TSB branches offer safe space for domestic abuse victims

By Simon Read
Business reporter, BBC News

Published
image copyrightLaura Dodsworth

Domestic abuse victims will be able to use "safe spaces" in nearly 300 TSB branches to get specialist support, the bank has said.

People will be able to get help as lockdown restrictions ease, TSB said.

The scheme has been trialled in branches in Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Shropshire.

The initiative, run by domestic abuse charity Hestia, is already in place in more than 5,300 pharmacies across the country.

The Safe Spaces scheme gives victims somewhere to phone a helpline, contact a support service or talk to a friend or family member. People can also speak to a trained staff member or contact the local police if necessary.

"Businesses have a unique role in breaking the silence around domestic abuse," said Sue Harper, head of domestic abuse prevention at Hestia.

"By providing a safe space in their banks, TSB will help us reach many more victims of domestic abuse, ensuring they get the specialist help and advice they need."

TSB workers have been given specialist training to increase their confidence in responding to disclosures of domestic abuse.

The national rollout of the scheme follows a six-month pilot.

"During lockdown victims of domestic abuse have had fewer opportunities to seek help safely," said Carol Anderson, director of TSB's branch network.

"For some, going into their local bank will be one of the few connections they have with the wider community."

Lockdown victims

The Safe Spaces scheme was launched by Hestia in the middle of lockdown last May after it realised victims needed a way to get to specialist support.

It was first launched in partnership with Boots and, with the addition of TSB, is now available in more than 5,600 locations across the UK.

Major brands such as Superdrug, Morrisons and Well pharmacies, as well as local independent pharmacists, are involved.

"The last year has been extremely difficult for everyone, but even more so for domestic abuse victims who have often been trapped in lockdown for months on end with perpetrators," said Domestic Abuse Commissioner, Nicole Jacobs.

"Getting help has been nigh on impossible for many but some of the survivors were offered a lifeline by the Safe Spaces scheme."

Last year, at the height of lockdown in June, calls and contacts to Refuge's National Domestic Abuse Helpline were nearly 80% higher than usual.

When lockdown measures started to tighten in November, Hestia said it saw a 30% increase in demand for its services.

It said the majority of the Safe Spaces set up at pharmacies across the country have been used by victims.

Life-changing

"Women or men who have been 'forced' to be indoors with an abusive partner or family member really need a safe haven where they can retreat to collect their thoughts and get support," said Sara (not her real name), a survivor of domestic abuse.

"Sometimes getting out of that bubble of abuse, that you are in at home, helps you to realise that help is out there.

"An abuser wouldn't really think that their victim could access help at their local bank or pharmacy so being able to contact a domestic violence helpline in this way will be life changing for many."

If you are experiencing domestic abuse

If you or someone you know need support, you can visit https://www.bright-sky.org.uk/ to find your nearest local support or download the Bright Sky app to your phone.

To find your nearest Safe Space locations go to https://uksaysnomore.org/safespaces/

Refuge's National Domestic Abuse Helpline is on 0808 2000 247 and is available 24 hours a day seven days a week for free, confidential specialist support.

Or you can visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk to fill in a webform and request a safe time to be contacted or to access live chat (live chat available 3pm-10pm Monday to Friday).

More on this story