Domestic Abuse Alliance joins Retail Trust and Dunelm to urge retail industry to take action on domestic abuse
7 July 2021
Dunelm and the retail industry charity Retail Trust are calling on retail employers to join forces in tackling a shocking rise in domestic abuse.
Together they have partnered with the Domestic Abuse Alliance to launch the retail industry against domestic abuse (RIADA) campaign which will raise awareness of how the retail sector and other businesses can better support employees facing domestic abuse, as calls for help rapidly increase.
The police and domestic abuse helplines have reported soaring rates of calls throughout the pandemic* and the Retail Trust is now providing more counselling services for retail workers experiencing domestic abuse than ever before. Statistics from the World Health Organization show that a quarter of women and one in six men will be affected by domestic abuse in their lives.
And with Euro 2020 underway, research by Lancaster University during three World Cup tournaments found domestic cases reported to police grew by 38% on the days when England lost a football match, and 26% when the team won or drew.
Retailers can sign up for the campaign and download supporting resources including template policies and guidance for managers and employees by going to the Retail Trust’s website. It urges employers to take three key measures:
- Create a domestic abuse policy that will raise awareness among colleagues and make it easier for employees to speak out.
- Educate managers to recognise the signs of abuse and understand how to approach colleague and offer practical support.
- Join the Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse (EIDA) which provides free reports and resources to aid employers.
Retail workers can also access counselling, financial aid and referrals to the Domestic Abuse Alliance for specialist legal advice by contacting the Retail Trust’s wellbeing helpline.
Chris Brook-Carter, chief executive of the Retail Trust, says: “By working together as a collective voice, retail has an unrivalled ability to build hope, health and happiness across the sector and the communities we work in and real power to make a change, both in and outside of the workplace.
“That is why we are now urging businesses to join us, Dunelm and the Domestic Abuse Alliance as we launch the retail industry against domestic abuse campaign to raise awareness of domestic abuse and the actions employers can take to help colleagues when they most need it.
“From displaying helpline numbers in your staffroom and making sure everyone understands the signs of abuse to arranging an employee’s transfer to another shop branch, we in the industry can all do something to help tackle this terrible issue. And by signing up for this campaign, retailers can download a range of resources, including template domestic abuse policies and guides for managers and employees that outline the key signs of abuse and the most appropriate ways to offer help.”
Josie Dickinson, inclusion, diversity and wellbeing senior manager at Dunelm, says: “The home should be a place where you feel comfortable and safe, but we know this isn’t always the case. We’ve worked alongside the Retail Trust to create a manager’s guide and policy as a starting point, and are going to be training all our managers on domestic abuse awareness and signposting, too.
“As a member of RIADA, we feel a real sense of responsibility to educate and support our colleagues.”
Razi Hassan, director of communication and partnership at the Domestic Abuse Alliance, says: “Only five per cent of companies have specific domestic abuse policies or guidelines in place, but all will have some staff who are affected by it. When employers open up the conversation around domestic abuse, it can help break down barriers and encourage people to seek help. RIADA is about retailers coming together and making a joint commitment to protect victims of domestic abuse.
“Retailers can play a crucial role in helping to tackle domestic abuse, which is why we’ve also established a referral pathway with the Retail Trust, offering access to immediate legal support and protection.”
The campaign is also being backed by Domestic Abuse Alliance ambassador Lorraine Stanley, best known for her role as Karen Taylor in Eastenders. Karen’s eldest daughter Chantelle Atkins (Jessica Plummer) was killed by her abusive partner in a harrowing domestic abuse storyline in September 2020.
Lorraine says: “When I was involved in the storyline last year, we worked closely with real people who had been affected by domestic abuse to ensure we portrayed an accurate picture of what life can be like behind closed doors. We’re actors and we’re trained to switch off when filming stops. But for those experiencing abuse, there’s no switching off from it. They’re living with it 24/7, often with no means of escape.
“Businesses and employers can play a vital role in helping to tackle domestic abuse and protect their workforce, before it’s too late.”
