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UK Power Networks launches initiative to help domestic abuse victims

Jordan O'Brien

Jordan O'Brien

Contributing Editor
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Lesley Watson from UK Power Networks’ customer service team who has been trained to recognise signs of domestic abuse

UK Power Networks has launched a new initiative that it hopes will ensure that domestic abuse victims get the support they need. 

The distribution network operator is in the process of training customer advisers to recognise signs of abuse when they talk to customers across London, the East and South East of England, while a new Safe Spaces button is now available on the company’s website. 

Safe Spaces is a scheme run by UK SAYS NO MORE, a national campaign to raise awareness to end domestic abuse and sexual violence across the UK. Located towards the bottom of the UK Power Networks homepage, the Space Spaces button will offer helpful resources for those who may be victims of domestic abuse. 

Given the 400,000 pageviews that the UK Power Networks website gets each month, the Safe Spaces button could be invaluable for victims. That’s not only because it gives contact details for both national and locally tailored support services, but also because it’s completely hidden within a user’s internet history. 

Using the Safe Spaces button is completely invisible to anyone tracking your browsing history, as the resources are overlaid on the UK Power Networks website. That means it will just look like you visited for information about your local distribution network operator. What’s more, the resources provided by Safe Spaces can be hidden quickly with a tap of the Esc button. 

How UK Power Networks is training its staff to support domestic abuse victims

In addition to the Safe Spaces button, UK Power Networks’ Suffolk-based call centre staff are being trained by Against Violence and Abuse (AVA) to listen and identify victims of domestic violence and signpost them to national abuse helplines and local support services. 

A benefit of this training is that domestic abuse victims are able to get the support they need without arousing suspicion from their abuser. The service is also available 24/7. 

More than a 250,000 domestic abuse-related offences were recorded between April and June last year during the first lockdown, according to the Office for National Statistics.

UK Power Networks also enhanced its home safety and energy efficiency programmes for victims of domestic abuse in or at risk of fuel poverty, building on an existing partnership with the organisation Home Energy Efficiency Training (HEET).

Michael Horwood from UK Power Networks’ Customer Services, who led the initiative, commented, “We wanted to do more to support victims of domestic abuse, which is why we are proud to be the first electricity distribution network operator (DNO) to join the online Safe Spaces initiative.

“We have taken a multi-faceted approach to help address such a key issue during the pandemic, from advanced staff training, embedding support on our website and delivering tailored support such as home safety and energy efficiency measures to victims of domestic abuse in fuel poverty.”

Lesley Watson, from UK Power Networks’ customer service team, one of 35 to have already received the training, added, “It was very interesting learning what kind of guidance to offer people without getting them in trouble and being aware of the danger they may be in. I think it was a very good idea to offer the training and to know what signals to look for with colleagues and people outside work as well”.

Ellie Cox, AVA’s training administrator, concluded, “We’re thrilled to have trained UK Power Networks and really impressed by their commitment to train their staff on domestic abuse, which goes above and beyond.

From the first conversation it was obvious how important this issue was to the organisation and we admire UK Power Networks’ choice to be active and help make change.

“The opportunity to disclose experiences of abuse on a safe phone call which a perpetrator won’t suspect, may be life changing for those trapped at home or with little agency to reach services. We look forward to continuing to see the progress of UK Power Networks.”

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