we are doing supporting vulnerable Islington residents. At the moment we are very well supported from other areas, and Museum of Homelessness has a policy of not accepting government funding because we are a campaigning organisation. Charities that do are limited about what they can speak about or may have to do things that are unethical, such as work with the Home Office.”

Candid Arts Centre

Not all charities are covered by the government’s latest funding package, and among those not included is Candid Arts Centre in Torrens Street, the Angel.

The self-funded arts organisations is crowdfunding to survive because it’s centre is so big it isn’t eligible for any of the government grants, which are based on rateable values.

The centre houses five artists’ studios, a gallery space, an exhibition venue, cinema or performance space, an arts studio, plus a cafe and charity shop.

It’s director Duncan Barlow told the Gazette: “It’s a unique resource which will unlikely ever return if it disappears.”

Islington Boxing Club

Islington Boxing Club, a registered charity, is also struggling financially amid the lockdown – and fears it won’t benefit from the government aid package.

Reggie Hagland said: “We have fought many contests before and this is one of our biggest battles to date. Coronavirus has put a lot of vulnerable children and adults on the street [because the club’s closed].”

The popular Hazellville Road club is crowdfunding to survive, support it here.