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All council facilities to close except Town Hall as Council leader announces ‘Crawley’s biggest response to a civil emergency in its history’

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Crawley Council Leader Peter Lamb has released a statement about how the council is planning to deliver measures to ensure vulnerable adults and residents required to self-isolate are able to do so safe in the knowledge that they will have food, medicine and sanitary goods.

The statement reads:

‘Crawley Borough Council is in the process of planning and delivering the biggest response to a civil emergency in the history of the New Town. In response to the Covid-19 outbreak, the council has been tasked by government with ensuring that vulnerable adults and other residents required to self-isolate are able to do so safe in the knowledge that they will be provided with all food, medicine and sanitary goods they need.

In order for this to be made possible, we are acquiring data held by a range of public sector organisations which identifies those individuals designated as being high risk and entering into a government-led supply chain to secure access to the goods necessary to make up parcels of food and other items. It’s an enormous logistical task and a huge amount of ground has been covered since we were allocated the task earlier in the week.

It has been fantastic to see how local community, charity and religious organisations have all stepped up to help support their fellow residents, and we are asking that these groups and individuals continue to play this vital role by signing-up to the council’s supply network. Where groups do not currently exist we will be looking for volunteers to help council workers to ensure that provision is in place and the Government will be beginning a nation-wide recruitment drive in the next few days.

Our network is set to go live next week and we will be providing more details closer to the time, but for now please do email me at peter.lamb@crawley.gov.uk if you would like to offer your support or if you fall into a category of needing support and I will ensure it makes it onto our databases. You can also access a range of advice in relation to Covid-19 by visiting the council’s homepage http://www.crawley.gov.uk, including signing up to council coronavirus updates.

The council itself is now on an emergency footing. We are in the process of closing all council facilities, with the exception of the Town Hall (although we would encourage people to visit only in the event of an emergency), and all council officers are being re-tasked to focus solely on essential services and crisis response.

I know that many people are suffering severe financial hardship as a result of this crisis and we are looking into what support can be offered locally. Could I encourage everyone effected to see if they are entitled to any government support by visiting https://www.entitledto.co.uk/help/Coronavirus_help. If you qualify, it is really important that you register for Universal Credit as soon as possible, as other forms of support can often only be accessed if you do register and it could take a long time before you receive the first payment.

I have written to our local MP to ask that he lobby government to introduce legal restrictions to prevent stockpiling in order to back up their efforts and to provide the military presence required to ensure that those restrictions are followed. In the meantime, we are looking to use the council’s own Civil Enforcement Officers to help maintain order.

Lastly, for the duration of this crisis I intend to make myself available for weekly question and answer sessions online, to ensure residents are kept informed informed and to ensure that local democracy continues throughout the crisis. Details will follow in due course.’

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Southern Rail joins train companies extending free train travel for survivors of domestic abuse

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Govia Thameslink Railway is supporting an extended nationwide initiative to help domestic abuse victims reach refuge accommodation by offering free train travel.

Govia Thameslink Railway’s Chief Operating Officer Steve White said:

“With the numbers of survivors of domestic abuse soaring during the pandemic, charities are expecting a surge in people trying to escape to a refuge when lockdown restrictions relax. Abusers frequently withhold money, which is why the free train travel we offer as an industry is so vitally important for the hundreds of victims making use of this scheme.”

Southern Rail and its parent company Govia Thameslink are joining other train companies in extending free train travel for survivors of domestic abuse until the end of March next year.

The move comes as figures show four survivors a day, on average, have been using the scheme and reports show that abuse has worsened during coronavirus restrictions.  

Charities are bracing themselves for a surge in people fleeing abusive relationships when restrictions are lifted. The extension will help hundreds more people to take the train, for free, to reach a safe refuge.  

Rail to refuge is a joint initiative between rail companies and Women’s Aid in which train operators cover the cost of train tickets for women, men and children travelling to refuge accommodation. Since April, train operators have provided free tickets to 836 people, including 210 children. In other words, four survivors have travelled to safety each day on average using the Rail to refuge scheme. 

First introduced by Southeastern in September 2019 and then GWR on its routes in March 2020, all train operators joined the Rail to refuge scheme on 9 April with the original plan to keep it in place for approximately 12 weeks or for the duration of lockdown.  

However, with refuges expecting a spike in demand after the current national restrictions are eased, the scheme is now being extended for the rest of the financial year until the end of March 2021. This means hundreds more survivors will access free travel. 

The number of survivors of domestic abuse asking for help has soared during the pandemic. Women’s Aid reported a 41% increase in users visiting its instant messaging Live Chat site within the first two weeks of lockdown in March and as a result extended its opening hours to 10am – 4pm daily. Respect, which runs the Men’s Advice Line, has increased service hours from 46 to 75 hours weekly to support male victims, after seeing a huge increase in demand since March. 

Refuges expect to see the increase in demand across their services continue in the coming months as domestic abuse is worsening and abusers are using the pandemic as a tool for abuse. A recent Women’s Aid survey shows 61% of survivors living with their abuser reported that abuse worsened from March – June 2020, under tighter coronavirus restrictions.  

Many survivors have experienced years of economic abuse, which restricts their practical ability to escape. Free travel can be a lifeline for people fleeing abuse who may not have access to cash. Two-thirds (63%) of people that booked a journey through Rail to refuge said they would not have travelled if the journey had not been paid for. 

Nicki Norman, acting Chief Executive of Women’s Aid said: 

Women face huge barriers in leaving an abuser. Notonly is it an extremely dangerous time, but many survivors have experienced years of economic abuse, which restricts their practical ability to escape. Women tell us that they simply cannot afford to leave because the perpetrator has controlled their money and they have none of their own. Many women and children escape to a refuge with nothing at all.  

Thanks to the rail industry removing the financial barriers of travel, hundreds of women have left abusive relationships and been able to access safety. It is welcome news that this important initiative is being extended, especially as the COVID 19 pandemic continues to severely impact survivors of domestic abuse.” 

Jacqueline Starr, Chief Operating Officer at the Rail Delivery Group, said: 

“We’re proud to have provided a vital lifeline for almost a thousand people escaping a desperate situation, but there are still too many women, men and children that need help. Our staff are working hard to support the survivors of domestic abuse with free train journeys while keeping the railway running for all the people, communities and local economies that rely on it.” 

Survivors of domestic abuse who would like to access the scheme, or need other support, can get in touch with Women’s Aid through their Live Chat service, open Monday – Friday, 10:00am – 4:00pm, Saturday and Sunday 10:00am – 12:00pm: https://chat.womensaid.org.uk 

If you would like to contribute to help survivors access the lifesaving support they need and help them reach refuge, please make a donation today: www.womensaid.org.uk/rail-to-refuge (link goes live on 23 November 2020, 00.01).

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