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What Happens When Someone Calls The National Domestic Abuse Helpline?



During the Spring Covid-19 Lockdown The Glass Blind Spot wrote to the Home Office highlighting a number of service provision practices currently supported by them that appear to clearly cause detriments to men arising from direct sex discrimination.


Our letter to them, their response and similar correspondence with the Northern Ireland Department for Justice are included below:



1. Letter To Home Office - Sent 20th May 2020


Dear Home Secretary,


Re: Domestic Abuse Services & The Covid 19 Lockdown

The UK Government has instructed us all to #StayAtHome while the Home Office have told victims of domestic abuse that #YouAreNotAlone. I am writing to ask you what steps the Home Office are taking to ensure that victims of domestic abuse are not being discriminated against on the basis of characteristics protected under the Equality Act 2010.

For thirty one consecutive days Psychologist Deborah Powney contacted @refuge and @homeoffice via twitter asking them to clarify whether the 24 Hour Domestic Violence Helpline supports male victims of domestic abuse or not?

The service provider (Refuge) eventually responded confirming that their service does not help men and that they are instead referred to an entirely different service run by an entirely different charity.

This is the Home Office funded helpline that various Government Ministers, including yourself, have been encouraging people to contact if experiencing abuse at home during the Government’s compulsory lockdown.

My understanding is that given the volume of calls to this service, a male caller will have to wait a significant period of time to get through to a helpline operator, only to be told to phone an entirely different service run by an entirely different charity.


Furthermore, my understanding is that:

· The Men’s Advice-Line service they are referred to is only available week days during normal working hours and is delivered by an organisation primarily established to work with perpetrators of domestic abuse.

· The Home Office also fund this service.

· Helpline operators for this service are trained with a tool-kit for work with male victims of domestic abuse to help them to identify perpetrators presenting as victims or service users in an unhappy relationship, but experiencing domestic abuse.

By comparison, female callers to the 24 hour service are immediately provided with support and signposting to a wide range of specialist services delivered by Refuge and by a wider network of predominately publicly funded domestic abuse sector services.

My understanding is that much of this sector will not provide services to male victims of abuse for ideological reasons, will not employ male workers and that much of this uniquely segregated public service infrastructure is supported by public money ring-fenced for female victims of abuse by the Governments Strategy for Ending Violence Against Women and Girls.

A stark example of how such practices can cause significant detriments to people experiencing domestic abuse can be evidenced by the quite incredible fact that there is apparently no refuge accommodation currently made available to male victims of abuse or their children in the entire greater London Area.

Various aspects of the practices I describe strike me to involve direct discrimination on grounds of sex which has been illegal in this country since the 1970s.

I appreciate that domestic abuse is a complex and emotive issue. I also fully acknowledge that the provision of some services in this area will qualify for exceptions to the Equality Act 2010, allowing their delivery on a single sex basis. That said, I struggle to think of any other area of publicly funded service provision where children and vulnerable adults can be so blatantly filtered into a drastically second class system solely on the grounds of a protected characteristic.

I would be grateful if you would answer the following questions:

1. What specific actions have the Home Office / UK Government taken to ensure that victims of domestic abuse receive the help they need during this unprecedented lockdown, including access to emergency accommodation?

2. In relation to both: a) these actions; and b) the Strategy for Ending Violence Against Women and Girls; have the Home Office / UK Government identified any adverse impacts relating to the following protected groups:

a. Men

b. Men with disabilities

c. Men with dependants

d. Men from black asian and minority ethnic backgrounds

e. Gay or bi-sexual men

f. Men of different ages

g. Men with differing partner status

h. Transgender men?

3. if any adverse impacts were identified what action has been taken to address them?

4. Do any of the Home Office’s current practices in this area directly discriminate against people on grounds of sex? If so how do you seek to justify this?

5. Has the Home Office identified any specific chill factors that may negatively impact on boys and men experiencing domestic violence and may discourage them from seeking help from the available services? If so how have they been addressed?

6. The Home Office currently encourage service providers working with male victims of abuse to use the Respect male victims toolkit. What toolkit do you recommend service providers working with female victims to use?

7. How has the lack of specialist refuge accommodation available to men and the sex segregated structure for publicly funded services on the approach to addressing victims needs in the current crisis?

