Airbnb should offer domestic violence victims free temporary accommodation during lockdown if charity beds are full, the Lib Dems have said.
The party has written to the business amid fears restrictions could see violence surge and leave services such as Refuge struggling for space.
It comes as the country was plunged into a third national lockdown on Monday, with Covid hospital admissions hitting their highest level yet.
In June, Airbnb Ireland teamed up with Safe Ireland and Women’s Aid to offer free emergency beds, with the help of its hotel partners.
Jane Brophy, the Lib Dems’ equalities spokesperson, has now said a similar scheme should begin in the UK.
It follows a massive 20% uptick in domestic violence reports to the police during the first lockdown.
Across England and Wales, police were forced to issue nearly 1,800 domestic violence protection notices and arrest over 64,000 suspects. Almost 50 suspected killings are said to have occurred during the first lockdown.
Refuge has also previously warned demand for beds is expected to grow.
Brophy said: “As well as implementing the full force of the law, we must provide refuge for people at risk of this horrific crime – they must know that they are a priority.
“Strict measures will be in place for a long time yet, and the reality of a third national lockdown is even more horrifying for some people.
“But if this Covid crisis has taught us anything, it’s the immense power of people coming together and supporting each other.
“We must do all we can to make sure that anyone at risk of domestic abuse is guaranteed a safe and consistent place to stay and the reality is that Airbnb is one of the few organisations that can offer that.”
Airbnb has underlined that during the pandemic, it has helped NHS staff and that it is “continuing to monitor” the scheme in Ireland.
A spokesperson for the company said: “Airbnb is committed to supporting communities around the world impacted by the ongoing pandemic and has recently launched Airbnb.org dedicated to facilitating temporary stays in times of crisis.“In the UK, the Airbnb community has provided more than 1,200 stays for NHS staff and we have supported domestic violence survivors in Ireland alongside Women’s Aid and Safe Ireland.
“We are continuing to monitor the impact of this ongoing project.”