Statement regarding COVID-19 from South West Surrey Domestic Abuse Outreach Team

Whilst individuals, families and the country as a whole face increasingly difficult and uncertain times during the COVID-19 pandemic, it becomes even more important that we work together to ensure that those who may be vulnerable or at risk get the vital support they need. Although inconvenient for many, the current government measures should increase our safety, but for survivors of domestic abuse and their children home can be a place of fear and often danger. We know that the risk to survivors and their children will increase as ‘social distancing’, self-isolation and the financial impact of the pandemic becomes a reality.

Perpetrators often attempt to isolate their partners from family, friends, work and community and the pandemic provides them with an increased ability to do so. We know each year at Christmas survivors are more likely to experience incidents of abuse as families are forced together and perpetrators consume alcohol more frequently providing them with further excuses for why abuse has occurred.

Similarly, during economic instability and previous recessions, rates of domestic abuse have increased. We are therefore facing a complex and scary picture. We are also concerned that survivors’ ability to seek support from services like ours will become more difficult as perpetrators spend more time at home. Survivors have shown us their incredible abilities to risk manage and safety plan in crisis situations, so we have over the years learnt from the ‘experts’. In this time of crisis we would like to reassure survivors, other professionals and our communities that we are still here.

In order to adhere to the government guidelines around ‘social distancing’ and ensure our workforce can continue to safely deliver core services, we have of course had to take certain steps. With immediate effect we have had to postpone all face to face work including group work. Until further notice we will provide Outreach support via telephone and we are working with partners in the voluntary and statutory sector to ensure the needs of survivors and children are considered and met.

We need our communities more than ever to help us continue to provide life-saving support for survivors and children, so please consider doing the following; Please listen out for your neighbours and call for help if you think someone is at risk. If safe to do so, please reach out to anyone you believe is in an abusive relationship and encourage them to contact us for advice and support, in particular around safety planning during these times. If it is not safe for the survivors themselves to contact us then we are always willing to support friends, family and any professional, so they can safely pass information on.

Above all be kind, survivors and children more than ever need to know that when they are ready you are there for them and that there is support available.

You can ring our helpline on 01483 898884 Monday to Friday 9am to 4pm

Your call will be answered by a trained Domestic Abuse Support Worker. If we are unable to answer please leave a short message with safe contact details and we will ring you back.

We also have a 24 hour answerphone or you can email . In an emergency dial 999


Citizens Advice Waverley Update

Citizens Advice Waverley

Maintaining access

In line with the latest Government advice, from Monday 23 March we began to transition from an office based service to a primarily home-based one.  As part of this process everybody with a booked appointment at any of our offices was contacted and offered a telephone, rather than face-to-face, appointment.

From Thursday 26 March our offices were fully closed to the public and we started to operate a home-based system, with just one member of our paid staff team attending each office each day to carry out vital office-based functions such as collecting and distributing post, voicemails etc.

Implementing this major transition in such a short time for over 120 staff and volunteers has been very challenging for our small paid staff team.  However, I am pleased to report that we now have a full email and telephone advice service in place.  The process of providing our advisers with the ability to work from home is complicated and requires new ways of working but we expect to be up to full strength by the end of this week.

Increasing demand

Despite these significant changes, and the more limited ways that people can now access our services, last week we helped over 200 clients, including supporting our most vulnerable existing clients with their ongoing and often complex issues.

The focus on providing telephone advice has also meant that the call answer rate on the joint Citizens Advice East Surrey Adviceline, which we form part of, has now increased to 50%.  We hope that this will improve still further when we have been able to provide more of our advisers with the technology to take Adviceline calls directly at home.

New clients

We also saw nearly 60 clients new to our service over the last week.  This is nearly twice the number of new clients we would expect to see in a normal week when our offices are fully open to the public.

This reflects the new issues arising from the changes to people’s normal lives over the last few weeks.  These include individual financial situations that have unexpectedly become perilous, unanticipated issues with employment or a requirement to make a Universal Credit claim.

Changing enquiry areas

More than half of our current enquiries are directly related to the consequences of the current outbreak, including on employment, benefit entitlements and personal finances.

