Duchess of Cornwall praises domestic abuse support scheme

Duchess of Cornwall says she’s ‘delighted’ UK train companies will continue to provide free rail travel for those fleeing from domestic violence amid reports of rising levels of abuse during lockdown

  • Rail to Refuge is a joint initiative between rail companies and Women’s Aid
  • The scheme provides free rail travel to those escaping domestic abuse 
  • Camilla said she was ‘delighted’ UK train companies are extending scheme

The Duchess of Cornwall has backed the decision to extend a support scheme for those escaping domestic abuse. 

In a pre-recorded video message for the Rail to Refuge scheme, Camilla, 73, said she was ‘delighted’ UK train companies are extending a scheme which was due to end next week, providing free train travel for those fleeing domestic abuse. 

The programme is being continued by train companies to help more people escape violence and reach a safe refuge amid rising levels of domestic abuse during lockdown. 

The decision comes as figures show four survivors a day, on average, have been using the lifesaving scheme to access free train travel.    

In a pre-recorded video message for the Rail to Refuge scheme, Camilla said she was ‘delighted’ that UK train companies are extending a scheme providing free rail travel to domestic abuse victims

The Duchess, speaking from her Gloucestershire base, Highgrove, said: ‘Lockdown has been hard for everyone. But for the survivors of domestic abuse, it has been life-threatening.’ 

‘I’m delighted to hear that Britain’s train companies are extending the Rail to Refuge scheme for longer to provide free travel to a safe refuge for those fleeing domestic abuse.

‘If you need help, contact Women’s Aid for support and access to the Rail to Refuge scheme.’ 

Camilla  is a longtime advocate for victims of domestic abuse and previously expressed fear that the coronavirus pandemic would have a ‘horrific’ impact on the levels of abuse. 

Camilla, 73, is a longtime advocate for victims of domestic abuse. She is pictured at attending  the opening session of the Women of the World Festival at the Southbank Centre in London last year 

Rail to Refuge is a joint initiative between rail companies and Women’s Aid in which train operators cover the cost of train tickets for women, men and children travelling to refuge accommodation. 

All train operators in Great Britain took up the initiative on April 9 2020, initially for the length of the first lockdown, before extending it until the end of March 2021.

Train companies have now decided to continue Rail to Refuge due to reports showing that abuse has worsened during coronavirus restrictions.    

Since April 2020, train operators have provided free tickets to 1,348 people, including 362 children over five, equivalent to four survivors travelling to safety each day on average. 

Almost two-thirds of people who used Rail to Refuge said they would not have travelled if the journey had not been paid for. 

In a pre-recorded discussion for the Women Of The World online festival last year, Camilla spoke of listening to the ‘horrific’ stories of survivors of domestic abuse

Women’s Aid estimates that in 2019-20, refuge services in England supported 10,592 women and 12,710 children, but demand is even higher.  

Farah Nazeer, chief executive at Women’s Aid, said: ‘Many women and children have to travel long distances to escape their abuser. There remains a serious shortage of refuge spaces, so it is vital that women are not prevented access to safety in a refuge by the cost of travel. 

‘In addition, many survivors have experienced years of economic abuse and will not have access to a bank, credit card or even cash. Women tell us that they cannot afford to leave because the perpetrator has controlled their money and they have none of their own.’   

‘We are delighted that train companies have worked with us to remove a significant barrier to people escaping abuse. The Rail to Refuge scheme will continue to be lifesaving for hundreds of women and children, and it is incredibly welcome news that it has been extended.’ 

Camilla has continued with business as usual in the wake of the fall out of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Oprah Winfrey interview earlier this month. 

The explosive interview saw Harry claimed he was ‘trapped’ within the monarchy as he revealed his father Charles ‘stopped taking my calls’ during the build-up to the announcement that he and Meghan were leaving the royal family.

It comes after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle shook the Firm to its core following their explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey (pictured)

Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall shared a sweet image from their garden at Highgrove to celebrate the first day of spring last week 

During their sit-down Meghan and Harry also claimed racism drove them out of Britain and that their son Archie was denied the title of prince because he is mixed-race. 

Last week, Prince William defended the Royal Family while on a trip to a school in London, saying it was ‘very much not a racist family’. 

