Switchboard expert Astrid attends Parliament to celebrate DA safety net

A Switchboard expert has attended a parliamentary reception to celebrate a fund which supports projects that provide a safety net for survivors of domestic abuse.

Astrid Palmer (pictured), an LGBTQ+ specialist independent domestic violence advocate, was among guests invited to the House of Commons event by Labour MP Jess Phillips.

The reception highlighted the work of the Circle Fund, a multi-million-pound initiative set up by UK domestic abuse charity SafeLives with support from NatWest.

Shaped by frontline services and survivors, the Fund offers grants of up to £2,500 each year to be spent directly in support of domestic violence survivors.

Grants for individuals are capped at £500, but applications for more than one grant per client per year are permitted.

The grants, which address victims’ individual needs while helping them feel safe as they rebuild their lives, are channelled through a network of services.

These include a Switchboard-run service which has used the funding to provide food vouchers and other essentials like clothing, bedding and kettles for people moving into emergency accommodation.

This initiative was celebrated at the reception along with the work of more than 130 other UK services which have used money from the Fund to support more than 4,000 survivors of domestic abuse since 2020.

Apart from representatives of organisations which have received money from the Fund, guests at the event included former Conservative Home Secretary Priti Patel and officials from the Ministry of Justice.

Astrid said: “We’re incredibly thankful to NatWest and SafeLives for hosting such a fantastic event that gave us the opportunity to celebrate the success of The Circle Fund and meet other organisations who had also benefitted from it.

“The Circle Fund has been an absolute dream for our project. It has meant that LGBTQ+ survivors have been able to access vital amenities. With this help, so many of our survivors have been able to make a fresh start and access the essentials they need.”

During the event it was announced that the Circle Fund would continue for three more years thanks to a further £1 million donation from NatWest.

Further information on the Circle Fund, including details of the marginalised groups it supports and a new report detailing its impact, is available on the SafeLives website.