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Chatbot for domestic abuse support is Welsh first

Swansea Council has become the first in Wales to launch a hi-tech chatbot to help support people experiencing or at risk of domestic abuse.

Youarenotalone

Staff at the council's Domestic Abuse Hub have continued to provide safety advice and emotional support to those who need it throughout the coronavirus crisis.

As part of its You Are Not Alone campaign, launched to support people at risk of Domestic Abuse through the pandemic, the hub team has also been looking for ways to use technology to supplement this work and reach more people.

The council's Digital Services team has worked closely with colleagues in Social Services and Microsoft to develop a chatbot using AI which is now live on the service's website at: www.swansea.gov.uk/YouAreNotAlone 

It is a way of ensuring that people at risk of domestic abuse have access 24/7 to assistance and the reassurance that they are not alone and help is available.

The bot ask the user a series of questions to help direct them to the most appropriate support.

Users remain anonymous and the service is completely confidential.

Alyson Pugh, Swansea Council's Cabinet Member for Better Communities, said: "At a time when people are being encouraged to stay in their homes in order to keep safe, it is more important than ever to recognise that not every home is a safe place.

"Swansea Council are always looking for innovative ways to use technology to support citizen's needs and when we discovered the benefits of using bots on our website to support this, we had to explore further.

"During this time of uncertainty, we need to find ways to reach out to people at risk of domestic abuse and reassure them that they are not alone, and help is available.

"Our Domestic Abuse Hub and Independent Domestic Violence Advisors are as committed as ever to providing support and guidance to households where domestic abuse is an issue, and we are working closely with our specialist Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence partners to ensure a coordinated approach across Swansea and to allow our citizens the best opportunity to access the support they need at such a difficult time. But we know that for some people, reaching out is not that easy.

"The DA virtual agent is an innovative way to offer an interactive and efficient service to those who are worried about their own situation or have concerns for someone else.

"It allows us to reassure victims and families that there is support available. We can signpost to local or national support services and advice lines which are continuing to operate despite current restrictions, provide information and guidance on what constitutes abuse and the signs and symptoms, and importantly provide concise and accurate advice on safety planning, which has the potential to save lives."

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