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Domestic violence and abuse: providing support during COVID-19 isolation

22 Apr 2020Vodafone Foundation

For over 10 years, Vodafone Foundation has used technology to connect over one million people affected by domestic violence and abuse to advice, support and information.

As an employer, Vodafone is equally committed to tackling the issue. In an HR policy introduced last year, Vodafone became the first company to offer up to 10 days of paid leave to employees affected by domestic abuse on a global scale, providing support and specialist counselling.

With reports of domestic violence rising as a result of COVID-19 lockdown measures, Vodafone remains fully committed to supporting individuals and employees affected.


Vodafone Foundation’s Apps Against Abuse

In the UK, Vodafone Foundation’s Bright Sky app (developed with the Thames Valley Partnership and Hestia) has seen a 47% weekly increase in downloads. The free app, which has been credited by UN Women [DNVG1] as a key tool for supporting survivors during this period of limited mobility and increased demand, connects people who are at risk or concerned about someone they know with advice, information and local support services.

Due to launch in Romania at the end of April, Bright Sky is already active in UK, Ireland and the Czech Republic, where thousands of couriers and mail delivery staff have been trained to spot the signs of domestic violence, and how to react, referring victims to the app when possible. 

“From the outset, Bright Sky CZ has been seen as a tool for raising awareness. It’s designed for victims but also anyone concerned about loved ones who may be experiencing domestic violence. Obviously, couriers or postal delivery staff can’t provide professional psychotherapeutic assistance, but in a simple way they can point vulnerable people in the right direction,” says Veronika Řídelová, the Foundation’s Bright Sky CZ programme manager.

Calls to Gender Based Violence Command Centre increase 65%

In South Africa, calls to Vodacom Foundation’s Gender Based Violence Command Centre have increased by 65% since lockdown. The free 24/7 support service connects people to professional social workers to provide counselling and, if the user is in imminent danger, use the geo-location feature and inform the police. In recognition that those at risk may be living in close proximity to their abuser, the Foundation are raising awareness of the SMS line feature, which enables discreet access to support.  

A text helpline is also available in Portugal, where the Foundation have partnered with the Commission for Citizenship and Gender Equality. Their free to access 3060 SMS Line launched in March 2020 to connect anyone affected by abuse to Portugal’s National Technical Services for help.

In Turkey, the Foundation’s Easy Rescue app – developed in partnership with the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Services – has been downloaded over 325,000 times and continues to support women concerned for their personal safety. Features include a one-click call button to the emergency services, and a directory of information from Violence Prevention Centres.

In Hungary, a digital campaign is raising awareness of ‘Meddig Mehet’ (meaning ‘How long can you go?’), the Foundation’s online counselling platform with partner Hungarian Interchurch Aid for people affected by domestic violence. The service offers users anonymised advice and support from a psychologist, lawyer or a social worker. The Foundation has also donated mobile devices to four crisis centres in Hungary as they work to meet increased demand following the COVID-19 outbreak.

Vodafone Group support employees through COVID-19

In March 2019, Vodafone introduced a global policy for employees who are affected by domestic violence and abuse. The policy includes specialist training for HR managers to help them support employees, as well as providing 10 days paid ‘safe’ leave for any colleagues who have faced abuse. The leave provides them with time to manage their situation, and seek professional help and counselling.

In response to the increased risk for people living with an abusive partner or family member during the COVID-19 crisis, Vodafone has provided additional guidance for line managers to ensure they are aware of the issue and are equipped to support any of their team members who might be experiencing abuse at home at this time, and refer them to specialist support services in their area.

For further information and support:

  • Download Bright Sky: If you are in the UK, Ireland or Czech Republic, if it is safe to do so,  and you are sure that your mobile phone is not being monitored

  • Learn more about Vodafone Foundation’s Apps Against Abuse in other markets

  • Visit the EIDA website: The Employer’s Initiative on Domestic Abuse provides easily accessible tools and resources to enable businesses to better support their employees affected by domestic abuse; through raising awareness among all employees, supporting those affected, and providing support and education to help perpetrators to stop. 

  • If you’re in the UK, remember the Met Police guidance: at home shouldn’t mean at risk. If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic abuse, isolation rules do not apply. Police response and support services remain available. Find support at www.gov.uk/domestic-abuse or call 999 if you are in immediate danger.

The Bright Sky app has been downloaded over 45,000 times in the UK since 2018. Working with Thames Valley Partnership, Vodafone Foundation has also launched the service in Ireland and the Czech Republic. By March 2021, our ambition is for Bright Sky to be live in 12 countries.