Published 6 August 2020

As lockdown has eased, victims of domestic abuse in life-threatening situations have been seeking urgent help from services funded by the Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott.

Henu Cummins, the Chief Executive Officer of Domestic Abuse Volunteer Support Service (Davss) told Mr Scott:

‘Within a couple of weeks of lockdown we saw a colossal increase in the number of calls to our helpline, and almost all were of an urgent nature. Absolutely desperate people in life-threatening crisis situations.’

Davss, a small independent charity based in Tunbridge Wells, recently received additional funding from Mr Scott’s office to help adapt its services to meet this extra demand.

Ms Cummins added:

‘We’ve heard harrowing incidents of women telling us their partners have enforced them into shielding, using Covid as an excuse. Callers were telling us they were reaching out at the one chance they have to escape their abuser.

‘So we’ve increased the numbers of volunteers available on our helpline and doubled the numbers of hours we are available. Redesigning the service has been possible only thanks to the emergency funding from Mr Scott’s office and other places.’

She was speaking to Mr Scott during a panel discussion he hosted on Facebook Live on 4 August. Also on the panel were Mark Brooks from the ManKind Initiative, and Jacqueline McHugh from Restorative Solutions.

Mr Brooks, whose charity runs a national helpline for male victims of domestic abuse, said:

‘We’ve seen a big increase in calls from fathers who are being told by mothers that they can’t see their children during Covid. That brings a lot of emotional and psychological abuse.’

Restorative Solutions has recently begun delivering a pilot project here in Kent, also funded by Mr Scott’s office, to work with adult victims being abused by their children.

Mrs McHugh, Head of the Restorative Justice Service for Kent and Medway, said:

‘Adolescent-to-parent violence is a significant issue nationwide. Having young people at home, not going to school, was an absolute tinderbox for those families. Parents don’t want to call police on their son or daughter, but they don’t know what else to do.

‘Now we have a service for cases involving children aged 10 to 18. We can work with both the young person and the parent to try to unpick what is going on and re-establish communication.’

Mr Scott said:

‘It was really important for me, as part of the work I do as PCC, to reach out to these organisations. We know domestic abuse has been an issue during lockdown and it is important to talk to charities to understand the trends they’ve seen and discuss how we can work better together to support vulnerable people.’