Takeover Tuesday – Safeline

Each week, we’re inviting one of the many charities or community groups in Stratford to takeover our social media for the day with a series of posts outlining what they are doing during the COVID-19 pandemic to show our support. The full case study will appear here on our blog.

First up is Safeline, an independent and non-discriminatory charity that provides specialist, tailored support for anyone affected by sexual abuse and rape and works to prevent CSE with children and young people at risk. Here, Neil Henderson, CEO, tells us how they have adapted to be able to meet the needs of those who use this vital service.

Safeline - JustGiving

How have you adapted the services you provide during the Covid-19 pandemic?



We have had to. Some of our services were face-to-face interventions, (Counselling, Early prevention activities in schools),  but because of government guidelines, those all had to stop. However, thanks to the commitment, experience, and ingenuity of our people, we have been able to continue to support people remotely, using phone, and online technologies. For example, we have introduced a new telephone counselling service and I am pleased to say 50% of our existing face-to-face clients have decided to use it; some of the other clients have switched to using our helpline and online services for emotional support until the face-to-face service reopens.

Also, all of our Early Intervention services, (one-to-one support for vulnerable children, group support), are now done remotely and are working incredibly well. For people who chose to report the abuse to the police, we continue to provide high-quality support by phone and online. All our other services, the National Male helpline and online support service, our national telephone and online counselling service, the Coventry and Warwickshire helpline continue to operate as normal.

What’s the key thing that has surprised/pleased you?




What has really pleased me is the reaction of our staff and volunteers during the crisis; their commitment to the people we support and the desire to ensure they remain supported during this very challenging time, has been humbling. All of our clients still have access to high-quality support if they want it which is magnificent.

I have also been pleased with the resilience of our charity. This virus will hurt us financially, but because we manage what funds we get tightly and effectively, and because we have a good infra-structure that supports effective home working, we have avoided having to furlough our people and minimized the disruption to our services.

I have also been very pleased with the support we have received from the local community. Sexual abuse and rape is a taboo subject and it is a difficult cause to raise funds for. But people have recognised how COVID-19 has affected the people we support and have responded wonderfully well to appeals for support and to online events we have run. Because of their generosity we have raised funds which we have used to enable us to introduce the new services and new ways of working which have allowed us to continue to support our clients.

What are the biggest challenges you are facing?




Continuing to provide high-quality support to clients in the way they need, when they need it, has been biggest challenge. For those people living with the impacts of sexual violence and abuse, the current situation, (self-isolation, economic insecurity, lack of community and social support), is causing and exacerbating stress and anxiety for them and their family and friends. Many are finding themselves confined to their homes with their abusers, a situation that could threaten both their emotional and physical health and put them in real danger. For those people who have reported the abuse to the police and are pursuing their cases through the criminal justice system, the disruption to the victim and witness services, has compounded their anxiety and stress levels. Our clients are telling us they feel they are being supported during this very challenging time and that is very gratifying.

We also thought we would have issues maintaining the wellbeing and safety of our staff and volunteers during this period when they were working from home. But the people who work at Safeline, are very caring, supportive, inclusive, professional, and ethical and these values have helped us sustain one another which has been a wonderful achievement and so important for our clients.

COVID-19 will affect our finances. Raising funds for a charity like ours is difficult in normal circumstances; the impact of coronavirus makes that even more challenging. For example, we have already had to revise down our income estimates for this year because we have had to cancel fundraising events and we anticipate reduced donations from individuals; this may impact on the communities and individuals who rely on us. We are trying to minimize the impact of this by looking at other potential sources of income.

Can you give an example describing the impact you’ve made on an individual/group of people?





Support for the most vulnerable children in our community. We support hundreds of vulnerable children each year with our Prevention and Early Intervention Services, many have already been sexually abused or at severe risk of abuse. Our services help protect these children and help them overcome their experiences.

When schools closed, the risk to these children increased significantly, some would be ‘locked-down with their perpetrators at home, others would spend most of their time online, increasing the risk of grooming. We felt it was critical that we were able to continue to offer independent and trusted support to these children. Using technology, we have been able to achieve that. We are supporting over 50 children at the moment, a mixture of one-to-one support and group work. Schools continue to refer significant numbers of children to us who they believe are at risk. The engagement of the children has been wonderful, way beyond our expectations and they have told us that they feel safer because of the support we have provided.

Facts about who you have helped and how





Because people affected by abuse have been locked down at home, more of them have accessed our telephone and online services for emotional support. Contacts to our Coventry and Warwickshire Helpline and online support service have increased by over 30% in the last 5 weeks. Referrals to our online counselling service have increased by 40%.

Referrals from schools to our Early intervention services have increased by 25% and 50% of our existing face-to-face clients have accessed our new telephone counselling service, a remarkable achievement. What is concerning is that we expect a spike in referrals to our services when lockdown is removed/relaxed. We need to be prepared to manage that.

What could the community in Stratford do to support you?



Help us raise awareness that our services remain open. Over the last few weeks, many people affected by sexual abuse and rape have been surprised that Safeline is still open and able to support them. We do not want anyone suffering in silence, they do not need to, so help us make sure people know we are here for them. Any other promotional activities would be helpful and connecting us with local stakeholders and influencers  who can promote/support our work would be incredibly helpful.


Useful info and contact details




Office Enquiries – 01926 402498 or office@safeline.org.uk


Safeline’s National Male Helpline and online support service:Phone: 0808 800 5005

Email: support@safeline.org.uk

Text: 07860 027573

Safeline’s England & Wales Online counselling referral – onlinecounselling@safeline.org.uk

Coventry & Warwickshire Women & Girls Helpline – 0808 800 5008