Coronavirus fund will help victims of domestic violence, rough sleepers and vulnerable children
The government has announced a £76m package to support the most vulnerable in society, including victims of domestic violence and modern slavery, rough sleepers and vulnerable children.
Acknowledging that the coronavirus lockdown is making it harder for people in often dangerous situations to seek help, communities secretary Robert Jenrick said victims of domestic abuse would get more support with housing.
Victims will get priority access to local housing, with funds given to charities to support those needing help. “For some in our society these measures involve sacrifices that none of us would wish anyone to bear,” said Jenrick. “For victims of domestic abuse it means being trapped in a nightmare.”
Addressing victims of domestic violence directly, Jenrick said: “You are not alone, you do not have to stay at home, you can and should leave the home if you’re in danger. … Our outstanding police will be there for you, they will help you.”
The government’s domestic abuse bill, which had its second reading in parliament last week, would create “the first ever legal definition of domestic abuse” and ensure victims of domestic violence were given priority status for housing.
Responding to the announcement, Jon Sparkes, chief executive of the charity Crisis, said: “We strongly commend the government for making this lifesaving change to the domestic abuse bill, which will ensure survivors have somewhere safe to call home.”
Addressing concerns about continuing homelessness, Jenrick announced that Louise Casey, who previously led a review into community cohesion in Britain, will lead a new taskforce to tackle the issue, adding that more than 5,400 rough sleepers – 90% of those “known to councils” – have been offered safe accommodation in the past month.
The government would also give extra support to the 1.8 million vulnerable people currently told to isolate entirely during the coronavirus lockdown, with food parcels set to be delivered to those without the support of friends and family, he said.
Speaking at the news conference, the deputy chief medical officer for England, Jenny Harries, said the NHS was coping well with coronavirus and had critical care capacity. But while the so-called R-rate – the disease’s rate of transmission – was down and there had been “a sustained and consistent” fall in deaths from coronavirus, many challenges remained before the lockdown could be eased.
Updating the daily figures around the disease, Jenrick revealed that the UK saw a further 621 deaths in hospitals, care homes and the wider community in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 28,131.
Over the last week, the number of Covid-19 patients in UK hospitals has fallen from 16,810 to 14,605, a decrease of 13%. A total of 1,129,907 coronavirus tests have been carried out in the UK, including 105,937 on Friday, Jenrick added.
The government has promised further details about easing the lockdown next week, but pressed for more information about what sort of test-and-trace-programme would be needed. Jenrick said it would entail a “multi-faceted strategy with the [NHS] app at its heart”. The app aims to reduce transmission of the virus by alerting people who may have been exposed to it, so they can take action to protect themselves.
Harries added tracing the spread of the virus will only be possible when there are fewer infected people in the UK, and it will be carried out in hospitals and social care environments first. A surveillance programme which looks at the spread of the virus within families is also being developed by the Office for National Statistics.
“This whole combination of digital apps, contact tracing, and understanding where pockets of transmission are that can be contained, potentially, as we go forward to get us out of the social distancing measures, is really important,” said Harries.