COVID-19 update: Planning our return to in-person support

As the UK finally starts to move out of the third, and hopefully last, lockdown we are starting to plan our return to in-person services and to office working.

As of September 2020, we started to provide some in-person advocacy and counselling appointments for survivors who didn’t have the technology to take up online support and for some children and young people. The majority of our services continue to be provided by telephone and online.

We are now planning to increase our in-person service provision whilst ensuring the safety of our staff and service users and continued adherence to infection control guidelines and government restrictions.

Our emotional support services – helpline, email support and live chat – have run as normal throughout the pandemic but now we are looking at enabling our volunteers, who wish to, to return to the office to provide these services. Again, whilst ensuring safety for staff, volunteers and service users.

Staff members still work remotely, with some office “bubble” working, due to limited office space making social distancing a challenge but we have been lucky enough to secure additional office space that will enable us to start a phased return to office working throughout 2021.

As anticipated, we have seen a significant increase in demand for all our services over the last month. Referrals to our services are the highest we’ve seen since 2017, at the time of the #MeToo Movement. 

We are seeing common impacts in what women tell us and tell our sister centres. Survivors have been re-traumatised due to isolation and restrictions; women and girls being trapped with their abusers in lockdown; vulnerable children have lost access to trusted adults with the closure of schools; there is a lack of access to primary care services and the disruption to the Criminal Justice System meaning even more delays for trials.

Our ability to respond to this increase is due in part to emergency funding we have received and to the incredible donations and fundraising from our wonderful supporters. Times are hard for everyone but despite that you have been there for us.

Our thanks for your support is both genuine and heartfelt. 

It has meant we have been able to respond to this pandemic and be here for survivors throughout. It has also enabled us to develop new methods of support – such as virtual counselling and an online live chat service (see below).

Consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic will have a significant impact on our work and the women and girls we support for a long time to come. It doesn’t stop with the end of lockdown or post vaccine.

The future is what most concerns us. As life starts to return to “normal” and more women and girls are able to access our services freely again we anticipate this increase in demand for our support to continue. This means funders, donors and fundraisers are more important to us than ever.

We want to reassure survivors of rape, child sexual abuse and all forms of sexual violence that we are still here, and you are not alone. Please contact us if you need support.

Thank you for your support and understanding, stay safe and we will continue to keep you updated.

Norah Al-Ani

We have a range of self-help resources, including our self-help guide, here for those who would like them.