Manchester charity expands as domestic violence cases double during pandemic

A domestic violence charity has moved to south Manchester after expanding their team following a huge spike in referrals during the ongoing pandemic.

Domestic Violence Assist, now based in Wythenshawe, received 22,000 referrals during 2020 – double the total number of cases from the previous year.

As of September, the charity has recruited 20 volunteer advisers, who are mostly retired legal professionals, in addition to six full-time case workers to tackle the increasing demand for their services.

Founder and chief executive, Luis Labaton believes there is “no doubt” that the pandemic has resulted in the rise in domestic violence and abuse.

He said: “Many people living with controlling, abusive and unpredictable partners have effectively become trapped at home during the various lockdowns and since the introduction of the tier system.

“The Covid-19 crisis has increased domestic tension and led to more physical, sexual and financial and emotional abuse.

“With fewer visitors to the home, evidence of abuse may have gone unnoticed and therefore not brought to the attention of the various agencies.

Since Christmas Day 2020 alone, the charity has dealt with over 2,500 referrals, vastly more than the usual figures from previous years. 

DV Assist runs a 24/7 helpline for domestic violence victims along with referrals from police forces, social services, housing associations and charitable organisations such as Barnardo’s.

They operate nationwide and are the UK’s only registered charity specialising in arranging civil protection orders for victims of domestic abuse, including non-molestation injunction orders, prohibited steps orders and occupation orders.

What civil protection orders can Domestic Violence Assist offer me?

Non-molestation orders, or injunction orders, prevent a partner, former partner or associated person from being violent or threatening violence towards a person or any children, and prevents intimidation, harassment and pestering.

An occupation order defines who can live in the family home. It can also prevent the abuser from being in the surrounding area. An occupation order can be sought if a person has left their home because of violent behaviour but wants to return without the abuser living there.

A prohibited steps order allows the court to apply a restriction on a mother or father’s parental responsibility, such as removing a child from their nursery or school, taking them out of the local area or the UK, or preventing a parent from changing a child’s surname.

He added: “More victims – men and women – have sought assistance from us. The intensity and pattern of abuse appears to have escalated, while at the same time access to other resources offering help has reduced due to the impact of the pandemic.”

“We have also seen cases where single parents have had their children taken by partners during the lockdowns and not returned due to the situation.

“People who remained home with their abuser so as not to spoil Christmas for the kids have since plucked up the courage to take action and report their suffering to agencies such as the police and social services or call us directly.”

The charity’s expansion was made possible by the grants approved from Forever Manchester and the National Lottery Community Fund in addition to the backing from their trustees. 

He added: “We’re extremely grateful to the organisations and individuals who have supported us financially to make this expansion possible. It means we are well-equipped to handle our growing caseload, with more staff alongside a substantial investment in new software.

“Domestic abuse victims are not bound by lockdown restrictions on leaving home to seek help and assistance.”

Anyone seeking advice or support with regards to domestic violence can visit the DV Assist website or call them free on 0800 195 8699.

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