Experts from the Wiltshire Bobby Van who help domestic violence victims stay safe have been kept on the road during the pandemic with a grant from the Wiltshire Community Foundation.
The service has three vans manned by former police officers working all over the county to help domestic abuse victims and elderly people whose homes have been broken into improve their security with new locks, panic alarms and valuable advice.
The charity has lost more than £70,000 in fundraising revenue after events were cancelled due to the lockdown. Director Jennie Shaw said events like the open garden at the home of Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason and his wife Annette, which raised £40,000 last year, the Calne Classic Car Run and Heddington Steam Fair have all been lost.
The charity, formed in 1988, has been given £5,000 from the community foundation’s Wiltshire and Swindon Coronavirus Response Fund to help it cover its operating costs. The fund, set up to help groups tackle the effects of the pandemic, has now raised more than £848,315 and distributed more than £550,000 to 150 groups.
“We thought we had lost £70,000 of income up to July but it looks like we’ll lose events in August and September as well,” said Mrs Shaw.
“But the community foundation has been very generous, and we have kept our head above water and are still working. The staff are determined to be out there, I’m really proud of them.”
Wiltshire Police has seen a 14 per cent rise in domestic abuse cases between March and June and Mrs Shaw said the charity is prioritising those who need protecting. She said her operators work close with the Domestic Violence Team at Wiltshire Police.
“Because my team are lone operators they could be going into quite difficult situations so the client has to be comfortable that the police will be involved at some point or another.
“Most of the time it is to assess the risk to the operator. It is ideal if the perpetrator is in jail or in custody. We just want to ensure everyone’s safety and ensure the right processes are in place.”
The charity also has a Stay Safe Online team, which advises people who are over 60 or registered disabled over 18 who have been the victims of cybercrime. “We have seen a 40 per cent increase in cybercrime in Wiltshire,” said Mrs Shaw. “The team works over the phone anyway, so we have been able to continue supporting people on the phone or visually by FaceTime.”
Mrs Shaw said the charity wants to work with other groups who are supporting elderly and vulnerable people across the county, particularly those who have been formed during the pandemic. It has had discussions with the Warminster Action Group and is urging others to get in touch. Said Mrs Shaw: “We can all work in little silos so we are trying to work out if there’s anything we can further offer to make things easier for clients by connecting them with other groups.”
Find out more about the charity at wiltshirebobbyvan.org.uk.
Fiona Oliver, interim co-chief executive of the community foundation, said: “We’ve been continually amazed by the people of Wiltshire and the trusts and companies that have supported us. The fact we have been able to make 150 grants to help groups do such vital work in their communities is all down to that incredible generosity.”
To donate to the Wiltshire and Swindon Coronavirus Response Fund or to find out how to apply for a grant, go to wiltshirecf.org.uk.