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Black Country domestic violence charity's doors still open despite coronavirus

By George Makin | Sandwell | News | Published: | Last Updated:

A Black Country charity which supports victims of domestic violence has said it is still open and offering refuge to desperate women – despite many of its volunteers having to self-isolate.

Sara Ward, chief executive of Black Country Women's Aid

Sara Ward, chief executive of Black Country Women’s Aid, has praised supporters who have ‘gone beyond the call of duty’ to help support people escaping abuse.

Pleading to those trapped in abusive relations, including those self-isolating because of coronavirus, to make contact her message is simple – ‘We are here, we are open and we will help.’

Saying during the present health emergency, refuges are taking additional measures to keep clients safe, Sara added: “Obviously we are asking people if they are displaying symptoms so we can asses their health condition.

“If they are displaying symptoms if would be irresponsible of us to put them with 15 families in a refuge but we can find them alternative accommodation.”

The charity works with local councils like Sandwell to offer safe accommodation to those who are forced to leave their homes.

Sara says that means: “We are lucky as we have group settings and also individual flats so we can put them in the most appropriate place.

“We are doing a little more screening so we can protect them and others but yes, of course, are doors are still open.”

Explaining self-imposed confinement heightens the risk of violence, she said victims shouldn’t be afraid to contact the service and in emergencies should ring the police who have assured her they will respond.

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And she added neighbours or family members who suspect someone is being abused either physically, emotionally or mentally should also speak up.

Black Country Women’s Aid covers Sandwell, Dudley and Walsall and is presently supporting 40 women and their 20 children.

Due to shortages it is asking for donations to continue to run the service.

Sara said: “We continue to need toiletries, any spare food people can afford to donate, our residents like everyone are short of toilet rolls and really, all the basic necessities you need to live but please no second hand goods.

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“And it is coming up to Easter, so if you can donate chocolates for the mums and children that would be great.”

Speaking of the kindness and courage of donors, she added: “On Mothering Sunday a woman, who is a florist, made and gave a bouquet to every one of our women.

“We recently had an elderly couple come to our office to donate Easter eggs for the children.

“I told them them that as they were over 70 they shouldn’t be putting themselves at risk, but they said ‘we can’t stop giving to you’ explaining as religious people ‘if God will take us, our time is right’.

“I think we are overwhelmed by people’s generosity at any time but the things people are doing now are beyond the call of duty.”

While Deputy Chief Constable Louisa Rolfe from West Midlands Police told Sky News that data from China and Italy suggested domestic abuse incidents could “increase by three-fold” over the coming weeks, and that some abusers have already tried to manipulate the crisis.

Speaking to Sky, she said: “We did have one or two cases last week where offenders told us ‘you can’t arrest me, I’ve got Covid-19’ but yes we can.

“We have appropriate custody facilities set up, so we can still arrest people, we can still deal with them and we can ensure that we can keep victims safe at this difficult time.”

Black Country Women’s Aid can be contacted during office hours on 0121 553 0090, a 24 hour helpline is available on 0121 552 6448 or online at www.blackcountrywomensaid.co.uk/contact.

In emergencies ring the police on 999.

People who wish to make donations should first ring 0121 553 0090 to arrange an appointment.

George Makin

By George Makin

Local Democracy Reporting Service

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