Innovation, Collaboration and Adaptation: The UK Response to Domestic Abuse under Covid-19.

Stanley, Nicky orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-7644-1625, Barter, Christine Anne orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-5682-5333, Farrelly, Nicola orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-9006-335X, Houghton, Claire, McCabe, Leah, Meinck, Franziska, Richardson Foster, Helen orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-1871-1578 and Shorrock, Sarah (2021) Innovation, Collaboration and Adaptation: The UK Response to Domestic Abuse under Covid-19. Project Report. UNSPECIFIED. (Unpublished)

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DAHLIA-19 (Domestic Abuse: Harnessing Learning Internationally under Covid- 19) is an international research study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The study is exploring domestic abuse policy and practice for survivors, children and perpetrators during the Covid-19 pandemic. The research is being undertaken in four countries: the UK, Australia, Ireland and South Africa. The UK team is led by Professor Nicky Stanley and is based at the University of Central Lancashire and the University of Edinburgh.
For mapping reports from Australia, Ireland and South Africa, see the DAHLIA- 19 website.

Executive Summary i
Chapter 1. Covid-19 and its Impact in the UK 1
Chapter 2. Research Aims and Objectives 9
Chapter 3. Public Health and other Public Messages Addressing Domestic Abuse 12
Chapter 4. Collaborative Working and Planning under Covid-19 17
Chapter 5. Domestic Abuse Policy and Funding Strategies under Covid-19 20
Chapter 6. Policy and Funding Strategies in Other Sectors 24
Chapter 7. Delivering Fast and Accessible Services 30
Chapter 8. Delivering Domestic Abuse Services to Specific Groups and Populations 36
Chapter 9. Strengthening Domestic Abuse Service Capacity under Covid-19 47
Chapter 10. Conclusions 50
References 53
Appendix 1: DAHLIA-19 Partner Organisations 62
Appendix 2: Data Appraisal Tool. 63

Executive Summary
This report outlines the key findings of a UK mapping study carried out between November 2020 and November 2021 on policies and practices in relation to domestic abuse (DA) for all family members under Covid-19. Undertaken across the four nations of the UK, the study made use of expert interviews, stakeholder meetings, a call for evidence, and a survey of regional DA co-ordinators. The study findings highlight the regional variance in service provision and innovation and the speed with which services and government have responded to some of the demands created by the pandemic.
Online collaboration and service provision

Throughout the study, participants highlighted the pivot to online service delivery and planning as one of the main innovations under Covid-19 with implications for both policy making and practice. This shift made meetings more accessible and inclusive bringing a more diverse range of DA organisations to the table. Online communication and collaboration assisted DA organisations to share and comprehend different approaches and practices. However, while policy and planning were experienced as more inclusive by DA organisations, there was little consultation with survivors and virtually no consultation with children and young people or with some relevant services outside the DA sector such as support and advice services for BAME women or education. Initially, online meetings were reported to have stimulated the emergence of new collaborations for joint service delivery, but enthusiasm for online meetings dwindled as the pandemic progressed as informal rapport building was experienced as more difficult online.
Strategic level meetings, however, with Government or the DA Commissioner, were welcomed by all as they were thought to help Government develop a more holistic understanding of challenges faced by the sector and allowed for speedier decision-making. Moreover, smaller organisations or those in more remote areas were able to participate, whereas pre-pandemic they might have lacked the budget to travel to these meetings.
Remote service delivery seemed to increase accessibility for some service user groups, e.g., people in remote areas and some younger survivors, and was implemented swiftly through DA organisations which acquired the necessary IT skills speedily. However, remote service delivery also had drawbacks in that older survivors and people with complex needs struggled to access online services and children did not always engage well with them. Internet poverty was a barrier for some with difficulties in accessing both the equipment and Wi-Fi and in meeting mobile phone costs.
There were also concerns around privacy with remote appointments when restrictions were in place and all family members, including perpetrators, had to stay at home resulting in the disengagement of some vulnerable survivors.
Helplines also responded swiftly to increases in call volume by extending the availability of services and providing new online forms of contact, e.g. webchats. Innovative approaches also included the use of audio leaflets allowing survivors to listen to available services via online devices.

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