CASE STUDIES –
“Having the support of my employers as I rebuilt my life meant the world to me”
Former bank clerk Fiona Bowman, 64, was only able to leave her violent marriage thanks to the actions of her employer, after her manager was called to the hospital when she was left badly injured.
Her bank’s HR team organised a transfer to another branch 400 miles away, arranged for her to see a solicitor to start divorce proceedings, and gave her the time off she needed to start rebuilding her life.
Fiona says: “Having the support of my employers as I rebuilt my life meant the world to me. At last, I knew I could get help if I just reached out and took it.
“When I was discharged from hospital, I went back to my husband, because he’d told me that if I ever left him, he’d find me and kill me – and I believed him. But when I returned to work, a woman from the HR team called Angela drove up from London, handed me her business card and said, ‘I know you don’t want to listen right now, but when you’re ready, and you want to leave, we can help you. It was still a few weeks before I found the courage to call Angela, but when I did, she was incredible.
“Whenever my husband was violent towards me, I learned to hide it from my employers and colleagues, and came up with a catalogue of excuses for my injuries. And sadly, I couldn’t turn to my family for help, which can be the case for a lot of women and men who are experiencing domestic abuse. That’s one of the reasons it’s so important for colleagues to understand the signs, and reach out a helping hand if they can. If you think there’s something wrong, saying, ‘I know you might be having a hard time at the moment, but I’m here if you need me. I can try and help you, or just listen,’ is all it takes.”
“It is almost impossible to think that you might be deserving of some help.”
Last year, the Retail Trust was able to support Libby Mata Harii and her children with financial aid to help them pay their bills and keep warm through a difficult winter after she left an abusive relationship.
Libby says: “Not only has it lifted the weight of a big financial burden and meant we can turn our heating on, it has also given me hope. And a feeling of knowing I deserve help, I deserve support and I deserve money. These are all things that years of abuse made me feel I was undeserving of. So, it’s not only helped us practically, it’s helped me heal psychologically as well.
“It is almost impossible, when suffering from the effects of abuse, to think that you might be deserving of some help. But I was desperate and the staff at the Retail Trust were so easy to communicate with and so kind. It was a simple process which was brilliant as my mind is not able to cope with huge amounts of forms or numbers. But I was so grateful to Sue, who made it all feel so easy, and even more importantly, she made me feel like I deserved it.”
Go to retailtrust.org.uk to sign up for the campaign.
Call 0808 801 0808 to access the Retail Trust’s wellbeing helpline.
Since last year, Central Bedfordshire Council has released a number of podcasts around the theme of domestic abuse. The aim of these podcasts is to increase awareness of domestic abuse – and help those experiencing it – by shining a spotlight on the different services that support victims and challenge the behaviours of those who perpetrate it. The council also is reaching professionals working on the frontline of domestic abuse through discussions about the impact of abuse, empowering victims’ voices, and providing knowledge for continued professional development.
So far, the podcast series has delved into topics such as ‘Coercive Control Within A Domestic Abuse Relationship’ and ‘Domestic Abuse: Stalking and Harassment’. Most recently, Shahid Shoeb from the Domestic Abuse Alliance contributed to their latest recording; ‘Domestic Abuse Protection Orders’.
In this episode Shahid explained what protection is available to victims of domestic abuse, such as an occupation order or prohibited steps order. He also stipulated the process to apply for a protective order and the costs that may be involved as well as the length of time an order will last. Shahid also provided practical advice on when a protection order is the correct course of action, and what a victim can do if they feel the order has been breached.
You can listen to the podcast here, and catch up on previous episodes in the series. If you, or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse and needs legal support, call the Domestic Abuse Alliance helpline on 0800 101 7110 or visit our website.
29 April 2021 marked an historic moment when the long-awaited Domestic Abuse Bill finally received Royal Assent and became enshrined in law. The new Act will provide further protections to those experiencing domestic abuse and strengthen measures to tackle perpetrators.
