CLYDEBANK Women’s Aid has become one of the first services to return to face-to-face support for domestic abuse survivors.

The charity said they had worked hard to make its remote service as safe as possible, but knew how essential the personal contact was.

Their efforts came as new research showed the pandemic’s significant impact on refuge accommodation, child contact and access to justice.

Need is outstripping capacity, warned Scottish Women’s Aid last week, collecting data from local organisations, including Clydebank Women’s Aid (CWA).

A CWA spokesperson told the Post: “We recognised the importance of face-to-face support for women and have prioritised the reopening of this service.

“This service is currently running on an appointment basis to ensure the number of women on our premises are limited and this is thoroughly sanitised.

“It has been a month since we reopened the service and there has been a surge in the number of new referrals.

“We are unable to admit to our refuge currently due to the current guidelines, but will support women to access other safe, temporary accommodation if this is what they want.”

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The national report highlighted abuses of child visitation and contact arrangements and said in some cases the pandemic has been used as an excuse by abusers to not return children to their mothers.

Handovers for child visits have also become “increasingly dangerous” for women and children experiencing abuse.

More undertakings and bail orders in the courts have also heightened the risk for women whose partners might normally be locked up awaiting trial.

“A significant backlog in trials at all levels of court risks a “debilitating effect on women’s already fragile access to justice”, said the report.

Unveiling the report, Dr Marsha Scott, chief executive of Scottish Women’s Aid, said: “Our 36 local women’s aid groups have responded with a degree of speed, dedication and innovation that is to be commended - especially given that they have done so in the face of difficulties that very often could have been avoided.

“As lockdown and other measures ease, we are expecting a substantial increase in demand for services.

“Better planning is also needed so that, if lockdown measures continue to be required going forward, previous problems affecting domestic abuse service providers and survivors will not be repeated.”

Clydebank Women’s Aid can offer support. Call 0141 952 8118 to make an appointment between 11am and 3pm on weekdays.