Impact of Coronavirus restrictions on domestic abuse in Sunderland

Our victim support team have made over 800 domestic abuse related phone calls in Sunderland over the first five weeks of Coronavirus restriction.

This news comes as national domestic violence charity Refuge has announced a 49% increase in calls as well as the Men’s Advice Line who have announced a 16% increase to its helpline.

Our specialist team has made 994 forms of contact with tenants and residents since lockdown restrictions began on 23 March 2020, including providing advice and emotional support, making daily contact with known victims and dealing with current live cases of domestic abuse.

They're currently dealing with 69 cases of domestic abuse in the city, and are also conducting welfare checks and other support to our tenants who have contacted them for advice.

We are working with key partners in the city including Northumbria Police, Sunderland City Council and Wearside Women in Need (WWIN) to provide emotional and practical support and to ensure we can act efficiently to help keep our tenants safe.

Nigel Wilson, Chief Executive Officer at Gentoo Group said:

“For most of us our home is our sanctuary, but for some it’s a place of worry and danger and this has been amplified during lockdown, meaning we have sadly seen a big increase in the number of calls to our victim support team over the past five weeks.

“We are committed to acting quickly, effectively and sympathetically to anyone who is suffering from abuse. Our frontline colleagues and support teams are working tirelessly with our partners Wearside Women in Need and Northumbria Police to help support anyone who has been affected by abuse in the home.”

Detective Superintendent Deborah Alderson, of Northumbria Police’s Safeguarding Department, said:

“We know that home is not a safe place for those experiencing domestic abuse, and the much-needed respite often provided by work and school may no longer be available.

“If your home is not a safe environment then we urge you to seek support, to contact police and we will do everything we can to help. Gentoo are key partners in tackling this issue across the region. We work very closely together to identify and tackle domestic abuse and to help find safe accommodation for anyone needing it.

“I want to be clear – abuse is a choice made by the abuser. To those perpetrating abuse – we will take action against you and can remove you from your home to stop you committing further harm.”

Becky Rogerson, Director of Wearside Women in Need said:

“Wearside Women in Need provide a range of services and are working closely with Gentoo and other partners during this difficult time. We are worried that some people may feel trapped by the current restrictions and unable to call for help and we are relying more than ever on neighbours, friends and family members to be the eyes and ears in communities.

Our services are open and we ask anyone in the community concerned about abuse to Ask, Listen and Act – we can all make a difference”

We're also a member of the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance (DAHA), a partnership set up to improve the housing sector’s response to domestic abuse.

If you are a victim of abuse and need support, you can contact our victim support team or call Wearside Women in Need’s 24/7 hotline on 0800 066 5555. If you are in immediate danger, please call 999.