For the first time in law, domestic abuse has a legal definition and parameters including different types of abuse not just restricted to physical violence. The bill now includes coercive control, emotional and economic abuse.
The Act includes increased police powers to provide victims with immediate protection from their abusers, and better support for victims providing evidence in court, such as the option to appear via video link.
In consultation with the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, campaigners and charities, the government has added new measures to the bill to further strengthen the law, including creating a new offence of non- fatal strangulation, extending an offence to cover the threat to disclose intimate images, and clarifying the law to further clamp down on claims of “rough sex gone wrong” in cases involving death or serious injury.
The law will now also explicitly recognise children as victims if they see, hear or experience the effects of abuse.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said, “The Domestic Abuse Act is long overdue. This landmark act will transform the support we offer across society. This includes the support Government provides to victims to ensure they have the protection they rightly need, so that perpetrators of these abhorrent crimes are brought to justice.”
Domestic Abuse Commissioner Nicole Jacobs has published this video welcoming new measures within the Act but cautioned that “legislation won’t change things overnight”.
Razi Hassan, Director of Partnerships and Communications for the Domestic Abuse Alliance said: “We will continue to work with our partners and ambassadors to support further changes to the law that improve outcomes for victims of domestic abuse. Specifically, we would like to see legal aid made available to victims in all domestic abuse cases, removing any barriers to vital legal support and protection.”
Tackling domestic abuse is not just a moral imperative. Lost productivity and absence from the workplace linked to domestic abuse can mean significant economic losses. The most recent Home Office figures show that £1.3 billion was spent on dealing with domestic abuse in England and Wales in 2016/17.
Research conducted by KPMG for Vodafone in 2019 found that UK business loses £316m in economic output each year as result of absences related to domestic abuse. In addition, due to the impact on career progression, the potential loss of earnings per female victim of abuse is £5,800 each year.
Join Sharon Livermore, Director, Kameo Recruitment; Rosie Watson, Head of External Communications, Domestic Abuse (DA) Alliance; and Dawn Grant, Memberships, EIDA for an informative webinar to help you understand why domestic abuse is a workplace issue.
You will be given the knowledge to support victims, and know how to access an abundance of tools, and best contacts that will enable your business to create a safe space for victims and survivors.
Date: Tuesday 11th May 2021
Time: 9.30 – 10.45 Book your place: https://bit.ly/32bJdjV
A businesswoman from Cambridge, who was made to take five days of annual leave to attend the court case of a now imprisoned abusive partner, is spearheading a national awareness campaign to get businesses to recognise the growing issue of domestic abuse.
Businesses are increasingly engaging with their role in tackling domestic abuse but still face challenges in accessing the right tools, information, guidance and materials to support their workforce.
Business owner and survivor of abuse, Sharon Livermore, is launching ‘Sharon’s Policy’, to address the issue. Today, Sharon is an ambassador for the Employers Initiative on Domestic Abuse (EIDA) and the Domestic Abuse (DA) Alliance, two UK-based organisations working to raise awareness of and tackle domestic abuse and provide support to those who are experiencing it. Together with The HR Dept., which offers outsourced human resources support and advice to more than 6,000 SMEs in the UK and Ireland through a network of franchisees; EIDA, the DA Alliance and Sharon have created a landmark domestic abuse policy; ‘Sharon’s Policy’ and a detailed set of guidance notes informed by Sharon’s personal experience. The documentation for employers is available to download from EIDA’s website.
The policy calls for businesses to take up four key measures:
1) Recognise – implementation of a domestic abuse policy in the workplace to help employers spot the signs of abuse
2) Respond – training provision to ensure line managers are equipped to handle domestic abuse disclosures
3) Record – accurate recording of domestic abuse disclosures by the workforce
4) Refer – proactive signposting to specialist support services i.e. for legal, practical or emotional assistance
Earlier this year Business Minister Paul Scully wrote an open letter to employers on how they can support survivors of domestic abuse. The letter outlined several practical steps employers can take to build awareness of domestic abuse, ensuring they are noticing warning signs and helping workers access the support they need. Scully’s letter follows the publication of the government’s final report from its Review into Workplace Support for Victims of Domestic Abuse, which was launched in June 2020 to collect evidence on what more both the government and employers can do to try and tackle all forms of domestic abuse.
