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BACK TO WORK: Many local organisations are training up Domestic Abuse Workplace Champions ahead of the nation’s return to work – thanks to a virtual roll-out of a scheme from PCC Kim McGuinness’s office

24th February 2021

BACK TO WORK: Many local organisations are training up Domestic Abuse Workplace Champions ahead of the nation’s return to work – thanks to a virtual roll-out of a scheme from PCC Kim McGuinness’s office

Hopes for lockdown easing and vaccine breakthroughs are leading bosses across the region to start making plans for when the time comes for staff to return to the office. 

Supporting staff with their physical and mental well-being has been high on the priority list for many businesses during lockdown, and based on the rise in reported cases of DA many are now increasing their focus on domestic abuse and are using a reinvigorated scheme run by the Office of the Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, to help.

During the pandemic, many frontline and specialist domestic abuse services experienced a rise in demand as stay at home orders trapped survivors in the house, with their abuser.

As of Friday 19th February, the scheme, which raises awareness of domestic abuse and guides people towards specialist services, has switched to digital delivery. So far, 140 people have signed up, and the course is now fully subscribed until the end of May, with further dates to be scheduled.

Previously the scheme has engaged with more than 300 businesses from throughout the North East, and trained up more than 1,500 champions.

To ensure the training reaches as many people as possible, the office has partnered with the Better Health at Work Award, coordinated by the Northern TUC, to offer the specialist training to the hundreds of employers who are committed to the health and wellbeing of their workforce, including making domestic abuse their business. Companies who have had representatives take part in the online training so far come from a range of sectors including childcare, engineering and across the public sector.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, said: “Really, what we have seen is a pandemic within a pandemic and we have to respond to this. It’s imperative that as many people as possible are clued up when it comes to supporting someone suffering domestic abuse.

“Domestic abuse is very much a hidden crime and lockdowns provide an even more conducive environment to perpetrate these crimes and less opportunity to escape them, so it’s more important than ever that we have this scheme up and running.

“Employers have a duty and responsibility to provide staff with a safe working environment and we know that for some staff the workplace can be the only safe haven from domestic abuse and violence. The impending return of people to work could, for some, be a really crucial moment to get out and get free of their abuser. People working from home can also be in a position to help; perhaps overhearing something being said in the background on a call or being a confidant.”

Beth Farhat, Northern TUC Regional Secretary said: “The rise of Domestic Abuse is a hugely worrying trend so reversing this has to be a priority and the reinvigoration and adaptation of this training and associated networks, communication and support channels is a really significant and practical way to help do that.  

“Workplace health and wellbeing has never been more important and despite the immense challenges of the last year we have seen a wealth of fantastic and proactive practise through our Better Health at Work Award employers. Their overwhelming response to, and participation in, this training is fantastic and indicative of the importance they place on safeguarding their workers’ health, safety and wellbeing. 

“I firmly hope that the training and overarching DA scheme will make a positive impact in organisations, for individuals and ultimately, on the number of victims – if it helps one person, then it has made all the difference.”