Thames Water has become the first water company to provide an ‘Online Safe Spaces’ service to support victims of domestic abuse.
‘Online Safe Spaces’ is a virtual portal which provides a pop-up window on a company’s website to help abuse victims access support and advice, while leaving no internet history trace. It also provides quick exit options for the person seeking information.
During the first national lockdown the domestic abuse charity Refuge reported an increase in demand for its National Domestic Abuse Helpline services, while Women’s Aid reported lockdown restrictions and the fear of spreading the Covid-19 virus made it more difficult for women to seek support.
Thames Water hopes to encourage other water companies to introduce this software for the benefit of their customers and communities.
Lynne Graham, HR director at Thames Water, said: “In these difficult times we want to help customers who may be experiencing domestic abuse and are looking for ways to find support online. The ‘Online Safe Spaces’ service provides people with a discreet way to access advice and information such as national helplines and local support groups. I hope other water companies use this service so more victims of domestic abuse can get the support and help they need.”
The online portal was developed by the Royal Mail Group in collaboration with crisis support charity Hestia. The postal service is offering the software to any corporate organisation that would like to support the cause for free.
Thames Water is working with Royal Mail to help improve the technology behind ‘Online Safe Spaces’ so it is easier for other organisations to install.
Sally Ashford, chief HR officer at Royal Mail Group, said: “The ‘Online Safe Spaces’ portal has been developed to help victims of domestic abuse access vital online support if they need it. By placing the link on high traffic websites like Thames Water we hope that victims will be able to use the service discreetly if required, without placing themselves at further risk. We hope others in the water industry follow Thames Water and are able to support this initiative.”
Lyndsey Dearlove, head of domestic abuse prevention at Hestia, added: “Businesses have a unique role to play in breaking the silence around domestic abuse and ensuring victims can access the help and support they need. Lockdown restrictions due to Covid-19 have provided an opportunity for businesses to step up their response to domestic abuse through digital platforms. By adopting this Online Safe Spaces with Thames Water, we are delighted to provide this vital lifeline to more victims of domestic abuse.”
Hestia experienced a rise in calls to their refuge referral line during the first lockdown and a 50 per cent increase in the number of people downloading its free Bright Sky domestic abuse app.
Thames Water is a member of the Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse (EIDA), which works collaboratively with other organisations across the UK to take action on domestic abuse.