East of England Co-op steps in to protect young people from abuse

The society is giving £45k to organisations offering refuge and support to young people affected by domestic abuse

East of England Co-op is donating £45,000 to support the creation of safe environments and provide mental health support for children and young people impacted by domestic abuse across Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.  

This is the second large donation from the society’s Community Cares Fund. The money will be distributed by the Suffolk Community Foundation, in partnership with Essex and Norfolk Community Foundations, to local refuges and organisations supporting young people impacted by domestic abuse and violence. 

Supporting young people was one of the four causes voted for by East of England Co-op members, alongside supporting older people, reducing food poverty and tackling food waste.

Society members can continue to donate to the Community Cares Fund, by donating some or all of their dividend.

Lockdown has made life even harder for those living with an abusive partner, family member or carer. A survey carried out by Women’s Aid in April 2020 confirmed that social distancing measures had already impacted those experiencing domestic abuse. Of those who responded: 

  • 67.4% said abuse had become worse since the crisis started
  • 76.1% said that they were having to spend more time with their abuser
  • There had also been an increase in post-separation abuse.

Women’s Aid’s The Domestic Abuse Report 2020: The Annual Audit, found that: 

  • Of women in refuge services 64.1% had children
  • Of women in community-based services 58.1% had children. 

Suffolk Community Foundation CEO Stephen Singleton said: “The positive results that are achieved by organisations addressing issues of abuse have never been needed more than they are today. As the numbers of those needing help increase, as we come out of lockdown, this vital funding could not have come at a better time to rebuild local lives.”

Andrea Pittock, head of grants at Suffolk Community Foundation

East of England Co-op has spoken with a number of refuges and organisations in Suffolk, Essex and Norfolk to understand the pressures they are currently facing and what support they need to continue to help children and young people impacted by domestic abuse. 

Organisations to receive support include the Lighthouse Women’s Aid. CEO Sally Winston said: “We support children of all ages in the refuge. It is important that we have facilities and equipment for children that are age appropriate, therefore we are truly grateful to the East of England Co-op as this award now enables us to develop a new toddlers’ playground. 

“We can accommodate up to 27 children at any one time in our refuge and a high percentage are toddlers under the age of 4. It is important that we ensure that young children settle as quickly as possible into the Refuge when they arrive with us and that they feel safe, as often they have come from traumatic circumstances. 

“We always make sure there is an age-appropriate toy box in their bedroom as play is so important for children. The Children’s Team talk with mum and their children about what their favourite toys are, and we make sure that these are available. This also gives us an idea of what to arrange for them for their birthday and Christmas if they are going to be with us then, as mums often have very little money to buy them presents. 

“Young children are included in various activities, for example, in our recent 2.6 Challenge we had a special toddler obstacle course which was thoroughly enjoyed by the young children currently in our refuge. 

“The toddler playground will be a great addition to our garden as it will mean that there is a safe area outside with age appropriate toys that the toddlers can enjoy playing with as part of free play which is so important for their healthy development.”

Niall O’Keeffe, joint CEO of East of England Co-op, said: “We are proud to be working with the Community Foundations across our region to deliver a new grants programme to support children impacted by domestic abuse. 

“I would like to thank our members who have generously donated all or part of their dividend to the Co-op Community Cares Fund. It is thanks to them that we are able to provide this support and make a positive impact on young lives in our communities.”

Those in need of support or guidance can visit www.womensaid.org.uk/information-support or call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247.