Sussex PCC supports new domestic abuse services

A recent drop in domestic abuse referrals has prompted the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) to remind people that support is still available in lockdown.

Friday, 15th January 2021, 11:59 am

According to Sussex Police, in the first week of the current national lockdown more than 400 vulnerable people reached out for help to victim support agencies across Sussex.

However, domestic abuse referrals have started to decrease with one specialist support service seeing a fall of nearly 40 per cent in referrals compared to numbers in late December.

Although the government has made it clear that individuals are permitted to leave their homes if they are escaping domestic abuse, PCC Ms Bourne is concerned that victims may still feel trapped at home and worries there may be many people across the county who are suffering in silence.

Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne. (Photo supplied by the PCC's office). SUS-200331-140151001

She said, “Just because we are seeing a decrease in referrals does not mean that these crimes are reducing. We may all be locked down, but it doesn’t mean that victims of abuse are locked out from help.

“I recognise the impact these restrictions may have on those confined to living with their abuser so it’s more important than ever that people who feel threatened and vulnerable know there is someone out there who will listen and help them.”

Ms Bourne said support services across Sussex are still accessible for all victims during lockdown and there are many ways people can reach out for the help and support they need.

Ms Bourne relaunched the Safe Space Sussex website in the first lockdown - an online directory of local victim services which has been equipped with a new search tool so that victims of any crime in Sussex can find the service they need within seconds.

“It also has a ‘leave site now’ button that users can press to quickly exit the site.

Sussex Police has issued advice on how a victim of crime can covertly let a call handler know they are in danger.

The ‘55’ technology is in place for those too scared to speak. This alerts a call handler to the fact they need help by pressing 55 on their mobile phone once they’ve dialled 999.

From this week the government has announced that as part of a national campaign victims of domestic abuse will also be able to safely access support from thousands of pharmacies across the UK through a new codeword scheme – offering a vital lifeline to those who are not safe in their own home.

The ‘Ask for ANI’ scheme allows individuals to discreetly signal that they need help. By asking for ANI, a trained pharmacy worker will offer a private space where they can understand if the victim needs to speak to the police or would like help to access support services.

There is an ongoing sign up process open and Ms Bourne is asking all pharmacies across Sussex to get involved.

She said, “This is an innovative way for local pharmacies to help in the fight against domestic abuse.

“By signing up to this worthwhile scheme you are providing another much-needed safe space where victims can covertly reach out for the help they need.”

The Ministry of Justice provided another £151,000 in December 2020 - in addition to the £700,000 the PCC secured in June 2020.

“This funding has provided local services with additional resources necessary to ensure they can continue to deliver crucial support to victims throughout the pandemic.

So far the additional funds have enabled more than 3,000 vulnerable people to get the help they need while allowing services to cope with extra demand and continue to deliver remote support.

If you, or someone you know, is feeling unsafe at home, please visit https://www.safespacesussex.org.uk/.

Anyone in immediate danger should call 999 and ask for the police.