Probation services across the region are taking action to protect women from domestic abuse during COVID-19.
The Merseyside Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) and Cheshire & Greater Manchester CRC have implemented a range of measures to prevent women from becoming victims and to look at new ways to deliver services following restrictions imposed by the pandemic.
Organisations and experts across the United Kingdom have reported a rise in domestic abuse. The National Domestic Abuse Hotline referenced an increase in demand and the medical journal The Lancet also says there is an “impending crisis of domestic violence”.
Both CRCs supervise men convicted of domestic abuse and also work with victims via the service’s Partner Link Worker project.
Ordinarily a man sentenced for committing domestic abuse or violence would be enrolled on a behavioural change programme, such as Building Better Relationships. Because of the restrictions imposed by COVID-19 all probation organisations have had to stop group work.
Kath Woods, (pictured above) Senior Interventions Manager for the CRCs, said: “COVID-19 has created a perfect storm in relation to domestic violence, but we have put together a range of measures that aim to both protect women and to also support men to achieve positive change.
“The problems are well-documented. The pandemic has stopped people from socialising in a normal way, has caused immense financial uncertainty for many, has caused some people to drink more and has restricted how probation works with domestic abuse offenders.
“However, our CRCs have a great deal of expertise in working with victims and offenders in this area and I am proud of the innovative work my colleagues have undertaken to deliver exceptional services during this challenging time.”
For men who were already on programmes to address domestic violence offences that had to stop due to the virus, as well as continuing probation supervision via their case managers – Kath’s team of programme tutors have also been continuing services via the telephone.
She said: “My team have a special therapeutic relationship with our service users that is different from their relationship with case managers. It was therefore vital to maintain contact.
“My colleagues ensure service users are better able to recognise triggers and to learn skills that make sure they avoid violent or abusive situations.”
Men sentenced to programmes that are unable to start are also contacted by Kath’s team to undertake work and get them ready for when programmes resume.
In addition, Partner Link Workers (PLWs) at the CRCs ensure victims feel safe throughout the offender’s period on probation by speaking with victims on a regular basis and ensuring their fears are addressed. PLWs support in the region of 150 female victims across the region.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the CRCs also sent more than 1,100 letters to women the service had worked with during the last two-years to check on their safety. The letters included information about foodbanks and agencies that can provide a range of support with issues ranging from drug misuse through to finances and wellbeing.
Ian Mulholland, Managing Director of Interserve’s Citizen Services business unit which includes the CRCs, said: “I am proud of the work undertaken by probation colleagues across our CRCs to protect victims of domestic violence and to support men to make lasting change.
“COVID-19 has created all manner of challenges, but our dedicated probation professionals have looked at innovative ways to overcome those barriers to ensure high-quality services can be maintained. Our aim is to protect the public and to stop people from re-offending, and the work undertaken by Kath and her team is at the forefront of this crucial activity.”
Across Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside Kath’s team is currently working with 147 men.