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SCC Partnership Sets Up Refuge For Families Escaping Domestic Abuse

Published on: 9 Jul, 2020
Updated on: 14 Jul, 2020

Surrey County Council and its partners are providing more emergency refuge accommodation for families escaping domestic abuse.

The pandemic lockdown has caused national demand for domestic abuse support to soar. Visits to the national domestic abuse website have jumped by 950 per cent.

In June, calls to the Your Sanctuary Domestic Abuse helpline in Surrey more than doubled pre-lockdown levels.

The council worked with Reigate and Banstead Women’s Aid and Your Sanctuary, the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) and the Community Foundation for Surrey.

Over six weeks, the partnership identified an unused property in the county and developed it. The building will provide space for seven families, with the scope to increase this up to 18 families.

The refuge opened on June 15, ready for the expected surge of survivors seeking help as lockdown restrictions eased.

Wings of the building have been named after strong women, including Maya Angelou, Rosa Parks, Greta Thunberg, Emily Pankhurst, Amelia Earhart, Malala Yousafzai and Beyoncé.

SCC leader Tim Oliver said: “We’re so proud to have been involved in this project. It’s provided such vital support to families escaping domestic abuse during what is already an extremely challenging time.

“The work of our partners in this has been incredible, an excellent example of Surrey’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. It exemplifies what can be achieved in collaboration with our partners at speed.

“No family should have to endure the effects of domestic abuse at any time, which is why it is so important that families have the security of these refuge spaces should they need them.”

Fiamma Pather, chief executive of Your Sanctuary, said: “This has been an exciting project bringing together organisations from the public and voluntary sector, building on our existing partnerships and working alliances here in Surrey.

“We are very proud more women and their children will have safe and supportive accommodation to start rebuilding their lives after the abuse and violence they have experienced.”

Charlotte Kneer, CEO of Reigate and Banstead Women’s Aid, said: “It’s startling to think how much we have achieved in six weeks. From an initial idea to opening a new refuge, it really does show what can happen when partners pull together with a common goal.

“The women and children living at the refuge will be safe thanks to huge effort and commitment from everyone involved. We hope to help many families who may otherwise have had nowhere to go.”

The county council will maintain the property and  OPCC funding will provide specialist wraparound support for survivors.

Lisa Herrington, OPCC head of Policy and Commissioning, said: “We are part of a strong partnership in Surrey, which has helped make a response at such speed possible, at an especially difficult time for those affected by domestic abuse.”

An instrumental figure in delivering this new refuge accommodation has been Dave Hill CBE, executive director of Children, Lifelong Learning and Culture at Surrey County Council who very sadly passed away suddenly last week aged 61.
Cllr Oliver said: “Dave was passionate about the safety of children and families, and he was an essential part in driving this project forward.

“It is a fitting tribute to him, that this safe space is now available that will ultimately provide sanctuary and safety for some of Surrey’s most vulnerable families. It is a symbol of everything he stood for, and I’m sure everyone involved in this project will join me in recognising Dave’s immense contribution.”

The refuge provision will in the first instance be for women and their children. It is not appropriate for mixed-gender. Work is ongoing to understand the need for refuge provision for male survivors and barriers to accessing this type of support.

Men can access support through the Surrey Domestic Abuse helpline which is run by Your Sanctuary and their male outreach service, as well as through the national men’s advice line.

Anyone worried about or affected by domestic abuse in Surrey can contact the Your Sanctuary Domestic Abuse Helpline seven days a week from 9am – 9pm, on 01483 776822 or via onhttps://yoursanctuary.org.uk99 in an emergency.

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