14. The experience of domestic abuse services
Overall, services had limited operational capacity during the initial phase of lockdownwith most stopping all face-to-face provision and providing support by telephone/text. Some services continued to provide face-to-face engagement only in the most high risk cases, and where organisations made deliveries (of food parcels etc.) to clients' households. Operational capacity has improved in the latter weeks as services established home working arrangements and agreed communication protocols.
Many services explored creative ways of engaging with clients, including using video-conferencing platforms for group and therapeutic work, and there were some very positive reports of online engagement. In some cases, clients who may not have engaged in face-to-face support have sought online support and reported the anonymity of services is beneficial for them and allows them to engage.
Marac and Matac processes continue to operate during lockdown.Despite some challenges around technology and communication with victims, Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (Maracs) are operating well overall. Multi Agency Tasking and Coordination (MATAC) processes are also continuing, using teleconference/Microsoft Teams software.
Some organisations have faced challenges relating to client need and resources during lockdown.Following the increased demand for emotional support and welfare calls, some services reported they did not have the capacity to provide clients the level of welfare support required. Some services reported that, due to the high threshold for accessing mental health services, organisational funding was being dedicated to accessing private mental health services for some clients. A small number of frontline third sector services reported that the funding process during COVID-19 seems complicated, bureaucratic, and time-consuming.
Services reported limited absences due to staff suffering ill-health, and there were a very small number of reports of clients who have contracted COVID-19. Services continued to report challenges due to staff members' caring responsibilities, with some staff unable to facilitate online sessions due to the presence of their children within the house.