28 April 2020: LGBTQ+ Safe Space continues to support those fleeing domestic abuse

Helena Doyle

This week, the Home Affairs Select Committee has published the Preparedness for Covid-19 (Coronavirus): domestic abuse and risks of harm within the home report, looking at the impacts of the lockdown and what needs to be done to ensure that those suffering from domestic abuse get the support they require.

One of the main areas of concern for the committee is the impact of domestic abuse on the LGBTQ+ community. Research claims that at least one in four LGB people and up to 80 per cent of transgender people are affected by domestic abuse.

Despite these figures, there are only a handful of LGBTQ+ specialist provisions around the country supporting those fleeing domestic abuse and one housing provider is continuing to provide vital services despite the challenges presented by coronavirus.

Stonewater received eight referrals in March to its Safe Space, which was opened last summer to help address the lack of specialist domestic abuse support services available for individuals who identify as LGBTQ+.

A resident who wishes to remain anonymous – and will be referred to as Risa – took refuge at the Safe Space in February just before the outbreak, following threats of life-threatening violence made by her family.

Since being housed at the Safe Space, the support services offered by Stonewater to Risa and other residents have had to be adapted to ensure all guidance published by the Government regarding social distancing and hygiene is adhered to.

Helena Doyle, Head of Customer Experience – Supported Housing at Stonewater, said: “Specialist coaches are usually available on site for our residents to speak to, but following measures imposed to contain the spread of Covid-19, we’ve had to find new ways to offer this support and keep everyone safe.

“By embracing the technology available to us, we’ve been able to offer residents virtual sessions with our coaches and also set up virtual group activities, enabling us to continue our much-needed work with these individuals.”

Before lockdown, Risa had voluntarily began working on a project with Stonewater to launch a much-needed local LGBTQ+ support group for over 18’s. To support her work on the project, Stonewater assisted Risa in accessing grant funding from the independent charity, the Longleigh Foundation, which Stonewater support financially, so she could own her very own laptop. Under the current circumstances, this purchase has been invaluable.

Risa said: “Although we’ve not been able to talk face-to-face for the past month with our support workers, having a laptop has enabled me to continue attending meetings with the support groups and progress with my coaching and counselling sessions – just virtually.”

A lot of the work carried out with individuals staying at the Safe Space involves helping people to make sense of what is going on and give them the space to make decisions that will help lead them to a safer and happier life, whereby they can live independently.

To learn more about Risa’s story and the Safe Space, click here.