Published: 7th March 2022

NXWM X BSWA - Ride to refuge for #IWD2022

We have teamed up with Birmingham and Solihull Women’s Aid in marking International Women’s Day 2022 by continuing their successful Ride to Refuge scheme. The project was originally launched during the pandemic to provide free bus tickets to survivors fleeing domestic abuse.

The number of survivors of domestic abuse asking for help soared during Covid. National charity Women’s Aid reported a 41% increase in users visiting its instant messaging Live Chat site within the first two weeks of lockdown in March 2020.

So we have donated our scratchcard Day Savers to Birmingham and Solihull Women’s Aid (BSWA). Our bus tickets give women and children moving to refuge or temporary accommodation free bus travel to a safe place.

The scheme is especially crucial because women fleeing domestic abuse often arrive at BSWA with little or no money. Having to choose a safe time to escape means they often only have on them what they could carry on the day.

Sally Dennis, Operations Manager at Birmingham and Solihull Women’s Aid, said:

“Without exception, Women have been delighted and grateful for the bus tickets.

“Firstly, it resolves one of their immediate concerns - How do I get to safety as I have no money?

“But it also gives women a real message of support and validation. Abusers repeatedly tell women that they are not worth anything and that no-one will believe them or care about them. So for National Express to care enough to think about what might be helpful in this moment of crisis is significant - practically and emotionally - for women.”

Shanaz (not her real name) had experienced abuse from her partner for three years. She never told anyone about it. When she arrived at BSWA, she said her husband would kill her rather than risk her escaping again.

BSWA found Shanaz a place to live in a totally different part of the city. She had a small amount of money but needed it for milk and bread to supplement the food BSWA had given her. So she was very relieved when she found out she would get free travel to safe accommodation.

BSWA spoke to Shanaz the next day to check that she had settled into her accommodation. She told them her abuser had never allowed her to travel on her own, so she was really proud of herself for using an unfamiliar bus route and finding her way safely.

Kerry (not her real name) was cut off from family and friends for ten years by her controlling and violent abuser. Not surprisingly, this caused Kerry anxiety and frequent panic attacks.

On the day she left her abuser, BSWA identified suitable accommodation for Kerry and gave her food and toiletries. She had an appointment that day to treat her mental health and she desperately wanted to attend. Our free Day Saver meant Kerry could get to her new accommodation, and then to her appointment and back.

Lynda Waltho, former Stourbridge MP and public transport campaigner said:

“It’s often the simple things that make a difference. A relatively small but vital intervention at the right time could help women and their children make that break away from their abuser and resettle in a safer home. National Express’ scheme has done just that.

“This further support means many more women will receive assistance to ride to refuge and independence in the coming year.”

Anne Shaw, executive director of TfWM and UK Violence Against Women and Girls Transport Champion, said:

“Our public transport network is a lifeline to some of our most isolated and vulnerable communities. This initiative demonstrates how that network can also be a lifesaver to women and children fleeing domestic abuse.

“But we know far too many women do not feel safe on our transport network, which is why we have been working with Government on recommendations to make the network safer for women and girls, including greater visibility of staff and police. Transport for West Midlands is focused on running an integrated, reliable and safe transport network that works for everyone.”

Please note any names in this release have been changed.

Any woman seeking support around experiences of domestic abuse, including the Ride to Refuge scheme, can contact Birmingham and Solihull Women’s Aid on 0808 800 0028. In an emergency, always call 999.

For more information on Birmingham and Solihull Women’s Aid, please visit here.

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