8. Can you please send me or signpost me to any related equality impact assessments that the Home Office have conducted in compliance with their Public Sector Duty.

Thank you in advance for taking the time to answer these questions and if it is necessary to consider them as a freedom of information enquiry please do so.

Best regards,


2. Response from Home Office - Received 4th September 2020







3. Letter to the NI Dept of Justice - Sent 21st April 2020


Minister,

I write with a number of questions in relation to the availability and provision of services to male victims of domestic abuse in Northern Ireland.


These relate to general concerns about potential gaps in service and possible discrimination impacting on this marginalised group and more urgently I am seeking your assurance that all victims of domestic abuse will receive the help they need during this unprecedented lockdown.


My understanding is that the Executive have adopted a more gender inclusive approach to measures aimed at Stopping Domestic Abuse in Northern Ireland as compared to the extremely ‘gendered’ approach adopted in the UK Government’s Violence Against Women & Girls Strategy.


I commend the Executive for showing progressive leadership in addressing the needs of victims impacted by crime in this complex and emotive area.


My questions are as follow:

1. What specific actions have the Northern Ireland Executive agreed to ensure that victims of domestic abuse will receive the help they need during this unprecedented lockdown, including access to emergency accommodation?

2. My understanding is that the Police Service for Northern Ireland report that in 2018 a total of 32% of domestic abuse crimes involved a male victim and that they acknowledge that male victims are significantly less likely to seek help from public authorities. Is this correct?


3. My understanding is that the most recent data currently available (2017) indicates that only 7% of callers contacting the Executive’s National Domestic Violence & Sexual Abuse Helpline were male (rising from only 3% in 2016). Is this correct?


4. Has the Executive identified any specific chill factors that may negatively impact on boys and men experiencing domestic violence and may discourage them from seeking help from the available services? If so how have they been addressed?


5. When the Executive conducted an equality impact assessment of the Strategy to Stop Domestic Violence in Northern Ireland did they identify any adverse impacts relating to the following groups:

a. Men


b. Men with disabilities


c. Men with dependants


d. Men from minority ethnic backgrounds


e. Gay or bi-sexual men


f. Men of different ages


g. Men with differing partner status


h. Transgender men?

6. If any adverse impacts were identified what action has been taken and have they lessened or removed the adverse impacts identified?

7. My understanding that - on a UK national level only approximately 1% of specialist refuge accommodation is currently available to male victims and that 0% of specialist refuge accommodation in Northern Ireland is currently available to male victims. Is this correct?

8. How has the lack of specialist refuge accommodation available to men and the sex segregated structure for publicly funded services provided to Northern Ireland tax payers impacted on the Executive’s approach to addressing victims needs in the current crisis? If so how has this been overcome?


9. Has the Executive identified any other gaps in specialist support service provision impacting negatively on male victims?

10. My understanding is that male and female victims in England and Wales currently experience distinctly different outcomes when contacting the 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline

Specifically:

· Female victims: Will be provided with assistance in many different languages from a team of exclusively female advisors, 24-hours a day, 365 days a year. Advisors will empower them to understand their options, signpost them to specialist support services, including refuge, and listen to them for as long as they need.


· Male victims: May be signposted to a second tier service for male callers which is available office hours only, provided with assistance from a team of male and female advisors for a maximum of thirty minutes due to service demand. Callers to this service will also be assessed as potential perpetrators posing as victims and may be asked to consider the effects of their behaviour on their partner and challenged more directly.


Based on this. Can the Executive confirm that the support services that they provide to victims of domestic abuse in Northern Ireland, including helpline services, do not directly discriminate against service users on grounds of sex?


Thank you in advance for taking the time to answer these questions and if it is necessary to consider them as a freedom of information inquiry please do so.


My understanding is that some of these questions may require liaison with other Departments and, on this basis, I would ask you to prioritise a response that in the first instance addresses my most immediate concern as follows:


Are you in a position to give the people of Northern Ireland your personal assurance that all victims of domestic abuse will be provided with the help they need from statutory services during this unprecedented lockdown, regardless of sex, race, creed or any other protected characteristic?

Best regards,


4. Response from NI Dept of Justice - Received May 5th 2020







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