Housing association L&Q supports domestic violence victims during pandemic

Published on 04/03/2021

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact the UK, housing association L&Q has stepped in to support victims of domestic violence.

With the nation in its third lockdown, many have been feeling the effects of staying at home.

For some, this has meant being literally locked down with their abusers.

Between March and June 2020, police recorded a seven per cent rise in incidents of domestic abuse, on the same period in 2019.

When the lockdown measures eased, the proportion of offences that were domestic abuse-related decreased slightly.

Since the first lockdown in March 2020, L&Q has offered new homes to 16 victims of domestic violence.

One mum-of-two contacted L&Q to report that she was suffering domestic violence at the hands of her husband.

The abuse had progressed into physical violence, after starting as verbal abuse years ago. When the nation locked down, she wanted help finding somewhere safe to live.

She had previously fled but had returned home after feeling pressured not to dishonour her family. 

Unfortunately, social services were unable to pay the cost for her to move into a refuge, as she was employed. 

Working alongside the police, and other supporting agencies, L&Q’s case manager was able to advise the resident how to obtain a non-molestation order and occupation order.

The case manager made an application to the Housing Review group panel and the woman was approved for a priority move.

During this time, the resident had moved out of her home with the support of the police and was living with her sister, temporarily.

The Rehousing team were able to offer her a new sole tenancy within six weeks of receiving the application.

She had previously been overcrowded in a one-bedroom home and had been on the rehousing register but was offered a two-bedroom property giving her family the safety they needed. 

Richard Southall, who leads the domestic violence project, said: “We are proud to have worked with our case managers and other agencies in order to offer a safe home for those who have been affected by domestic violence during the pandemic.

“The safety and wellbeing of our residents is our utmost priority and we will continue to do everything we can to ensure everybody has a safe space.”

Victims of domestic violence with learning disabilities

Staff at L&Q’s Beverley Lewis House, a refuge for women with learning disabilities who are victims of domestic abuse, have also been working hard to support those impacted by the pandemic. 

Since March 2020, four women have moved into the facility, which is the only one of its kind in the UK.

A team of ten extraordinary care workers keep it staffed around the clock.

Manager, Lisa Scivetti, said: “We have been working with the local authority to manage referrals and make sure as many survivors as possible are getting the support they need.

“We do this in a number of ways. We have moved people into the scheme, taken referrals for outreach support and worked with women via video calls when we couldn’t physically be there.

“We have a therapeutic team that have worked remotely offering weekly emotional support to our ladies and a dedicated staff team working hard to find creative ways to engage and entertain the women through these challenging times.”

The facility has been a lot busier since the beginning of the pandemic.

In part, this is because of the correlation between lockdown and domestic abuse.

“In my view this is to do with the increase in systemic stress that we have all been experiencing compounding an already serious situation,” Lisa continued.

“Victims have literally been locked in with their abusers and this has led to greater intensity and people desperately reaching out for help.

“It was difficult enough for people to seek out help before that pandemic hit. I think it’s even more important now that we look for more ways to help people living with domestic abuse and violence as they are more isolated than ever.

“With the schools closed and GPs doing video appointments, professionals that might usually have noticed when things weren’t ok, are no longer there.”

One resident at Beverley Lewis House, a mum-of-two in her 20s, moved in to flee abuse from her partner.

She said: “Social workers came because of the arguments we were having in front of the children.

“They said it wasn’t good for them or me. The children were taken into care because I couldn’t take care of them on my own. I was put in a hotel for a few days and the social worker was bringing me food, then they found me a place at Beverley Lewis House.

“It was weird at first, but I like it here because everyone is so friendly and there are other people here like me that have been through a lot.

“Staff help me to have meetings about the children and about how to keep safe. We talk about my health and boyfriends and relationships. When I get sad, they help me feel better by doing things I like. It’s been really hard because I have to have a test when I want to see my kids, but staff help with that too.”

L&Q has supported 195 women in the last 25 years at Beverley Lewis House.