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Online domestic abuse resource launched as calls to domestic violence helplines soar during lockdown

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The Open University’s Open Justice team has collaborated with charity Support Through Court (STC) to develop a free online resource for learners, themed around domestic abuse. Its launch coincides with the rapid rise in numbers of people in domestic abuse situations seeking help during the UK lockdown.

STC helps members of the public who are facing court alone to navigate the complex civil and family legal systems in England and Wales. The service is delivered by more than 750 trained volunteers. The Open Justice Centre has produced the digital course to train volunteers to work with both survivors and alleged perpetrators of domestic abuse. Approximately 1 in 10 cases they work on involve domestic abuse1.

According to the charity, Refuge, the number of calls to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline rose by 25% during the first two weeks of the coronavirus lockdown period2. Following media coverage, visits to the Refuge website increased by 700% overnight3 and helpline calls increased by 120%4.

The course’s domestic abuse modules also make useful learning for anyone who is thinking of volunteering to work with domestic abuse charities. It is available on OpenLearn Create and is free to study. Learners can enrol on the online course at any time and work at their own pace.

There are nine modules in total, three of which are key domestic abuse training modules. These are:

  1. Introducing domestic abuse
  2. Supporting survivors of domestic abuse
  3. Supporting clients who are accused of perpetrating domestic abuse.

In addition, there are six shorter modules which train volunteers on elements such as client interviews and writing court statements. Further modules offer advice on signposting to other services working with vulnerable clients and helping clients access special measures, such as the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass).

We have collaborated with Support Through Court to produce this excellent course, and are able to launch it at a time of great need in this area. Previously, the training offered by STC was mainly face-to-face. Our digital modules mean that volunteers can train anytime, anywhere. We also hope the course could be the first step into volunteering for new learners.

Hugh McFaul, Open Justice Centre’s Co-Director

Participants will receive a digital badge for their LinkedIn profile as well as a Statement of Participation to confirm their achievement.

Liz Hardie, Teaching Director, authored the course. She said: ‘Working with clients involved in domestically abusive situations can present unique challenges. It is so important that volunteers understand the impact domestic abuse can have on individuals. This course enables volunteers to train online at a time and place to suit them.’

Lizzie Iron, Head of Service at Support Through Court, said: ‘After a one-year project focusing on domestic abuse, we were looking for a way to continue training our volunteers in this important area. The Open Justice modules are a fantastic training legacy – now available free of charge, thanks to the generous support of The Open University team. While our face-to-face services are suspended during the Covid-19 crisis, our volunteers can still help people through our National Telephone Helpline on 0300 081 0006.’

Further information: 


  1. STC. From April to December 2019, 11.8% of all client contacts featured domestic abuse. Of these cases, 73% were survivors of abuse and 27% of cases involved supporting perpetrators of abuse, either alleged perpetrators or where abuse was proven (for example by a Finding of Fact hearing)

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