YORK’S first ‘wrap-round’ service for domestic abuse survivors - aimed at improving the advice and support they receive - is being launched by two major charities.

York Citizens Advice and IDAS (Independent Domestic Abuse Support) are teaming up to help survivors, many of whom have been locked away for the past two years during the pandemic.

Fiona McCulloch, CEO of York Citizens Advice, writing a column in The Press today, says IDAS offers non-judgmental, practical and emotional support to anyone affected by domestic abuse, sexual violence or sexual abuse, while York Citizens Advice offers non-judgemental help with finances, including benefit checks and support claiming benefits.

She said IDAS’ experienced workers listened and explained the options available, including providing support through the criminal and civil justice system.

“They can also help to arrange emergency accommodation for people fleeing domestic abuse,” she said.

“They keep people safe and support them to make their own decisions.

“We can help with any debt issues as shared debt can become an issue of financial control. We can also offer free legal advice for any aspect of family law.

“We can support people through housing problems to find resolution. Our immigration team can offer advice on forced marriages and issues of control via visa or passport issues.”

Fiona said that during the lockdowns, 91 per cent of survivors currently experiencing domestic abuse said that they had been negatively impacted in at least one way.

“Of those women living with their abuser during the lockdowns, 61 per cent said that the abuse had worsened, and 53 per cent of survivors with children said that their children had seen more abuse happening.

“38 per cent said that their abuser had increased abusive behaviour towards the children.”

She said a National Helpline had a 68 per cent increase in calls and a 700 per cent increase in visits to the website.

She said that people who abused and were abused are as likely to be lawyers, accountants and judges as milkmen, cleaners or unemployed, and discrepancies in the system meant that, in some ways, people who owned homes or have well paid jobs could find it even more difficult than those with less money to access safe places to live.

“If you are a woman with a well-paid husband, or who owns half of your home, you may not be able to access universal credit or housing benefits if you seek to leave the marital home,” she said.

“People with less access to money, meanwhile, also find it difficult to make the initial move or to break joint social or private tenancies because they do not have the money to do so.

“Surely the aim should be to make anyone who finds themselves in this situation feel that they can safely flee the abuse and live a secure and happy life again?”