Sharon Livermore, Managing Director of Kameo Recruitment said: “When I was experiencing domestic abuse, my employer didn’t fully support me throughout the whole process – because they didn’t understand what help I needed or how to provide it. I urge all workplaces to seek the knowledge and tools they need to support anyone who needs help, and that’s what the launch of my policy is all about. It is ready made for businesses to adopt easily, to use to raise awareness among their staff, and ultimately, to help stop someone being hurt.”
Lorraine O’Brien, CEO, EIDA, added: “When employers demonstrate that they are aware of domestic abuse and make staff aware of the services that are available, this can help to reduce the wall of silence about domestic abuse that prevents many from seeking help.
“Only five per cent of employers have specific domestic abuse policies or guidelines in place, but all will have some staff who are affected by it. We hope that the launch of Sharon’s Policy will give a clear signal to employers that domestic abuse is all our business.”
Razi Hassan, Director of Partnerships and Communications, the DA Alliance said: “We know that, on average, high-risk victims live with domestic abuse for over two years* before getting effective help. Our collaboration with Sharon, EIDA and HR Dept is a powerful example of how people and organisations can partner to protect victims of domestic abuse. By engaging with employers and providing them with a practical toolkit which encourages safe disclosure and signposts to appropriate support, we can ensure that those experiencing domestic abuse receive the help they need to break the cycle of recurrent abuse.”
HR Dept’s founder and executive director Sue Tumelty leads a franchise network of experienced HR professionals across the UK and Ireland. Sue commented: “The HR and employment law advice we give has always been based on a pragmatic approach, telling businesses what they can do, not what they can’t. With huge swathes of the UK workforce working from home and statistics demonstrating that domestic abuse is on the rise, employers have a responsibility to ensure that the remote workspace is not only prosperous and productive, but also a safe place for their employees.
“Our mission as a campaigning organisation is to represent small businesses whose voices are often lost in the national debate regarding how we create workplaces fit for the future. As such, we’re delighted to have collaborated on the creation of ‘Sharon’s Policy’, which makes domestic abuse everyone’s business.”
International law firm Hogan Lovells is one of EIDA’s founding ‘beacon partners’, exploring innovative ways to provide legal advice to support EIDA; from advising on contracts to contributing to an updated Toolkit for Employers to help those affected by domestic abuse:
A spokesperson for Hogan Lovells said: “Sharon’s letter to employers, which speaks about her lived experience of domestic abuse, is a shocking and vivid reminder of the impact of domestic abuse.
“Employers have an important role to play in supporting their employees who experience domestic abuse. At Hogan Lovells, we first drafted our domestic abuse policy some years ago and we are currently refreshing it. I would really encourage all employers to put a policy in place and to ensure their people know about the support available.
“Having access to a template policy, such as “Sharon’s Policy”, will be incredibly useful to employers who want to create a robust support system for colleagues who find themselves experiencing domestic abuse.”
*Source: SafeLives (2015), Insights Idva National Dataset 2013-14. Bristol: SafeLives
Additional statistics on domestic abuse · Tackling domestic abuse is not just a moral imperative. The most recent Home Office figures show that £1.3 billion was spent on dealing with domestic abuse in England and Wales in 2016/17. This represents more than ten percent of the policing budget. The same research showed that lost economic output and reduced productivity resulting from domestic abuse cost the country £14 billion. This is in addition to the nearly £50 billion the Home Office estimated as the cost of physical and emotional harm.
· Lost productivity and absence from the workplace linked to domestic abuse can mean significant economic losses. Research conducted by KPMG for Vodafone in 2019 found that UK business loses £316m in economic output each year as result of absences related to domestic abuse. In addition, due to the impact on career progression, the potential loss of earnings per female victim of abuse is £5,800 each year.
· Police recorded crime data for the period March-June 2020 shows an increase in offences flagged as domestic abuse-related during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The police recorded 259,324 offences (excluding fraud) flagged as domestic abuse-related in the period March to June 2020. This represents a 7% increase from 242,413 in the same period in 2019 and an 18% increase from 218,968 in 2018.
· ONS data on homeworking patterns in the UK show that, in April 2020, 46.6% of people in employment did some work at home. Of those, 86.0% did so as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In November, 43% of respondents to a survey by charity Surviving Economic Abuse showed an abuser had interfered with someone’s ability to work or study from home during the pandemic. Examples included hiding phones or computers, removing Wi-Fi connections, and phoning an employer claiming a breach of lockdown rules, in an apparent effort to get them sacked.
Notes to Editors
For further information / interviews please contact:
Sharon Livermore, Kameo Recruitment. Tel: 07897 316514. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Charlotte Albrecht, the Employers Initiative on Domestic Abuse. Tel: 07729 217135.
Rosie Watson, the Domestic Abuse Alliance. Tel: 07740 300686. Email: email@example.com Rupert Janisch, the HR Dept. Tel: 07929 660 586. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Employers Initiative on Domestic Abuse
EIDA was founded by Elizabeth Filkin CBE and is led by CEO Lorraine O’Brien. EIDA is a fast-growing network of 600+ large and small employers from a wide variety of industry sectors, working collectively to take action on domestic abuse. Its mission is to support employers to raise awareness among all of their employees, support those facing domestic abuse, and provide access to services to help perpetrators to change their behaviour and stop. Visit: www.eida.org.uk
About the Domestic Abuse Alliance
The Domestic Abuse (DA) Alliance is a privately-funded company bringing together UK organisations working on the frontline of domestic abuse with the legal sector to provide instant legal assistance and protection for victims. The free to use WEPROTECT app enables an immediate referral to be made to the DA Alliance’s team of trained legal advisors who support domestic abuse victims to seek professional legal advice and secure protection measures, such as court orders and injunctions, to help them break the cycle of recurrent abuse. Visit: www.domestic-abuse.co.uk
About the HR Dept.
HR Dept. is an international network of expert human resources practitioners, offering advice and support to more than 6,000 small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) through a network of licensees in more than 100 territories in the UK, Ireland and Australia. Over recent years it has played an active role in lobbying for and influencing legislative change, including work around the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and also on legal employment statuses as workplaces adapt to technological and societal shifts. Visit: www.hrdept.co.uk
Hertfordshire Constabulary latest force to adopt WEPROTECT app and protect victims of Domestic Abuse
After a successful pilot phase in Watford, Three Rivers, St Albans & Dacorum, the Domestic Abuse (DA) Alliance’s free-to-use WEPROTECT app has been rolled out to all frontline police officers across Hertfordshire, to help tackle domestic abuse across the county.
Head of the Domestic Abuse Investigation and Safeguarding Unit (DAISU), Detective Chief Inspector Ben Wright, said he was hopeful about the results the WEPROTCT app will yield. ”We have already seen the success of the WEPROTECT app across half of the county, with hundreds of victims being safeguarded from further harm. We are pleased that officers across the rest of the county can now benefit from offering instant legal access to help victims of domestic abuse.
This is especially important at the moment with the latest COVID-19 restrictions in place, making many people within our community more vulnerable to domestic abuse. It is vitally important that those suffering from abuse get the right help and support alongside our police investigations.”
Hertfordshire is the second police force to roll out use WEPROTECT, following Cambridgeshire Police’s adoption of the app in 2020. In Hertfordshire, the Domestic Abuse Alliance are hoping to reach more victims with the Force’s message that “If home isn’t safe, we’re here to help.”
