National Express West Midlands (NXWM) is supporting domestic abuse survivors during the COVID-19 pandemic by offering free bus tickets to safe refuges.
The operator is working with Women’s Aid organisations across the West Midlands. The scheme, called Ride to Refuge, is modelled after the Rail to Refuge scheme; a joint initiative between train operators and Women’s Aid, in which operators cover the cost of train tickets to shelters for women, men and children fleeing domestic abuse.
The scheme follows a reported rise in domestic violence during the pandemic. According to research carried out by Women’s Aid, there was a 41% increase in users visiting its instant messaging Live Chat site within the first two weeks of lockdown in March 2020. A recent survey also showed 61% of survivors living with their abuser that abuse worsened from March to June 2020 during the tightened restrictions.
“We are so pleased to be working alongside National Express to support victims escaping domestic abuse with free travel to refuge,” says Sally Dennis of Birmingham and Solihull Women’s Aid. “Not having to worry about finding travel costs is one less barrier to women and children finding safety.”
Adds Popinder Kaur, CEO of The Haven Wolverhampton: “The support NXWM is putting in place for survivors of domestic abuse is invaluable and we’re delighted to be working with it on the Ride to Refuge scheme.
“There are so many barriers to a woman being able to flee safely and it can’t be underestimated what a positive impact this scheme is going to have.”