"If Hopscotch wasn't around I don't know where I would have gone"

Hopscotch Asian Women’s Centre provides a range of services to women from BAME backgrounds who live in Camden and neighbouring boroughs. The support that the Centre offers includes help with domestic violence, welfare support and employability skills services to women of all ages. The Centre received funding in April through the London Community Response from funds from the National Emergencies Trust to adapt their service provision to meet the urgent increase in need. We spoke with Benaifer Bhandari, the CEO of the Centre, to hear more about their work and how they have adapted.

"Sadly, through our work, we have witnessed first-hand the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on BAME individuals - from higher mortality rates to increased likelihood of employment loss," said Benaifer Bhandari, CEO of Hopscotch Asian Women’s Centre.

The organisation has already seen a doubling in the number of calls from women concerning domestic violence, many of whom are also in need of extra support with finance, welfare and/or housing issues. ‘High risk’ cases have tripled.

In light of the increased need for support within the community, and as a result of the lockdown, Hopscotch received funding to increase its staffing and move its services online, allowing them to continue to support people in the community remotely.

But despite the swift action of the Centre, it's not been easy for Benaifer and her team.

"Working with communities which are hidden is tough enough and to create motivation and keep engaged with communities that are filled with fear is hard," said Benaifer. "Add to that a level of misinformation from within the community and it can make our work really difficult."

"All of this amongst an environment where we know needs are rising at quite a rate. It makes us wonder what people in our community are going through and how many we are just not reaching."

However, for those who Hopscotch Asian Women’s Centre has helped so far, the support has been invaluable. One domestic abuse survivor who escape during lockdown and sought help from the Centre said:

If Hopscotch wasn't around I don't know where I would have gone for help and what I would have done, I'm so grateful.

“With the almost daily support of our Advocate and our Welfare Advisor too, she is slowly getting back up onto her feet and is even considering joining our employability programme," said Benaifer.

Congratulations to Benaifer and her team for what they have delivered so far.