Razi Hassan, Director of Partnerships for the DA Alliance explained the need for immediate legal assistance. “Sadly, we know that COVID-19 has resulted in an escalation of domestic abuse incidents across the UK, with many survivors only able to seek help once lockdown restrictions ease. Now, more than ever, access to legal support can provide a lifeline to those who are desperately trying to escape their abuser.”
Once a referral is made by a Hertfordshire Police officer, the victim of domestic abuse will be assigned a dedicated DA Alliance advisor, who will talk the victim through their legal options. If the victim wishes to.
Can you help local women and children spending this Christmas in a refuge after fleeing domestic abuse?
For women leaving a domestic abuse situation, packing their children’s favourite comforters, toys, clothing and toiletries – let alone a Christmas gift – is often the last thing on their minds. Faced with homelessness, women and children will seek a safe space at a local refuge, often bringing only the clothes they are wearing with them. Hertfordshire-based legal support service, the Domestic Abuse Alliance, has set up an online gift list, containing many of the essential items that women and children escaping domestic abuse may find themselves without this Christmas.
Razi Hassan, Director of Partnerships at the Domestic Abuse Alliance said: “Police forces typically report a spike in domestic abuse incidents during the Christmas period as families tend to spend more time together. Police recorded crime data shows an increase in offences flagged as domestic abuse-related during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, when it has also been much harder for those experiencing abuse to seek help and leave their tormenters.
“We work with a number of local domestic abuse support services, providing legal assistance and protection for victims, so we hear first-hand the struggles families face when they do manage to escape, particularly at Christmas.
“The reality is that women and children will often arrive at a refuge with no personal belongings. This is because they may see a fleeting chance to leave their abusive situation, and they take it, without having a chance to pack anything. “That’s why we have set up an Amazon Wish List, meaning you can personally buy a present that will be delivered to a local women’s centre or refuge before December 25. You can choose from a long list of essential items and gifts for babies, women and children. We really hope that residents will join us and take this opportunity to #GiveaGift and spread a little cheer for those who need it most in Hertfordshire this Christmas.”
In these uncertain times when Domestic Abuse cases are rising during lockdown, it’s important to bring attention to those working hard to eradicate domestic abuse. In these difficult times and despite their own difficulties Sistah Space are doing just that.
Interviews with service users of Sistah Space revealed that BAME women feel they are not taken seriously by police when reporting domestic abuse. In addition since 2012 and the introduction of the ‘Hostile Environment’ policy, even women with British citizenship are concerned about being deported. This in turn could keep them trapped in the cycle of abuse. Sistah Space work out of Hackney to support victims of domestic abuse from the Caribbean community and those of African heritage. The “Roof Not A Home Report” by London Black Women’s Project, found that Since 2010 government austerity measures have impacted benefits and services in ways that unfairly influences the lives of Black and minoritised women. Sistah Space works to try and combat this through providing advocacy, advice and education.
Running on the goodwill of volunteers, the charity has just one Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (IDVA). Their crowdfunding page is raising money for a vehicle to ferry victims to safety and the means to maintain their IDVA’s services. This funding is not just essential for victims of domestic abuse. Sistah Space is a pillar of the Caribbean and African community in Hackney. They have helped to organise a celebration of an Ethiopean Christmas celebration called Genna which is not officially recognised in the UK, despite being celebrated privately by many of African heritage. Their hard work in the community has been recognised by being shortlisted for the 2020 Ethnicity Awards in the Charity Or Community Initiatives category.
Unfortunately, Sistah Space’s office space is under threat and their operation has had to be scaled back, potentially putting the lives of the women they help at risk. The community of Hackney has come out in force to support the charity to help finance a possible new office space when they are able. There is a Gofundme underway to raise money for the cause.
The loss of this important service would be a devastating loss to the community in London not just in Hackney. The representation of black women by women from the same communities as theirs is crucial. Especially when reporting their abuse to police where there can be a distrust there about being taken seriously. Services like these should be protected. If they aren’t the toll on black women could be enormous.