Written evidence submitted by Safer Spaces (COR0080)


  1. About Safer Places

1.1.   Safer Places provides a range of accommodation including communal refuges, self-contained and move-on accommodation and a therapeutic refuge for women facing multiple disadvantages (a total of 81 rooms) and community based services across Essex and Hertfordshire

1.2.   We have been running 5 refuges (42 rooms) in Essex from our reserves and income as we receive no local authority funding for these sites

1.3.   On average we receive referrals for nearly 3,000 survivors each year

1.4.   We are the developer and provider of J9 training supporting the J9 initiative (safe places for victims to disclose) and domestic abuse champion networks

1.4   We work in partnership with BeNCH CRC to deliver trauma informed programmes to female offenders

1.5   We run the only Women’s Centre in Essex – The Rosie Centre

1.6   We run the largest stalking advocacy service in the country

1.7   The turnover from our last annual accounts is 4 million but we do not have any operating surplus and changes in contracts mean this our projected turnover for the coming year of end is significantly less and we are predicting a deficit with the additional costs of covid-19 to be over 400,000



  1. Increase in people seeking support

2.1.   Since the introduction of lock down we have seen a 1000% increase in visits to our website

2.2.   Since the lock down we have had an increase in clients contacting us for support out of hours via our social media channels and as a result we have launched a Live Chat service available every week day and throughout the night on weekends

2.3.   We have launched Triple R, our therapeutic group programme online and are seeing an increasing demand for this service

2.4.   Although we do not see an increase in referrals straight away, we are now receiving increased volumes of support for refuge, including referrals for those subject to abuse outside of our area and from women with multiple and complex needs


  1. Significant lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

3.1   When residents in our refuges have displayed symptoms it is difficult to fully self-isolate – we have purchased additional equipment (kettles microwaves etc.) to allow families to isolate in their rooms but this is only possible where residents have an en-suite bathroom

3.2   We are unable to source and supply PPE to our staff who are attending site every day to complete health and well-being checks

3.3   We continue to work with local authorities and manage our own estate to ensure that appropriate and safe accommodation is obtained as far as is possible for those who are high risk and vulnerable to the virus in order to shield them and protect our clients from the spread of the virus


  1. Not enough support for survivors with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF)

4.1.   There is a significant lack of funding for survivors with NRPF across the country

4.2.   Safer Places run an Interim Unit, where survivors with NRPF are able to stay for a period of 2 weeks free of charge whilst supported by our team of qualified IDVA’s in partnership with Immigration Support Services to apply for the DV concession

4.3.   We are having to utilise the Interim Unit as accommodation suitable for self-isolation and we expect to reach capacity


  1. Staffing

5.1.   We are unable to furlough staff as unlike other charities we can’t hit pause on our work

5.2.   We have an increasing demand on our services but operate on a low budget with the minimum amount of staff needed to maintain a safe service

5.3.   A percentage of our staff need to be shielded or are vulnerable and in isolation, although they are able to work remotely we need to operate our on-call service and have staff present on our refuge sites

5.4.   We do not have the financial resilience to carry increasing staff costs and need additional funding

5.5.   We are having to employ agency staff to respond to the increased demand on our services

5.6.   In the areas that we are not commissioned, we are unable to liaise with a provider to support us


  1. Getting the right message out there

6.1.   The government measures to restrict the spread of covid-19 give abusers a new tool to control and isolate

6.2.   Safer Places are spreading the message that abuse can happen to anyone, in all communities and does not just happen in the context of intimate and ex-intimate partners but in families as well

6.3.   This message needs to be clear – it is not just women and children that are being subjected to abuse and we cannot add to the barriers that men and survivors from isolated and marginalised communities face in accessing support

6.4 Safer Places have written blogs on the community response based on the bystander initiative


  1. Funding

7.1.   We are concerned funding will be disseminated to national helplines which direct survivors to their local support line – if we do not receive funding we will be unable to cope with increased demand

7.2.   If funding is distributed by local authorities and PCC’s, organisations such as ours who are not commissioned by the local authority may not be able to access these vital funds

7.3.   We expect to see a further increase in demand once the lockdown is released as opportunities to access support increase. We need to be fully resourced so we can support those who have been subjected to abuse at the earliest opportunity

7.4.   The future is uncertain for our events, fundraising activities, projects, training and the impact on our refuges. Not being able to run these in the same way is having a huge impact on our income. Without the funds that these streams generate we are at risk of not being able to deliver services


  1. Children

8.1.   As with adult survivors, children are also isolated in homes that are not safe and experiencing abuse

8.2.   There are 86 children with a range of health and additional needs living in Safer Places refuges at this time

8.3.   The ages of children are varied as below:


Under 3’s


KS 1 (5-7years)

KS 2 (7-11 years)

KS 3 (11-14)

KS 4 (14-16)

Over 18 in education

No. children









8.4.   The majority of children living in Safer Places refuges are no longer attending school or nursery

8.5.   Safer Places children’s services are now delivered on site and remotely and children are not being seen face-to-face by other professionals including children open to social care

8.6.   Safer Places launched a fundraising campaign immediately after lockdown was announced and have purchased tablets / laptops for children in refuge who did not have these

8.7.   Safer Places are not commissioned to provide support for children in refuge although we have grant funding for a therapeutic children’s service in Hertfordshire and have, since lockdown, introduced a children’s service in our Essex refuges

8.8.   Children living in our refuges are reporting an increase in their anxiety and those with pre-existing mental health conditions have reported that these are worsening


  1. Health and well-being

9.1.   Since lockdown measures were introduced Safer Places has increased the use of monitoring tools to measure our client’s health and well-being

9.2.   We are working to reduce the risk of increased self-harm and suicidal ideation from those who have anxiety and depression through increased support sessions with clients

9.3.   We have published and shared resources regarding coping techniques, in particular for those who already experience anxiety and depression

9.4.   We are working to mitigate the risk of increased use / dependency on drugs and alcohol through liaison with local services, ensuring each client has a personalised communication and action plan with their support workers


  1. J9 Initiative

10.1 We have developed an online training package as building upon the J9 initiative so that supermarkets, pharmacies, volunteers and community groups are able to identify the signs of domestic abuse and are confident to respond and refer into support services safely

10.2. We will be sharing the training package across the sector to ensure that we maximise our reach


April 2020