One of the consequences of the outbreak of Coronavirus has been an increase in domestic violence. Since the start of lockdown, Refuge has reported a 25% increase in the number of calls to the National Domestic Abuse helpline. In London, the Metropolitan Police have made over 4,000 domestic violence-related arrests since lockdown restrictions began.
Maureen Bailey, Founder and CEO of the Inner Strength Network CIC, tells us how a grant from Wimbledon Foundation’s contribution to LCF’s London Community Coronavirus Appeal has helped her project support some of the most vulnerable during the pandemic.
“Inner Strength Network CIC is about strengthening women girls and their families to overcome domestic violence abuse”, says Maureen. “To find their own value and worth again, to explore ways to build self-esteem and to learn to smile again”.
Inner Strength is an organisation that builds self-esteem in women, girls, and families in times of need. The organisation is based in Merton but works across boroughs and offers a range of support to people who have experienced domestic abuse and other issues. Such support includes 1-2-1 and group coaching sessions, self-esteem and safety courses for children. Inner Strength Network also coaches businesswomen.
Inner Strength CIC was awarded a grant of £8,500 in order to move many of its services online during lockdown. The funding has helped secure additional training for volunteers and enabled the group to purchase more tablets and laptops so that volunteers can support project participants remotely. The grant has also helped convert some of their accredited training programmes to online courses.
The extra resources have proven invaluable when supporting women for whom additional isolation represents a serious risk to health and overall wellbeing.
“Since lockdown, Inner Strength CIC has adjusted the way it works in a number of ways. We have received an increase in calls from vulnerable women seeking help; women held in a room with a man and not being allowed out", said Maureen.
“Some of our older clients have suffered bereavements due to Covid which means our volunteers need to be trained in different ways to support these clients as well”.
“Since lockdown has started, we have been able to provide weekly online support to women through our successful Inner Strength Survivor Recovery Programme which has already transformed lives. We have been able to incorporate art and expression sessions, allowing the women to develop mindfulness. We even negotiated with embassies to ensure that a heavily pregnant user of our services was able to get a flight back from Morocco. Just days after returning she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy”.
“I am proud of how far Inner Strength Network CIC have come this year despite Covid-19”, said Maureen. “We have strived through all the obstacles and refuse to let the virus cripple us. When one woman has been helped it is all worth doing.
I am so proud of the volunteers who have remained consistent throughout the whole time working, training, and supporting these women. I could not have done it without them. We are grateful for the funding which has made a huge difference to us”.
Schools can contact Maureen if they would like to book on to their online YASS programme from September onwards. Classes for women survivors are held on Mondays at 12noon on Zoom and classes for girls on transition and safety on Wednesdays at 4pm.