Family violence services will still not be limited to those in need during the lockdown – and advocates are imploring people and employers to look out for those who might be at risk.

The national lockdown starts at 11.59pm tonight and will last at least four weeks.

During that time New Zealanders cannot leave their home addresses unless it’s absolutely essential – for example buying food, seeking medical treatment or exercising.

According to Shine and Women’s Refuge, an unintended consequence for people living in abusive homes is that they may have to spend more time with their abuser – and thus be at a heightened risk of further abuse.

The agencies said additional worries or conflict in the wake of the pandemic about jobs, finances, unwell or elderly family members, and childcare, may also heighten risk of further or more severe abuse in these situations.

Police said yesterday they expected the level of domestic violence to increase during the enforced lockdown with more people at home and extra pressure on couples and families.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush said police would increase their response to family harm and staff would also do more around prevention.

“And also there are other agencies that we really want to keep as essential services so that they can support people who were in the middle of that,” he said.

Shine, Women’s Refuge and other services that deal with victims of family harm and sexual violence have been categorised as essential services and will continue to operate at full capacity during the lockdown.

For example, Shine advocates would not be able to visit abused women at home to help them leave or formulate escape plans.

But, they were still available by phone to do that crucial work.

“It’s really important for people to know that the family violence and sexual violence services are still being considered essential,” said Shine spokeswoman Holly Carrington.

“Our services continue to operate – just some services we usually offer in person will be offered by phone instead.

“Our helplines will still operate and our refuge services are critical for people who need to get out – it’s important for people to know that.”

Carrington said employers and the community had a role to play in helping ensure victims of family harm were as safe as possible during the lockdown.

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