Women’s Safety NSW welcomes the announcement today of an additional $34 million to increase the accessibility of temporary accommodation for domestic violence victims and perpetrators during the COV-19 pandemic.
However, accompanying this investment we also need to see immediate support for frontline domestic violence services who are operating in extremely challenging circumstances to provide the help victims need at this critical time.
Minister Mark Speakman noted in his address today that there has not been an overall increase to police callouts for domestic violence nor to Safer Pathway services. However, as was recently seen with the BOCSAR domestic violence statistics, this is not the whole picture…. What we are seeing are increases in some areas and decreases in others. Over forty percent (41.7%) of frontline domestic violence workers surveyed last week noted an increase in client numbers, whilst others noted with concern that women were experiencing an escalation in the severity of abuse (44.9%) and women deprioritising their own safety over other material needs as a result of the COVID-19 crisis (49.2%).
“Women are reporting difficulties with accessing services like police and Safer Pathway due to not having access to a safe phone and very little opportunity to make safe connections because of increased surveillance and monitoring by the perpetrator” says Hayley Foster, Women’s Safety NSW chief executive officer…
The Minister also noted that victims are presenting with more complex cases, and this is something frontline workers are reporting in overwhelming numbers (70.8%). Domestic violence workers are dealing with these matters without any additional resources and this is in the context of increasing client numbers every year for the past six years without the requisite funding increases to match. Last year for example, client numbers increased by 12% without any increase in funding….
Women’s Safety NSW has requested a resource package…
“So far we’ve had no commitment to assist with these costs and many services and workers themselves are personally shouldering the burden” says Foster.
Women’s Safety NSW have also been advocating for additional resources for the NSW Police Force at this time specifically for their domestic violence teams….
“Appropriate oversight of domestic violence charges and provisional apprehended domestic violence orders, and compliance checks and monitoring of high-risk offenders cannot continue on a consistent basis without the appropriate resourcing. Our partnership with police in ensuring women and children’s safety has never been more important”…
“If we don’t support these crucial frontline services right now, it will ultimately be the victims who suffer. You can’t get blood out of a stone.”
Foster says another critical service gap is in services which support women and their children to remain home safely or relocate to a more suitable home following violence after the police have removed the perpetrator….