All relationships have an element of friction, but the usual struggles in relationships were heightened during lockdown leaving some couples considering separation. Sadly in 2020, Citizens Advice reported a spike in searches on advice on separation. The charity Refuge saw an 80% rise in calls for support to their helpline, which they attributed to job loss and social isolation during the pandemic.
Sarah Pateman, Community Safety Manager at Survivors/Stevenage Against Domestic Abuse (SADA), writes about how a grant from the Heritage Foundation has helped expand their service during the pandemic.
“The work we do is vital and there is so much more that we can do to support those who are at risk”.
A Safe Space
SADA was set up in 2015 to provide a client-led service for people fleeing domestic abuse. This service allows a person or family to decide (with guidance) what next steps they need to take, while living in a safe space. This safety affords the victim time and room to process and decide their next moves on their own terms.
Making sure victims gain control during recovery is an extremely important part of healing from a traumatic experience.
SADA has won awards for their lifesaving work in Stevenage and North Herts and we have helped thousands of families in Hertfordshire get the help they needed. Sadly, one of the biggest challenges we faced even before the pandemic was getting enough funding and during 2020, this need grew. As more families were referred by third parties or reached out for help, we needed to expand our workforce to meet demand.
We worked with our partners and secured funding to obtain further safe spaces. We were able to expand these spaces from two to 20 in a few months. We had to make sure we were completely accessible to all during lockdown, so we worked with our clients virtually and over the phone.
SADA works with around 50 partners, including the Heritage Foundation, who provide resources, and referrals as well as helping with plans. This support is crucial to their team and the clients. When we wanted to broaden our work in Letchworth, we applied for a grant.
We are thankful that all our services were able to still operate during the lockdowns. In fact, we were able to expand our work and thanks to the grant of £5,616 from the Foundation, we were able to secure a dedicated support worker for Letchworth. Our research indicated a significant amount of domestic abuse incidents in the town in 2019. These occurrences needed the specialised client-led aid we provide, and we knew the pandemic would just intensify the problems faced by some.
Adapting during the pandemic
Our amazing team have responded really well to the challenges faced in 2020. They went above and beyond for all our clients and proved that they can think outside the box, when needed to. The odds were stacked against all services such as ours, but SADA continued to adapt to meet the needs of clients.
As this invaluable work continues, we diversify our outreach efforts across the county, I hope we can grow even more and are able to reach out to more people to support them across a bigger area.