Help to Claim Service

One particular area which has seen an exponential increase in demand is around telephone advice on claiming Universal Credit, which has increased nearly tenfold nationally in the last couple of weeks.

I am therefore pleased to report that the Department of Work and Pensions has recently confirmed that the contract for the national Citizens Advice’s Help to Claim service has recently been extended for a further 12 months.  This service supports people applying for the first time for Universal Credit.

Citizens Advice Waverley is one of two Citizens Advice offices delivering Help to Claim telephone advice in Surrey.  Despite the recent uncertainties over the future of this contract we have been able to retain our small paid staff team delivering this service and to make the necessary arrangements for them to work from home.

Working with partners

Over the last couple of weeks we have started to reach out to key partner organisations, including local foodbanks, to ensure that these critical partnerships continue to provide the support that local people need. 

We are aware that there is a lot of additional local activity going on with local community voluntary groups springing up.  We are keen to engage and support this new work in whatever ways possible.  I would be grateful therefore for any information you can supply on such local groups in your area, including their contact details where possible.


We have made great strides in the last week or two in ensuring that the most vulnerable local people continue to have access to our vital services. But there is still some way to go, including ensuring that all of those people new to our services are aware of how to access them and what support we can provide. 

I would be grateful therefore if you could ensure that any local information you supply to your parishioners includes appropriate details of the services and support we offer.  Our full contact details can be found on our website :


Phil Davies Chief Executive Office – Citizens Advice Waverley

Denise Baker

Administration Officer

(Registered Charity No. 1098859.  Registered Company No. 4823693)
Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. FRN: 617568
Contact:  01483 869590


South Western Railway Update

I wanted to update you on the work South Western Railway has been carrying out in dealing with the Coronavirus and keeping key workers moving during this critical time.

Following on from the changes to the train service timetable we made last week, we have made further adjustments to our revised timetable, with extra early morning and later evening trains to better meet key workers’ travel patterns.  We have also this week made further contact with key stakeholders, including NHS trusts, supermarket distribution centres, and emergency services across our network to check our timetable is meeting their transportation needs. 

Our priority is to keep our trains running for the essential service workers who have to get to work, while keeping everyone safe and helping prevent the spread of the virus. This includes adapting our cleaning regime with our heavy cleaning programme suspended so the team can concentrate on disinfecting trains, with a particular focus on key touchpoints such as handrails, door buttons and toilets. As well as overnight cleaning we have extended the turnround times of trains to allow additional cleaning, bringing in off-track staff and trainees to help disinfect the trains whilst they are in service. The reduction in the number of train services has allowed the team to concentrate their efforts on the trains still running and so help keep customers and colleagues alike safe.

We have also closed our waiting rooms and are making announcements on trains and at stations to promote social distancing among those who have no option but to travel, while using all available communication channels to advise against non-essential travel and urge people to save lives and stay home.

Following Government advice, we have advised many of our non-operational colleagues to work from home and are restricting the activities of our customer contact centre. Unfortunately this has temporarily hampered our ability to handle refunds, however we are currently putting plans in place to allow us to restart this process very soon; although it will take some considerable time for us to work through the backlog of outstanding claims.

I know that refunds have been a major concern for many customers and I am pleased that the industry has this week announced some further policy changes which will alleviate some of those concerns such as extending the refund window from 28 day to 56 days, helping those who may be self-isolating and who feared missing out on a refund. Full details are available on our website.

Throughout this challenging period, we have tried to keep everyone updated through all available channels, including twitter, our website, station customer information screens, and stakeholder emails like this one. We have, and will continue to, take on board feedback about our services and how we can best meet the needs of not just those key workers, but also of those customers who are no longer travelling and need to change their plans.

We recognise that together with Network Rail we have a vital role to play in keeping the country moving and I am exceptionally proud of how my colleagues at South Western Railway, particularly those on the frontline, have risen to the challenge and are just getting on with the job of running our railway.

If you need any further information, please contact  

Yours sincerely,

Mark Hopwood
Managing Director
South Western Railway