Royal Mail Group Develops Online Safe Spaces service to support victims of domestic abuse

News Release: 2nd September 2020 

Royal Mail Group Develops Online Safe Spaces service to support victims of domestic abuse

Amid growing reports of domestic violence during lockdown[1], Royal Mail develops an ‘Online Safe Spaces’ portal, which can be installed on corporate websites for free. This discreet service helps abuse victims access support and advice, while leaving no internet history trace

  • Royal Mail Group has worked with crisis charity Hestia to develop an ‘Online Safe Spaces’ portal, which provides support for victims of domestic abuse.

  • ‘Online Safe Spaces’ is a discreet portal, which can be installed on both internal and external company websites. It provides a variety of helpful support, advice and contact information to those at risk of or experiencing domestic abuse. It also features a quick exit button and leaves no internet history, ensuring the safety of those using the service.

  • The portal provides a host of information for victims; including when to dial 999, national helplines, local support groups and further useful links. It also includes a questionnaire to determine a person’s domestic abuse risk.

  • The initiative was developed by Royal Mail Group Senior Legal Advisor Charlie Ryan, as part of the Company’s entry in the Financial Times Innovative Lawyers – Global Legal Hackathon Challenge*. The challenge asked participants to produce the most pioneering solutions to societal problems posed by the Covid-19 crisis.

  • ‘Online Safe Spaces’ will be launched on external and internal websites across Royal Mail Group, including Royal Mail and Parcelforce, from today. The Company is offering the portal software for free, to any corporate organisation that would like to support the cause.

Today, Royal Mail Group announces the launch of a free ‘Online Safe Spaces’ portal for corporate websites, to support victims of domestic abuse.  The service has been developed in collaboration with the charity Hestia and its ‘UK SAYS NO MORE’ campaign.  

‘Online Safe Spaces’ is a discreet portal that opens in a pop-up window, which can be installed on both internal and external websites. The service provides support, advice and helpful contact numbers for those at risk of domestic abuse. It leaves no internet history trace, and provides quick exit options for the person seeking information.

Royal Mail Group has worked with the national ‘UK SAYS NO MORE’ campaign and abuse experts from the University of Bristol to ensure that the ‘Online Safe Spaces’ provides a host of helpful links and information, including; when to dial 999, national helplines, local support groups and further useful links. It also includes a questionnaire to determine the participant’s risk of domestic abuse.

The initiative was developed by Royal Mail Senior Legal Advisor Charlie Ryan and Hawkrose Ltd MD Rob Fern, following their involvement in the Financial Times Innovative Lawyers – Global Legal Hackathon Challenge*. The challenge asked participants to produce the most pioneering solutions to societal problems posed by the Covid-19 crisis

The term ‘Safe Spaces’ aligns with the current ‘UK SAYS NO MORE’ campaign, which provides physical Safe Spaces in retail premises for victims of domestic abuse. Participants so far include Boots, Superdrug and Morrisons.

The campaign’s chosen logo is a blue circular ‘Safe Spaces’ pin, which was launched as part of the ‘UK SAYS NO MORE’ campaign. The weblink will be hosted on external and internal websites across Royal Mail Group, including Royal Mail and Parcelforce Worldwide.

‘Online Safe Spaces’ reinforces the Company’s Domestic Abuse Guide, which provides all employees with information, and directions to support services. It also offers guidance of what managers and colleagues should do if they suspect a team member may be at risk of, or is experiencing, domestic abuse.

Sally Ashford, Chief HR Officer, Royal Mail Group said:

“We have developed the ‘Online Safe Spaces’ portal to help victims of domestic abuse access vital support if they need it online. By placing the link on high traffic websites like Royal Mail and Parcelforce Worldwide, we hope that victims will be able to use the service discreetly if required without placing themselves at further risk. We are encouraging all our partners to install the portal on their sites too. We hope that the portal will inspire affected individuals to feel confident enough to seek help”

Safeguarding Minister Victoria Atkins said:

“As a Government, we are determined to work with everyone who wants to combat the horrors of domestic abuse.

“One of the key aims of our #youarenotalone campaign was to encourage members of the public and business to play a vital role in identifying victims of domestic abuse and helping them seek support.

“I welcome organisations like Royal Mail Group and campaigns like UK SAYS NO MORE using the power of technology to create discreet ways for victims to keep safe and access the support services available”.

Claire Barnett, Executive Director, UN Women UK said:

“Covid-19 has led to increases in violence against women that threaten to roll back achievements in gender equality by decades. UN Women has been working with local partners to create safer public spaces for the past ten years, including through our project Safe Spaces Now. I am delighted to see the Online Safe Space initiative innovating by using existing platforms and partners to share critical information on women's services, and encourage brands to take part.”

Lyndsey Dearlove, Head of UK SAYS NO MORE at Hestia said:

“Businesses have a unique role to play in breaking the silence around domestic abuse and ensuring victims can access the help and support they need. Lockdown restrictions due to Covid-19 have provided an opportunity for businesses to step up their response to domestic abuse for their staff and customers through digital platforms. With the launch of Online Safe Spaces, we are delighted to work with Royal Mail to provide the first online safe space to provide a vital lifeline to victims of domestic abuse.”

- Ends -

Notes to editors

*Royal Mail Group took part in a challenge issued to the legal profession by the Financial Times Innovative Lawyers – Global Legal Hackathon Challenge. The aim of the challenge was: “To unleash the talent and creativity of the world’s legal industry to collaboratively innovate solutions to the most pressing legal, regulatory, and civil society challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis that is currently engulfing the world.”

The project group at Royal Mail Group chose to tackle the following: Is there any technological and legal solution to the rise in Domestic Abuse (DA) that is occurring right now due to the restrictions imposed during lockdown due to Covid 19?

The chosen submission was to create a discreet ‘Online Safe Space’ within internal and external internet pages of participating organisations with information and support for victims of domestic abuse.

For journalist enquiries contact:

Jessy Prestidge, Royal Mail Press Office: [email protected]

0748 342 0978

[email protected]

About Royal Mail plc

Royal Mail plc is the parent company of Royal Mail Group Limited, the leading provider of postal and delivery services in the UK and the UK’s designated universal postal service provider. UK Parcels, International and Letters (“UKPIL”) comprises the company’s UK and international parcels and letters delivery businesses operating under the “Royal Mail” and “Parcelforce Worldwide” brands. Through the Royal Mail Core Network, the company delivers a one-price-goes-anywhere service on a range of parcels and letters products. Royal Mail has the capability to deliver to around 30 million addresses in the UK, six days a week (excluding UK public holidays). Parcelforce Worldwide operates a separate UK network which collects and delivers express parcels. Royal Mail also owns General Logistics Systems (GLS) which operates one of the largest ground-based, deferred parcel delivery networks in Europe.

About Hestia and UK SAYS NO MORE

Hestia is one of the largest providers of domestic abuse refuges in London and the South East and is the main organisation supporting victims of modern slavery in the capital. It is the home of domestic abuse and sexual violence campaign UK SAYS NO MORE and developed the Bright Sky domestic abuse app in partnership with Vodafone. This year, it celebrates 50 years of providing support to those in crisis by providing safehouses, refuge accommodation and support.

Safe Spaces was developed as an initiative of the UK SAYS NO MORE campaign in response to the challenges faced by victims of domestic abuse during the COVID-19 lockdown and their inability to access specialist support services. It was first launched in partnership with Boots and is now available in 1 in 4 pharmacists across the UK, including major brands and local independent pharmacists.   

[1] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/07/23/domestic-abuse-calls-rise-80-per-cent-lockdown-victims-seek/