Camilla appeared relaxed last week as she and Charles shared a sweet image from their garden at Highgrove to celebrate the first day of spring. 

The royal couple wrapped up warm as they posed on the grounds of their Gloucestershire estate, surrounded by an array on growing flowers to mark the early signs of spring. 

The carefree photo came amid a turbulent few weeks for the royal family, which also saw Charles’ 99-year-old father Prince Philip leave a month long stay in hospital following a heart operation. 

Last Tuesday saw Camilla take part in a joint video call with the Queen, in which she and Her Majesty thanked NHS volunteers for their hard work during the pandemic. 

Where can domestic abuse victims seek help during lockdown?

Hannah Bridgwood, associate solicitor at Clarke Willmott LLP, outlined what exactly lockdown emergency measures mean for vulnerable women: 

Are there provisions in the Coronavirus bill for victims of domestic abuse who will be isolated with their abuser?

The measures provide for people leaving their home in exceptional circumstances and one of these is to ‘avoid or escape risk of injury or harm’.

So, if you are in fear for your safety and that of your children, you are able to leave your household to get help and seek refuge.

The police have been placed on high alert because other countries have experienced a significant increase in domestic abuse since lockdown was introduced. The police are ready and willing to help.

If you are in immediate danger, you should never hesitate to call 999 straight away. If you are unable to speak because you are scared your abuser will hear, you can dial 55 during your call; this will alert the police that the call is genuine, extremely urgent and will be prioritised.

Solicitors can help; the courts remain open and are able to deal with emergency applications quickly. We can apply for non-molestation orders which are injunctions designed to protect you and your children from further harm.

We can also apply for occupation orders to get your abuser out of the family home. It is worth noting that if your abuser pays the bills and rent/mortgage, the court can also order that they can carry on paying. We offer telephone and video calls so that we can act quickly to get you the protection you need. 


Women’s Aid is providing advice specifically designed for the current Covid-19 outbreak, including a live chat service they will help you flee, locate a safe place to stay and provide you with support to help you come to terms with your experiences. 


The Men’s Advice Line is a confidential helpline for male victims of domestic abuse. They will help you to plan your escape, locate safe accommodation and support you throughout. 

They can be contacted on 0808 801 0327.

GALOP – for members of the LGBT+ community

Galop is a LGBT+ anti-violence charity. Galop runs a specialist helpline on 0800 999 5428 or you can contact them by email [email protected] . They will support you to safety.


Hestia is another domestic abuse charity that provides a free-to-download mobile app, Bright Sky, which provides guidance, support and information to anyone who may be in an abusive relationship or those worried about someone they know you can download at the app store or android store. 


Chayn provides online help and resources in a multiple languages, to help sufferers and friends supporting those being abused. 


The National Domestic Abuse Helpline  can provide guidance and support for victims, as well as those who are worried about friends and loved ones. 

They can be called, for free and in confidence, 24 hours a day on 0808 2000 247. 

They will also call you back at a safe time if you book a call through their website.


If you are worried that your abuser will leave you financially vulnerable, the charity Surviving Economic Abuse can provide additional guidance and support.

The government has recognised that sufferers of domestic abuse may be feeling particularly vulnerable at this time. Earlier this year Home Secretary Priti Patel pledged to crack down on those using the lockdown to make their victims feel ‘especially isolated, vulnerable and exposed’. 

She told The Mail on Sunday she was aware that for some ‘home is not the safe haven it should be’, adding: ‘I am acutely aware that the necessary guidelines about social distancing and self-isolation may leave the victims of hidden crime, such as domestic abuse and child sexual abuse, feeling especially isolated, vulnerable and exposed.

‘But my message to every potential victim is simple: we have not forgotten you and we will not let you down. And my message to every perpetrator is equally as simple: you will not get away with your crimes.

‘I also want to make clear – whilst our advice is to stay at home, anyone who is at risk of, or experiencing, domestic abuse, is still able to leave and seek refuge.

‘In times of crisis such as these, whilst we are socially distancing ourselves, we must not forget the most vulnerable in society. 

‘Last year on average three people a week were killed as a result of domestic abuse and this year’s statistics are expected to increase as a result of the current Covid-19 lockdown. I would encourage anyone currently in fear of domestic abuse to reach out; to the police, to me or to specialist charities.’ 

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