Workers in the violence against women and gender based violence sector are not socially seen as a ‘vital’ service in the same way as emergency services, and so in times like these, we are forced to come up with plans ourselves. We are forced to make off the cuff and ad-hoc decisions about how to support and safeguard people surviving abuse in their homes, who may now be forced into more intensely confined spaces for longer periods with their abusers, along with children/pets who are also at risk.
If VAWG/GBV workers are considered vital workers in the case of a lockdown, there must be precautions put in place to keep workers safe, especially if we are going to continue supporting abuse survivors in this time of heightened risks. Abuse survivors are likely to be at higher risk of further harm in cases of isolation or lockdown.
There must be planning around how support can work in a pandemic while also ensuring staff have access to supervisory spaces. For example, it cannot be that staff work from home on the phone with people whose lives are at risk and they have no access to debrief space or clinical supervision.
There needs to be planning now of how refuges can still be staffed and operating during the pandemic and how to manage incoming referrals.
Linked into ongoing non-pandemic issue of misuse/overuse of self-employed contracts: So far the response from bosses has been that self-employed staff won’t be paid or compensated at all if they cannot work due to COVID-19 related issues. This is wholly unacceptable and a dangerous precedent.
We are mostly composed of not-for-profit organisations, our funding remains the same whether service is delivered or not (funders have confirmed this) so motivation for not paying self-employed staff is about hoarding extra money for the organisation at the expense of quality of life for staff during a global pandemic.
There is also no consistency in the sector on all fronts, some organisations have cancelled training to stop the spread while others are still going ahead.
Measures we would like taken across the VAWG/GBV sector to protect workers’ health and enable safe continuity of service through the COVID-19 crisis: