Data charges removed for websites supporting victims of crime

Thanks to a new lockdown deal, victim support will be more accessible than ever as major networks removed website data charges for those who are seeking help.

Access to websites, including the Male Survivors Partnership, will be free of charge during the coronavirus pandemic to help support some of the most vulnerable victims of crime. The UK’s major telecoms companies have agreed their customers’ mobile phone data won’t be used up if people are using it to seek information and support online.

‘Zero-rating’ (allowing users to access sites without financial cost) these websites is the latest in a series of commitments from the telecoms industry to support vulnerable people during the pandemic. It comes at a time when some charities are reporting significant increases in visits to their websites.

Instructions to stay at home as much as possible may have been a major cause of anxiety for some victims while social distancing measures mean it is harder for organisations to offer face-to-face support. Many have adapted to offer online support, which has left some service users unable to reach key support workers.

To ensure this vital support remains available, mobile network operators EE, Vodafone, O2, Three, Sky Mobile, Virgin Media, Tesco Mobile and giffgaff have agreed that their customers will not incur data charges when accessing support and information on the following websites:

Providing support for victims and witnesses of crime
Victim Support – victimsupport.org.uk

Providing support for victims of sexual violence and abuse
Rape Crisis – rapecrisis.org.uk
The Survivors Trust – thesurvivorstrust.org
Male Survivors Partnership – malesurvivor.co.uk

Providing support for victims of domestic abuse
Refuge and the National Domestic Abuse Helpline – refuge.org.uk
Women’s Aid and Welsh Women’s Aid – womensaid.org.uk & welshwomensaid.org.uk

Providing support for children suffering abuse
NSPCC – nspcc.org.uk

Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman said:
“This agreement will help people who are at risk of violence during this pandemic get the information and support they need, particularly those on pay as you go contracts or tight data allowances.

“This is yet another positive commitment from the UK’s brilliant mobile network providers to support the vulnerable and contribute to the national effort to overcome coronavirus.”

Justice Minister Alex Chalk said:
“Victims need to know that support remains available despite this pandemic.

“Ensuring free access to these important websites and more funding for vital helplines is just one part of the work we are doing to make sure no victim is left to suffer alone.”

The move follows previous commitments from the UK’s internet service and mobile providers to support and protect vulnerable consumers and the NHS during the pandemic.

As part of this all of the UK’s internet providers have already agreed to remove all data allowance caps on current fixed broadband services, so accessing these websites through a home broadband connection will not incur data charges.

The Male Survivors Partnership provides organisations that support male victims of sexual violence with resources and tools to grow and improve the services they provide. For more information on support for male survivors, please click here.