POLITICS
28/04/2020 13:42 BST | Updated 28/04/2020 15:20 BST

Exclusive: Ministers Ask Chancellor For £70m To Tackle Domestic Abuse

Bids for cash revealed after calls to helplines surge during lockdown, prompting fears victims are being trapped with abusers.

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Ministers have asked the chancellor for £70m to help domestic abuse victims during the coronavirus crisis, HuffPost UK can reveal.

The requests from three different Whitehall departments, which are being considered by the Treasury, would help fund refuges, community services and victims of child sexual abuse.

It comes after MPs pleaded for emergency funding amid “alarming” signs of a rise in domestic abuse during the lockdown.

Calls to domestic violence charity Refuge increased by 49% in the week leading up to April 15 compared to the average prior to the pandemic, sparking fears that victims were being trapped with their abusers in the lockdown.

HuffPost UK understands that the ministry for housing, communities and local government has asked for £35m for victims’ refuges, the ministry of justice £25m for community based services and the Home Office £10m for victims of child sexual abuse.

The Treasury is currently negotiating with departments on the allocation of cash, which will come from its £750m pot for charities struggling to survive despite playing a crucial role in the coronavirus battle.

The final amount allocated for departments could end up being lower than the bids.

Safeguarding minister Victoria Atkins earlier told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme: “We are in negotiations with the Treasury specifically for domestic abuse charities.

“Those negotiations are ongoing at the moment... those announcements will be made very, very shortly.

“Because we understand that domestic abuse charities, not just those providing refuge accommodation but also charities providing community-based therapies are absolutely essential.

“We are planning not just for the immediate-term but also for any possible increases in the future when lockdown begins to be eased.”

PA
Safeguarding minister Victoria Atkins

It comes as MPs prepare to debate the domestic abuse bill on Tuesday.

Downing Street is understood to have been keen to announce funding to coincide with the debate, but the Treasury has not yet set out how the charities cash will be allocated.

However, an announcement is expected by Wednesday.

If the full amount requested is paid out, it will almost meet Labour’s demand for a £75m plan to fund charities working to protect people suffering from domestic abuse.

The Commons home affairs committee on Monday called for “urgent and direct funding” for domestic abuse support services.

Home secretary Priti Patel was also asked to expand the safe spaces scheme to supermarkets and other retailers.

Currently the project offers help through pharmacies for victims who are unable to use the phone at home or talk to friends. 

Labour also wants to try and amend the domestic abuse bill to ensure any new cash is fast-tracked to the frontline before charities have to close their doors due to being oversubscribed or unable to pay their staff.

It also wants some of the cash to be directed to specialist services, such as those that help male victims and LGBTQ communities.

The Home Office today announced more than £3m for specialist services for children affected by domestic abuse.