A SERVICE that supports victims of domestic abuse has secured £130,000 from St Helens Council amid concerns of a surge in referrals once lockdown restrictions are eased.

Safe2Speak, which is delivered by the housing association, Torus, offers free support to anyone experiencing domestic abuse of any kind, such as sexual, physical, emotional or financial.

A decision has now been taken by St Helens Council to approve £130,000 to continue to fund four additional posts within the service.

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The council funded four additional posts to the core service last year and this funding would enable this to continue for another 12 months.

The council says demand for the Safe2Speak service, which provides both the independent domestic violence advisors (IDVA) and outreach services for victims of domestic abuse, requires ongoing additional capacity to ensure service delivery is at a “safe and effective level”.

Details of the decision on the council’s website says the authority anticipates an increase in referrals during the next phase of the government’s regulations, when the lockdown restrictions are eased.

Since the start of the lockdown, domestic abuse charities, campaigners and MPs have warned there would be an increase in domestic abuse.

Last month, a report by MPs revealed that calls to the National Domestic Abuse helpline, run by Refuge, increased by almost 50 per cent just three weeks into the lockdown.

Male victims of abuse have also been calling in greater numbers, with the Men’s Advice Line seeing calls rise by 35 per cent in the first week of lockdown.

Researchers at the Counting Dead Women Project also told MPs that 14 women and two children had been killed in the first three weeks of lockdown – the largest number of killings in a three-week period for 11 years and more than double the average rate.

If there referrals in St Helens do increase as the lockdown restrictions are eased, St Helens Council says the additional funding will enable Safe2Speak to at least maintain staffing at its current levels, to ensure the service can “manage demand and offer a response that is timely and effective”.

The council adds that provision of an effective, responsive IDVA service is essential in the delivery of its new domestic abuse strategy, which was approved in March.

Labour’s Jeanie Bell, cabinet member for community safety, said staff at Safe2Speak will be “key partners” in delivering the strategy, which aims to break a culture of silence in St Helens.

St Helens Star: Cllr Jeanie Bell, St Helens Council's cabinet member for community safety Cllr Jeanie Bell, St Helens Council's cabinet member for community safety

Cllr Bell said: “The decision to renew the funding for Safe2Speak service was an easy one.

“The team have worked incredibly hard across the borough providing much needed support, advice and practical help to those who have needed it in very difficult times.

“The staff at Safe2Speak will be key partners in delivering the domestic abuse strategy, approved earlier this year, and I look forward to working with them going forward.

“Together we will make a real difference.”