Tunbridge Wells domestic abuse charity boosts helpline

READY TO TALK: Henu Cummins says DAVSS has been ‘absolutely inundated with referrals’

Tunbridge Wells domestic abuse charity boosts helpline

by Andy Tong | 15th March 2019

THE Tunbridge Wells charity Domestic Abuse Volunteer Support Services [DAVSS] has received almost £10,000 in the first round of funding from the Tampon Tax Community Fund.

The organisation received £9,508 to provide additional support for women victims of abuse by extending helpline services for clients who are unable to meet a volunteer advisor for support.

The Tampon Tax Community Fund allocates cash awards generated from the VAT levied on sanitary products to projects which improve the lives of disadvantaged women and girls.

DAVSS Chief Executive Henu Cummins says the money will allow them to offer a more personal service over the phone.

Previously, the charity has always tried to see clients on a face-to-face basis if they are presenting with high-risk indicators and are in danger of serious harm or death.

Henu Cummins said: “When they tell their story, they’re laying themselves bare and they might think: ‘I don’t want to show emotion, I don’t want to break down in tears’.

“We get 300 to 400 calls on the helpline every three months and now we can offer a tailored callback service.

“Previously, we could offer a small-scale service where our clients could call back if they wanted to. Now a named case worker is assigned to them, and we will call them back every week and act as a point of contact.”

'When I think that nothing can shock me, it will. There’s always something that’s more depraved, the levels of violence and coercion or control are increasingly devious'

DAVSS currently has 46 volunteer advisers and Henu has seen ‘an incredible period of growth’ since she took up the role in April last year. However, she has also seen an increase in women seeking help.

“We find ourselves absolutely inundated with referrals,” she said. “When I think that nothing can shock me, it will. There’s always something that’s more depraved, the levels of violence and coercion or control are increasingly devious.”

Having worked as Operations Manager at the homeless charity Porchlight, she says Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge are poor relations in terms of funding.

“West Kent doesn’t always get in the spotlight due to the affluence here,” she said. “I’ve worked across all 13 boroughs and West Kent is under-served. Funding tends to be allocated to the more deprived areas of the county.

“But we have a hugely effective and cost-efficient volunteer service that last year provided us with £266,000 worth of hours, according to Kent average earnings.

“There’s been an incredible growth period since I arrived, but we wouldn’t be able to survive without the help of our volunteers from the local community.”

The Kent Community Foundation has handed out a total of £86,000 to 11 projects.

Small charities and community groups received grants of £5,000 to £10,000 to help women get into or back to work, improve health and wellbeing and develop social networks.

Josephine McCartney, Chief Executive of the Kent Community Foundation, said: “We are delighted to have been able to support a number of small charities and community groups.

“They are all providing crucial local services for girls and women who are facing issues of domestic violence, homelessness, mental health and hardship.

“Each one of these projects will make a real difference to the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our community.”

But she warned: “Unfortunately, like Community Foundations across the country, we were oversubscribed for the Tampon Tax Community Fund.

“Nationally, only a quarter of the 1,500 applications for vital women and girls projects could be supported from this stream of funding, highlighting the growing need for funding in this area.”

If you would like to find out about funding opportunities, email: josephine@kentcf.org.uk

For information about volunteering to help DAVSS, email: office@davss.org.uk

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