COVID-19 has meant women’s aid charity EVA Women’s Aid has had to be agile, introducing new services and ways of working during the pandemic.
The charity, which offers support to women and children escaping domestic abuse and sexual violence in Redcar and Cleveland, has found new ways of doing things, re-prioritised work and moved staff to areas of most need.
Additional funding has meant that EVA could offer an emergency, out of hours telephone service at the height of the pandemic.
It has also meant they have been able to employ a new member of staff to help women and children living in their safe houses to move on to their own accommodation.
The PCC secured two rounds of exceptional Ministry of Justice (MOJ) funding for EVA to cover extra resources needed during the Coronavirus pandemic.
A £12,800 grant paid for additional sexual violence counselling, which meant the charity could add more hours to the service and see more clients from its waiting list.
The £25,700-worth of funding paid for additional cleaning costs, hygiene products and food for women and children living in Eva’s safe houses as well as supporting staff delivering essential support and supplies to the charity's safe houses. It also helped to purchase five new mobile phones to enable staff to work remotely.
Prior to MOJ funding, Eva were awarded £30,000 from NHS England, bringing the total to secured by the PCC for EVA to £68,500.
Throughout the pandemic, EVA’s 16-bedded emergency accommodation has been full. This has been due to an increase in referrals as well as clients not being able to move on because they were shielding.
Restrictions on movement at the height of the pandemic meant that women were unable to move on to their own accommodation.
Richinda Taylor, CEO, said: “We’ve had a bottleneck of women in our safe houses, who could not look at properties because it was not safe to do so.
“Our support workers, who help them to move on, could not visit them as regularly as usual. Interviews at housing offices could not take place.
“That meant women, who may have moved on in, for example, three months, were with us for six months. It slowed everything down.
“Our 16 beds were full for the whole time during lockdown. We had to either send women and children to alternative provision out of the area or turn them away.”
Staff were unable to carry out face-to-face meetings at the height of the pandemic. Instead they used telephone, video and social media contact with colleagues and clients to keep in touch. Staff also carried out doorstep meetings with women in need as they were unable to invite them into EVA’s premises or visit clients’ homes.
Things are slowly getting back to normal but the pandemic has highlighted the need for a local, out-of-hours service to take calls from women and children fleeing domestic abuse and sexual violence.
Richinda is now looking for additional cash to fund an out-of-hours telephone line to cover 5pm to midnight weekdays and 9am to midnight at weekends.
She said: “We’d really like to run the out-of-hours ‘phone line for longer. It was slow to pick up but in the final 9 weeks, we took 500 calls. There’s a real need for it. We’d like to run it until the end of January.”
Posted on Friday 7th August 2020