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Warning domestic abuse could thrive during self-isolation

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With people self-isolating across the county and spending more time at home confined behind closed doors, the potential for domestic abuse is likely to increase across Sussex says Katy Bourne Police & Crime Commissioner.

The message from the PCC is – coronavirus or not, abusers will face the consequences. 

Mrs Bourne commented:

“As individuals and families enter into periods of increasing isolation, we will, unfortunately, have to prepare for a rise in incidents of crimes such as domestic violence which are often exacerbated by close confinement.”

In her first formal Covid-19 update meeting, which will temporarily replace her regularly broadcasted Performance & Accountability meetings, Mrs Bourne was reassured by Deputy Chief Constable Jo Shiner that Sussex Police will still be there for people in their time of need. 

DCC Jo Shiner said:

“As the Coronavirus pandemic situation in the UK continues to evolve at a fast pace, the command structure and resources across Surrey Police and Sussex Police has evolved to increase the resilience around the policing response and to plan for the changing landscape. We are prepared and we are working closely with partners to limit the impact this may have on all our emergency services. We will still be there for people in their times of need.”

As PCC, Mrs Bourne allocates more than £1.5 million each year, from her victim’s budget, into local support charities and community safety projects across the county. On Friday, in her weekly newsletter to Sussex residents, she recognised the dangerous impact this crisis could have on already vulnerable people. 

Mrs Bourne said:

“In the current climate, victim support services across the country are making the difficult decision to close drop-ins, workshops and other 1:1 support. However essential this may be to ensure the safety of their staff and wider community, it is still distressing for those whose situation may escalate during the crisis and we need to prepare for a potential rise in incidents of crimes like domestic abuse and violence. 

“It’s now more important than ever that survivors don’t feel alone and that we are making sure they know there are still helplines that they can access for support and guidance. If you have been a victim of crime or are feeling particularly trapped in a toxic home environment, you can still reach out for help and support.”

In China, activists say domestic violence has increased threefold since mass isolation measures were introduced. Economic anxiety and a feeling of having nowhere to turn for help are factors in the rise. PCC Katy Bourne says help is still there for those at risk in Sussex with local charities already adapting to provide web chats and phone helplines. 

Jo Gough, CEO of local support charity, RISE, said: “We are grateful for the ongoing support provided by the police and crime commissioner, who recognises how critical it is we get the message out to the people of Brighton & Hove that they can still turn to us in these unprecedented times if they need help.

“We are expecting an uptake in demand for our essential services as people are in close proximity to each other and under additional amounts of stress, and many have no choice but to isolate with their perpetrator. We’re also appealing to all our funders and supporters to be aware of the additional pressures on our both adult and child survivors who may now struggle to access basic necessities now that food banks and schools have closed, and the pressure there is on organisations like RISE to help meet these needs.”

Mrs Bourne adds: “I have been in contact with the local charities that I fund to see what provisions they have put in place to ensure they can still offer support to those who need them. 

“All the details of local support services can be found on my SafeSpaceSussex online directory – www.safespacesussex.org.uk – I urge any victim of crime to still come forward and seek the help and guidance they need. There are always people who you can speak to.”

Government advice is subject to change but the latest information is available on the gov.uk website. Information on the practical and emotional support on offer in Sussex is available at www.safespacesussex.org.uk.

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Grant ensures two Crawley playgrounds can remain open

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Crawley Borough Council has announced that two of its adventure playgrounds will remain open for supervised play this year following a one-off grant from the government.

The government has given every local authority a Lower Tier Services Grant so the council has decided to use this to keep Cherry Lane and Millpond adventure playgrounds open as supervised, open access play sites until the end of October half-term 2021 (subject to Covid-19 restrictions).

Millpond and Cherry Lane will operate with an online registration and booking system to create a Covid-secure environment and ensure that the adventure playgrounds are being used by Crawley children.

However, this grant is for one year only so after October, Cherry Lane Adventure Playground will move to unsupervised play.

After October half-term, Millpond Adventure Playground in Bewbush will close permanently. Creasys Drive Adventure Playground in Broadfield is already closed and will not reopen. The council will be bringing forward new unsupervised play facilities in Broadfield and Bewbush in due course.

Waterlea Adventure Playground will be refurbished and then reopen as an unsupervised play site in 2022.

The council will also bring in its new model of outreach play, which will look to move play activities into neighbourhoods and increase participation. This model will also:

  • Increase the range of play opportunities for children away from more traditional building-based activities
  • Reach groups that may not usually access services
  • Make use of buildings across the town and work in partnership with other existing groups and organisations.

Councillor Peter Lamb, Leader of the Council, said:

“While the long-term impact of Covid-19 on council funding means adventure playgrounds will have to move to unsupervised play by 2022, I’m glad that this one-off funding means we can continue to provide supervised play until next winter, as we roll out our new outreach model.”

Councillor Duncan Crow, Leader of the Opposition, said:

“I welcome this additional government funding that has enabled us to extend supervised play at two adventure playgrounds for this year, while we also work to refurbish Waterlea for unsupervised play for next year.”

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