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Cross government response to tackling domestic and sexual abuse during Covid-19

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Health Minister Robin Swann, Justice Minister Naomi Long, and Communities Minister Caral Ni Chuilin are reminding people that if anyone is at risk of, or experiencing domestic or sexual abuse, help is still available.

Minister Swann said: “We are acutely aware of how difficult lockdown has been for those affected by domestic abuse. We want people to know that they are not alone and that help continues to be available 24/7.

“The Department of Health has provided Women’s Aid with an additional £60,000 to provide an initial care package for families who have experienced, or been a victim of, domestic abuse. This package will provide food parcels, home based resources and games for families, including laptops and mobile phones.”

Justice Minister Naomi Long said: “I have stressed throughout the Covid-19 pandemic that I want anyone who is feeling afraid within their own home because of domestic abuse to know that they have not been forgotten. We are also mindful, as lockdown restrictions ease, that the most dangerous time for victims is when they try to leave.

“We continue to progress our strategy and will shortly be publishing our year five action plan. Our three Departments continue to work together to ensure essential services can continue to operate effectively during Covid-19 and remain fully available. For example, the 24hr Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline received an additional £20,000 at the start of the pandemic.

“Additional Guidance has also been published so that people can easily access, in one place, the contact details for different support organisations at www.justice-ni.gov.uk/publications/covid-19-guidance-support-victims-domestic-abuse

Minister Ni Chuilin stated: “Victims of domestic violence and abuse often feel they are on their own, with nowhere to turn but I can assure them that support is available. The provision of safe and secure accommodation is undoubtedly a top priority when considering fleeing an abusive relationship. Covid-19 has brought this in to even more stark reality for many as we have used our homes as our place of safety during this time. My department has increased temporary accommodation places available for victims of domestic abuse and provided additional funding to refuges.”

Welcoming the additional £60,000 provided to Women’s Aid, Fran O’Boyle, Area Manager of Women’s Aid ABLCN said: “This is absolutely tremendous news to be able to get this extra funding. This will help us to support women and children that are most in need and will make a huge difference for them.

“If anyone is in immediate danger they should phone the police on 999 and, if it is difficult to talk, use the ‘silent solution’ by pressing 55 when prompted.”

The 24 Hour Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline can also be contacted on 0808 802 1414. This is a free and confidential service available to both women and men. Web chat is also available at dsahelpline.org or email [email protected]

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