8. Risks and safety planning
Despite the majority of organisations anticipating increases in separation and victims fleeing domestic abuse when the schools returned, most service managers did not report any significant increases in victims fleeing and/or seeking temporary accommodation after the schools returned. One organisation that offered a refuge service observed significant increases in applications for refuge (77 applications between March and September 2020 compared with 44 for the equivalent period in 2019).
Three services observed that local lockdowns were increasing risk for victims, and reported recent escalation of abuse for some victims and trauma from non-recent abuse affecting other victims due to the increased isolation during lockdown periods. One organisations reported that the introduction of more stringent restrictions around household mixing meant victims could not seek temporary safety at friends' or families' houses, which increased their risk.
Accessing safe and appropriate housing continued to be a challenge for victims in some areas. Two services communicated there were significant backlogs (of repairs, offers and agreed house moves) stemming from the period of lockdown, which continued to have a knock-on effect for victims awaiting moves or safety planning adjustments within their existing accommodation. A specialist organisation reported that access to housing and/or housing repairs etc. were difficult to negotiate even for high risk victims of abuse referred from Marac and in some instances housing partners were not responding to actions resulting from Marac. A service manager from an urban area, that had reported continuing challenges relating to housing throughout lockdown and the earlier phases, communicated that accessing appropriate and safe housing was still a significant difficulty during Phase 3. A mainstream service from a rural area communicated that a shortage of refuge spaces and "lack of financial assistance" had prevented some victims from separating from perpetrators. An organisations from a different rural area stated that evictions were not taking place over the period of lockdown and subsequent Phases, meaning perpetrators were not being removed from households.
There were fewer reports of difficulty contacting victims due to the presence of children or the perpetrators during Phase 3, although this was still noted as a challenge by some service managers. One national organisation noted they had observed an increase in the number of support calls going unanswered and expressed concern this was due to the presence of the perpetrator. Service managers also noted safety planning continued to be difficult due to some victims' lack of privacy and safe space to engage remotely.