Our Community Cares For Young People Impacted By Domestic Abuse

PICTURE: Andrea Pittock, Head of Grants at Suffolk Community Foundation

The East of England Co-op is donating £45,000 to support the creation of safe environments and provide mental health support for children and young people impacted by domestic abuse in our region.

  • This is the second large scale donation to be made from the East of England Co-op Community Cares Fund, created to support local good causes adapt, enhance and continue to provide much needed services in new and innovative ways.
  • Funds will be distributed by the Suffolk Community Foundation, in partnership with Essex and Norfolk Community Foundations, to local refuges and organisations supporting young people impacted by domestic abuse and violence.
  • Supporting young people was one of the four causes voted for by East of England Co-op members, alongside supporting older people, reducing food poverty and tackling food waste.
  • East of England Co-op members can continue to donate to the Community Cares Fund, by donating some or all of their dividend. Details can be found at: www.eastofengland.coop/communitycares.
  • Domestic abuse has sadly always been an issue, however the need to remain at home during lockdown has made, and continues to make, life even harder for those living with an abusive partner, family member or carer.

A survey carried out by Women’s Aid in April 2020, confirmed that social distancing measures had already impacted those experiencing domestic abuse. Of those who responded:

  • 67.4% said abuse had gotten worse since the Coronavirus crisis started
  • 76.1% said that they were having to spend more time with their abuse.
  • There had also been an increase in post-separation abuse
  • Many of those who seek support from organisations like Women’s Aid have children, who can often feel angry, guilty, insecure, alone, frightened, powerless or confused as a result of their experiences of domestic abuse.

Women’s Aid’s The Domestic Abuse Report 2020 – The Annual Audit, found that:

  • Of women in refuge services 64.1% had children
  • Of women in community-based services 58.1% had children

Suffolk Community Foundation CEO Stephen Singleton said: “The positive results that are achieved by organisation’s addressing issues of abuse have never been needed more than they are today. As the numbers of those needing help increase, as we come out of lockdown, this vital funding could not have come at a better time to re-build local lives.”

The East of England Co-op have spoken with a number of refuges and organisations in Suffolk, Essex and Norfolk to understand the pressures they are currently facing and what support they need to continue to help children and young people impacted by domestic abuse.

Lighthouse Women’s Aid, Bury Women’s Aid Centre and Orwell Housing’s Liberty Project are three of the refuges in the region to receive a £4,600 donation from the East of England Co-op Community Cares Fund. The remaining funds will be distributed between other local organisations and support services.

Lighthouse Women’s Aid – Sally Winston, Chief Executive of Lighthouse Women’s Aid said “At Lighthouse Women’s Aid we support children of all ages in the refuge. It is important that we have facilities and equipment for children that are age appropriate, therefore we are truly grateful to the East of England Co-op Community Cares Fund as this award now enables us to develop a new toddlers’ playground.

We can accommodate up to 27 children at any one time in our refuge and a high percentage are toddlers under the age of four. It is important that we ensure that young children settle as quickly as possible into the Refuge when they arrive with us and that they feel safe, as often they have come from traumatic circumstances.

We always make sure there is an age appropriate toy box in their bedroom as play is so important for children. The Children’s Team talk with mum and their children about what their favourite toys are, and we make sure that these are available. This also gives us an idea of what to arrange for them for their birthday and Christmas if they are going to be with us then, as mums often have very little money to buy them presents.

Young children are included in various activities, for example, in our recent 2.6 Challenge we had a special toddler obstacle course which was thoroughly enjoyed by the young children currently in our refuge.

The toddler playground will be a great addition to our garden as it will mean that there is a safe area outside with age appropriate toys that the toddlers can enjoy playing with as part of free play which is so important for their healthy development.”

Bury St Edmund’s Women’s Aid Centre – Tina Hickey, Principal Operations Manager said “We have a dedicated team working with the women and children in the refuge and in the community. During covid-19 we have adapted the way we deliver our work to families while sticking to the government guidelines to keep everyone safe.

Our child support workers have been very creative and have provided activities and learning opportunities for the children while they have not been in school. The garden has been set up with materials to plant and grow vegetables, each child has been provided with activity packs bespoke to their age and needs, and telephone support has been provided to help with schoolwork.

One of our families wrote in a card with an image of a boat on the front “at a time when we were experiencing a shipwreck you guys were like an anchor keeping us calm”. It is the generosity and support from the Co-op that enables us to continue our work with women, young people and children and be that ‘anchor’ for others.”

Niall O’Keeffe, Joint Chief Executive for the East of England Co-op, said: “We are proud to be working with the Community Foundations across our region to deliver a new grants programme to support children impacted by domestic abuse. I would like to thank our members who have generously donated all or part of their dividend to the Co-op Community Cares Fund. It is thanks to them that we are able to provide this support and make a positive impact on young lives in our communities.”

Those in need of support or guidance can visit www.womensaid.org.uk/information-support or call the National Domestic Abuse.

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