The current lockdown, designed to keep us safe has, in stark contrast, the potential to place one vulnerable group - those living in abusive relationships - at greater risk of harm.

"If you are living in an abusive relationship, it's always hard to make contact with people outside, so it's going to be harder now because the abusive partner is likely to be in the home all the time," says Sue Coleman, chief executive of West Mercia Women's Aid, "But the support we offer is still available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"Our Helpline is running across West Mercia, including Herefordshire, and everyone that works for us has access to the technology to enable them to engage with the women and families that we support. We have been doing this for a week now, having started to take action to do so at the beginning of last week.  The Independent Domestic Violence Advisers (IDVAs), who work with those victims of domestic abuse who are at high risk of harm, are still working hard to ensure that people are safe .  Each IDVA is  in touch with their clients and continuing to advocate on their behalf with partner agencies such as the Police, Probation and health agencies – using conference and video-calling wherever possible. Our Children and Young People’s Workers are providing parents and teachers with on-line resources and advice so that children who have been affected by domestic abuse can continue to be supported by the people who are caring for them at home or in school.

"We are continuing to support our residents in refuge, but that's understandably the most difficult thing for us to manage remotely. The residents already shop for themselves and take care of their own families like everyone else, but they won't be getting the one-to-one, face-to-face support that we normally provide. Instead we are contacting them by telephone on a regular basis, and are available to them for emotional support as well as for practical advice.  What they are getting, first and foremost, is connection with someone they know  and trust – albeit over the phone. We are ensuring that all support for refuge is within the current Government guidelines.

"We are also continuing to accept people into refuge, as long as they have not been advised to self-isolate, and are not showing signs of infection," says Sue.

"One casualty of the current crisis, however, is the programme of Recovery Pathway groups which Women's Aid and their Worcestershire partner Rooftop Housing Association run in the community, but which were stopped last week. "These are well-recognised and structured group sessions with information and insight for women who have experienced or who are living with abuse, preparing them for living independently of abuse and helping them to re-build their lives.  A lot of our work is with people who are not in refuge, but are still nevertheless living in – and managing their lives in – relationships that are controlling and abusive. Our Recovery Pathway group programmes are a really important part of our service offer.

"At any one time in Herefordshire and Worcestershire, we will have approximately 15-20 groups running for women and these obviously have had to pause. Women’s Aid staff are in contact with each and every one of the  women who have been attending groups, ensuring that they continue to have access to the advice and support that they need.  We are also aware that a lot of women have set up their own WhatsApp groups and are being pro-active in supporting each other during this time.  We really aren’t surprised that the women that we work with are being resourceful and looking out for each other in this way.  The underlying aim of our work is to empower women –it’s brilliant to see this in action."

"The strong message from me," says Sue, "is that we are still open for business, if not quite business as usual. We are cracking on and making sure that communication between ourselves is as good as it can possibly be, even though we aren’t ‘in work’ – so that services can continue and people who need us can still get support."

Her other vital message is that "if you are afraid for your safety, call 999. The Police are still responding to domestic abuse calls. They will then contact us if you need a place in refuge."

West Mercia Women's Aid 24 hour helpline for Herefordshire: 0800 7831359