An independent Northumberland charity which helps people across the county deal with the impact of and get away from domestic abuse is extending its work with the help of a four-figure grant from the region’s biggest building society.

Northumberland Domestic Abuse Services (NDAS) runs a support and advice service for anyone experiencing or affected by domestic abuse, and helps around 400 people right across the county every year.

Calls are taken via a central number, with the charity’s specially-trained Initial Response Officer carrying out a formal assessment of the caller’s needs to see if they are in any immediate danger and to help them get the most appropriate assistance and information as quickly as possible.

Newcastle Building Society has now awarded Hexham-based NDAS a £3,000 grant which will enable it to continue the hours worked by its Initial Response Officer over the coming months, so that the service is available for more time each day.

The funding is being provided through the Newcastle Building Society Community Fund at the Community Foundation, which offers grants to charities and community groups located in or around the communities served by the Society’s branch network.

The donation forms part of the £1.5m community commitment made in 2020 by the Society to help the region manage and recover from the impact of Covid-19.

The Northumberland Domestic Abuse Service was founded in 2003 and originally operated under the name 608030, which is still its main contact number (01434 608030).

In normal times, it runs healthy relationship workshops in schools across the county to help young people recognise issues relating to domestic abuse that they might be affected by either now or later in life.

It also provides dedicated resources for members of the LGBT community, male victims of domestic abuse and people living in isolated and rural communities.

Karen Richardson, service manager at NDAS, says: “Domestic violence and abuse isn’t just physical – it comes in many forms, and could relate to someone in your household controlling your money, constantly checking up on where you are, criticising you or deciding who you can and can’t see.

“It can happen to anyone, regardless of their age, gender, sexuality, location or social status, and we’ve sadly seen an increase in incidents of domestic abuse, and levels of violence over the last year as the impact of the pandemic has heightened stresses and tensions within households across the county.

“Our Initial Response Officer can quickly access help from the Police and Northumberland County Council if a particular situation is assessed as urgent, while we’re also able to help with every practical aspect, from legal and financial matters through to organising safety plans and signposting the support available from refuge centres.

“Some of our service users need our help for a short period while others need extended support, and our aim is to help them all regain their confidence and self-esteem and to empower them to make positive decisions for themselves about their lives and their futures.

“This generous grant will enable us to extend the service we offer in the coming months, and it also gives us a foundation to build on with other potential supporters when they see that an organisation like Newcastle Building Society is also behind our work.”

Hannah Samuel, manager at Newcastle Building Society’s Hexham branch, adds: “Northumberland Domestic Abuse Services has been undertaking essential work across our communities for many years which has never been as important as it is in the current circumstances.

“We’re proud to be helping NDAS extend its operations and to be supporting their drive to make sure anyone in Northumberland that needs help to escape domestic abuse can access it with just one call.”

Since its launch in 2016, Newcastle Building Society’s Community Fund has also contributed over £2.1m in grants and partnerships to a wide variety of charities and projects across the region, including the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Prince’s Trust. The grants are so far estimated to have had a positive impact on more than 151,000 people.

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Society also made a £100,000 contribution to the Coronavirus Response and Recovery Fund set up by the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland.

The Newcastle Building Society Community Fund is run in association with the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland.

To contact the Northumberland Domestic Abuse Service, please call 01434 608030.