One in three women aged 16-59 will experience domestic abuse in her lifetime. That harrowing figure could be a family member, a colleague, a customer or a neighbour, and as the Chief Executive of The Calico Group, a White Ribbon ambassador and a father, shining a light on the importance of domestic abuse provisions across the country, advocating for support for all victims and survivors, and positively challenging negative comments and behaviours to promote change is a role I’m proud to have.
As we have seen in recent months, the pandemic and subsequent lockdown in March, has seen an alarming increase in domestic abuse cases across the country. An increase on already in demand services, with referrals continuing to rise. Yes, the statistics show an increase, but it is important to understand that sadly the demand has always outweighed the provisions available to support everyone.
We now have 10 SafeNet refuges’ across the North West, including Jane’s Place in Burnley; one of the only recovery refuges in the North and one dedicated male refuge. During lockdown, we opened a new domestic abuse refuge in Lancaster to enable us to support even more people. Alongside Jane’s Place, this is our second refuge which supports women with complex needs, and we will soon be sharing details on two new male facilities opening this year. With the support of our construction company Ring Stones, several vacant properties were also made available during the initial lockdown to provide additional safe refuge.
I’m proud of the work we have achieved across the Group to raise awareness of domestic abuse and the importance of speaking out, The Calico Group was the first Housing Association in the North West to have received the prestigious Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance (DAHA) accreditation for our effective work against domestic abuse. From bespoke staff training, confidential contact channels for customers, and offering our staff 10 days paid support leave, we are always finding new ways to help. This also includes offering practical support and housing advice, helping customers access refuge provisions and working closely with other local authorities, the Police and agencies.
We always want to be able to reach those that need our support in the safest ways. Our company vehicles now display the contact details for SafeNet Domestic Abuse and Support Services, which is available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The website address is also visible, and our confidential live chat is delivered by experienced support staff. Our vehicles are parked in neighbourhoods, driving down the streets, on your neighbour’s drive and stopped at traffic lights. Each one an opportunity to help someone.
It is usual to see women leading the conversations when it comes to domestic abuse, but at Calico we recognise the important role that men can play by speaking out too.
While I am asked to speak about domestic abuse, I know this is because the work the Group has carried out. We are incredibly lucky to receive the expertise of our domestic abuse charity SafeNet, who support us to empower all our staff to speak out, especially our colleagues in traditionally “male” areas such as repairs and construction where they must be ready to recognise and challenge coercive behaviours in others.
As men, we must continue to be open and have the important, and often difficult conversations if we are to break the cycle of domestic abuse.
Take a look at SafeNet’s downloadable five point toolkit which can be found here.