As I write this we’re entering Week 3 of ‘lockdown’. It’s a time of unusual pressures and increased emotions and, for many people, significant isolation.
How does that play out if you are in an abusive relationship, living with and probably dependent upon your abuser? How do you protect yourself and your children? Or if you are an abuser, and want to control your behaviour, how do you access support?
The emergency legislation restricting movement during the public health emergency makes a number of exception which at first sight look helpful: you can leave your home to attend a court hearing; or to access services provided for victims of crime; or to avoid injury or escape the risk of harm.
As the Home Secretary assured us in an article written a couple of weeks ago for a Sunday newspaper, you won’t be breaking the rules on movement if you leave your home to get away from domestic violence; but what Ms Patel did not tell us was where you could safely go. Domestic abuse services have been reduced and reduced in the name of austerity – and this includes refuges, which have been shut across the country in large numbers and over many years.
Coronavirus is bringing out resourcefulness and community spirit to an amazing degree, but it’s also exposing the threadbare nature of social support from the state, including for people in the greatest need.
Domestic abuse – reported abuse, not abuse carried on privately inside locked-down households – is said to be up by 25% since Coronavirus struck. In my view, this is a crisis which can only be relieved by government intervention. As much as people may want to help their abused family members, friends or colleagues, at this time and in today’s circumstances their help just won’t be enough. What is needed is the provision of safe accommodation; access to free legal advice to get protective injunctions; adequately-funded support services; and capacity within the emergency services (police, health) to continue being able to offer a response to victims in need.
Other people, including lawyers’ organisations like The Law Society, have written probably most of what there is to write about this topic and I’d refer you in particular to this letter to the Communities Secretary, Robert Jenrick which can be accessed here; www.pilc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/20200331-Letter-to-MHCLG-DV-and-Covid-19-final-1.pdf I support everything written there. But if you need practical and immediate help, what is there for you? At the bottom of this article are some good contacts. And as lawyers, often and mostly representing people in the Family Courts under Legal Aid, we at Cartridges Law will try our best to help you at all times.
We do know our way around the Legal Aid system. We do know how to make applications for injunctions even when the courts are physically closed. We won’t leave you on your own.
Contact us on 01392 256854 and speak to one of the Family or Housing Teams.
Useful contacts are;
Rights of Women: rightsofwomen.org.uk/