Duchess of Cornwall praises scheme which helps four people per day flee domestic abuse

·Royal Correspondent
·3-min read
Handout photo issued by the Rail Delivery Group of the Duchess of Cornwall (left) speaking with Rail to Refuge representative, CEO of ReigateÊand Banstead WomenÕs Aid, Charlotte Kneer (right), during a visit to Victoria Station in London. Rail to Refuge is a collaboration between train operators and Women's Aid which enables survivors fleeing domestic abuse to access free train travel to a safe refuge. Issue date: Tuesday March 30, 2021.
Camilla with Rail to Refuge representative, CEO of Reigate and Banstead Women's Aid, Charlotte Kneer (right). (PA/Rail Delivery Group)

The Duchess of Cornwall has shown her support for a scheme which helps victims of domestic abuse escape during the coronavirus pandemic.

Camilla visited Victoria station in London on Tuesday to hear about the impact of the Rail to Refuge initiative, which helps survivors with the cost of train tickets to refuge accommodation.

An average of four people per day used it since the first lockdown.

Camilla, 73, met Darren O’Brien, a South Eastern Station Manager, who came up with the idea. O'Brien thought of it after watching a documentary, Safe at Last, about Reigate and Banstead Women’s Aid.

The scheme was taken up by all rail operators on 9 April and was set to go on for the first lockdown, but has been extended for the foreseeable future.

Meeting O'Brien, she praised his idea and said "we need more Darrens". 

Camilla speaking to Rail to Refuge representative, Darren O'Brien, Southeastern station manager who first proposed the idea of free travel for survivors. (PA/Rail Delivery Group)
Camilla speaking to Rail to Refuge representative, Darren O'Brien, Southeastern station manager who first proposed the idea of free travel for survivors. (PA/Rail Delivery Group)
Handout photo issued by the Rail Delivery Group of the Duchess of Cornwall speaking with a representative from Rail to Refuge in a train carriage during a visit to Victoria Station in London, Rail to Refuge is a collaboration between train operators and Women's Aid which enables survivors fleeing domestic abuse to access free train travel to a safe refuge. Issue date: Tuesday March 30, 2021.
The Duchess of Cornwall speaking with a representative from Rail to Refuge in a train carriage. (PA/Rail Delivery Group)

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She told him: "This is a brilliant initiative and you should feel very proud of yourself.

“It’s amazing during this lockdown how many wonderful ideas have been thought up… we need more Darrens!”

More than 1,300 people have benefitted from a free ticket since the scheme launched, including 362 children over five. 

Those fleeing abuse may not have access to money, so the scheme can be vital.

Camilla has made tackling domestic abuse a key part of her royal work in recent years. She offered support for the Rail to Refuge scheme earlier this year, and shared a video message for Women's Aid, who help run the scheme.

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O'Brien said: "When I first came up with the idea, I had no idea how many people it would support, but I was motivated by the possibility that it could be life changing, even if just to one person.

"I’m incredibly proud to have played a part, and hopeful that today’s activity will help to raise even more awareness of the scheme so that it continues to help others."

Camilla has also recently supported a scheme called Ask for ANI, which helps people seek support in pharmacies in a discreet way.

After the visit in central London, Camilla went to East Sussex, where she visited Kamsons Pharmacy in Uckfield, which was founded in 1979 by Uganda Asian refugees. 

UCKFIELD, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 30: Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall is shown around the warehouse by Warehouse staff Zoe Hough and Jenny Milton as she thanks unsung frontline workers during a visit to Kamsons Pharmacy head office and warehouse on March 30, 2021 in Uckfield, East Sussex, United Kingdom. (Photo by Eddie Mulholland-WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Camilla is shown around the warehouse by Zoe Hough and Jenny Milton at Kamsons Pharmacy head office in Uckfield, East Sussex. (Eddie Mulholland-WPA Pool/Getty Images)
LEWES, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 30: Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall to Tracey Cheesman (L) as she visits Fitzjohn's Food Bank and the Lewes Open Door charity at Christ's Church on March 30, 2021 in Lewes, East Sussex, United Kingdom. (Photo by Gareth Fuller-WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Camilla chats to Tracey Cheesman (L) at Fitzjohn's Food Bank and the Lewes Open Door charity at Christ's Church. (Gareth Fuller-WPA Pool/Getty Images)

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She travelled by train - thought to be the first journey by rail for a senior royal this year.

Clarence House said the duchess was there to praise the "unsung heroes" of the pandemic, including "delivery drivers, warehouse and office staff, who have kept the warehouse, and therefore pharmacies, running".

She was also given a gift via a robot, as the warehouse has moved to an automated system, with the Weasel robot transporting and collecting items.

Camilla ended the day at a food bank in Lewes, in Christ's Church, which operates weekly deliveries to the vulnerable, as well as a lunchtime drop in for the homeless.