ICE – In Case of Emergency App – can save lives

As a personal case rep for over 20 years, I have represented many cases of domestic violence and abuse for both male and female members, and have trained with the Police and Crime Commissioners office to become a DVA Champion in the North East Region. Details of Champions are held on a database and email updates are regularly sent out with information of services and advice.

I have supported members in our workplaces to navigate through the DWP policy on Domestic Violence and abuse, which has often been ignored or just simply was
unknown to line managers. I have ensured all safety issues have been explored, and
implemented and supported my members, and also line managers, to deal with the
situation as it unfolds.

Intervention such as office moves because of a stalker, transport to work via taxi to
ensure a member arrives within the office boundaries away from a violent partner,
pseudonym use for telephony contact and many more measures to ensure our
members are protected in work and in their personal life have been achieved, and I
have even worked alongside a Police Liaison officer to support a member and be a
Our branch developed links via the Branch Women’s Committee with the local
women’s refuge. After a very informative visit we asked how we could support the
work being done. The ask was a simple one. Women arrive with nothing so could we
help with items that could be given to them immediately as basic?
We collect items regularly now to support women who turn up with nothing at the
centre. Simple items such as tights, toiletries, towels etc.
Gifts of small toys and excess Christmas presents have been taken to the centre and
when travelling, all the small hotel toiletries you may just have previously left behind
have been collected, made into packs and given to the refuge.
Sadly since Covid began we have seen a rise in Domestic Violence and abuse across
the country. Many members have been supported by reps in the workplace. Some
staying in the office rather than the option of working from home. PCS argue that
because of Covid it is safer to work from your home and we have successfully raised
the issue at every level enabling 1000’s of our staff to work from home.
Policies bitterly fought out by our negotiators to ensure special leave with pay for
childcare is one example, and ensuring safe working practices in home office spaces
PCS accept that the office is sometimes the safest space of all for some. Abuse is out
there, known or ignored.
Something I accidently experienced of late, raised awareness even further to me.
I recently experienced how ICE works within my mobile and realised how this could
aid our members and families during COVID and afterwards.
It gave me a very real realisation of how good a tool this could be, especially in
domestic violence situations.
Basically, I placed my mobile down before going for a shower at about 9pm.
By accident I must have knocked the ’emergency’ button on my locked screen.
An icon I had installed when I got my new device about two years ago, and had
forgotten about. I had never taken any notice of it on my screen when locked.
Within seconds my phone had sent an SOS text to my son in Portsmouth, my
husband’s personal and work number and to my mother’s phone. It also dialled 999.
Every phone in my earshot was ringing in the house. My mobile, house phone and
iPad were ringing!
My phone was buzzing from texts back to me and my house phone was ringing as my
mother couldn’t get through on my mobile.
I had an immediate response from the police who very calmly questioned me about
my current safety, took all my details including my address and who was in the house,
logged the call as an incident and would only close that, once they were convinced I
was safe.
I didn’t immediately know why they rang me or what was going on, but it dawned on
me what had caused the flurry of activity and I spoke to the policeman about it.
His reaction was to tell me that ‘at least I now know that it works!’
All of the contacts I had loaded in the phone under the ICE guidance immediately
reacted to receiving the SOS text. It was a brilliant response if I was in danger for any
It made me think that the concern from the Police was obviously initially based on a
violent situation. Only when I stated that my husband had been sent the SOS also and
he was downstairs asking me what was going on and running around trying to turn off
ringers etc. did he concede I was not in a DVA situation and didn’t need them.
I was originally mortified to have disturbed everyone and be talking to the police, but
it raised my consciousness of the immediate support this offers, and it made me
realise that this is a very good tool if needed for lots of reasons.
I think that PCS members and their families could benefit from ensuring they utilise
this system. It could save a life and takes minutes to follow the guidance to install into
your phone.

Marie McDonough
DWP City of Sunderland Secretary
DWP Group Vice President

Marie is standing for PCS DWP Vice President in the group elections. Click the image below for the full Left Unity slate.

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