Staff perspectives on the impact of COVID 19 on the delivery of specialist domestic abuse services in the UK: A qualitative study

Helen Riddell, Katie Haighton*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Domestic abuse is a significant public health issue effecting 2.4 million adults in England and Wales each year. In March 2020 the World Health Organisation declared a global pandemic following the outbreak of COVID-19. As a result, the UK moved to a period of lockdown. There is growing evidence that highlights the unintended negative consequences of lockdown, particularly in households where abuse is present. The aim of this study was to explore the experiences of frontline specialist domestic abuse staff who continued to support victims during the period of lockdown to understand the impact of COVID-19 on service delivery. Ten, one to one, semi structured qualitative interviews were carried out with staff from a specialist domestic abuse service that operates in regions across the north-east of England. All participants had been involved in service delivery for a minimum of 12 months prior to March 2020 and had continued to deliver services throughout the UK initial lockdown period between March and July 2020. Each interview was transcribed verbatim, anonymised, then subjected to thematic analysis. Six themes were developed from the data covering: emergency support for victims; wider service efficiencies; victim safety; group work versus one-to-one support; criminal and family courts; and workforce development. While lockdown resulted in increased levels and severity of referrals, the switch to remote working brought a range of service efficiencies including time and money saved by negating the need to travel. Remote working also enhanced support offered to male victims and those with mental health issues but not those in rural locations with poor connectivity and those effected by the digital divide. Services should not underestimate the long-term benefits of peer support both to clients and staffs.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0000310
Number of pages19
JournalPLOS Global Public Health
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 5 May 2022


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