Children from 5-16 years old moving from a refuge back to school in Bolton and Bury, are to receive additional support thanks to a grant of £59,000 from the Freemasons to the Fortalice charity.

The charity provides emergency accommodation and support services to assist women, families, children and young people who have experienced, or are experiencing, domestic abuse.

The children and young people who live within the refuge have undergone profound trauma with many having been in the same or next room as domestic violence or have been directly abused.

The grant will support 5–16 year-olds who are soon to move from the refuge to help them move to community life and deal with the trauma they’ve experienced. This could include getting them extra support if they are behind with school work, helping them if they are being bullied, and working to rebuild family relationships.

A Project Worker and community volunteers will work with the child to build new networks of support, such as youth clubs. They also help the parent to understand what the child needs to move forward and give them tools to rebuild and strengthen the family unit. The increase in domestic abuse since the first lockdown started has been well documented. The charity has seen an increase in calls to its 24 hours advice line and 70 per cent want to discuss child contact, saying it was being used as a method of control. They moved face to face services online but this was not ideal for all as for some it was not safe to access online support. They introduced a chat bot on their website to help victims contact them more easily and it literally saved lives, with two separate families who got in touch online being rehoused in refuge accommodation. Referrals from schools have also increased since September.

The grant from East Lancashire Freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales.

Gill Smallwood, Chief Executive of Fortalice said:

We’re very grateful to East Lancashire Freemasons for their generous grant. The move back into the community having been in the refuge can be extremely daunting for children and young people. They need help and support to successfully move back into mainstream society.

Martin Horan, District Chairman Bolton Freemasons said:

I’m very pleased we’ve been able to help Fortalice with their hugely important project. Domestic abuse can have a profound effect on children and their refuge offers vital shelter, but moving on from life in the shelter can be difficult. Fortalice are doing wonderful work helping these young people to move back onto school and everyday life.