This week, one of our Independent Domestic Violence Advisers tells us about the vital work they do in supporting our clients.
In the interests of their safety and the safety of their clients, their identity cannot be revealed.
Each week, I start by checking to see if there are any new clients who have been referred to us for support. This Monday I had three check-in calls with clients to understand what help they needed.
We’re just starting to go back to face-to-face meetings, but over the past 18 months these check-ins have been video calls, which in some ways was good because it gave us more time and capacity to take on a higher caseload.
On these calls I offer emotional support to clients, making any necessary updates to risk assessments, based on their current circumstances, and update their Independent Living Plans (ILPs).
ILPs are put in place whenever we meet a new client and are focused on five main areas of support: money, life, time, safety, and health. While I sometimes do get involved in areas like helping with benefits or other financial support, the purpose of my role is to reduce the risk to the client as quickly as I can, so that’s my priority.
Most of my client referrals come from Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) which is led by the police, with input from local authority departments including: housing, children’s services, health, local drug and alcohol services, and probation.
After my calls, I transfer all the information to my contact sheets. Sometimes the police ask for our contact sheets to use as evidence, so it’s important that everything is accurate and as the client states it, rather than hearsay or our opinion.
Today I attended court with a client, which is something our team does fairly regularly.
My client had been waiting for months for this case against her former partner to be heard, but unfortunately when we arrived, we were told a delay meant the court would be unable to proceed with the case on this day.
While delays like this can happen, it was of course very upsetting and frustrating for them.
In situations like this it’s important to be there for the client, let them know they’re not alone and give them the strength to continue. In this case, the next court date has been pushed back by four months, so for me, it’s about keeping positive about moving forward and giving the person I support the strength to continue with the process.
Today I attended two meetings. The first was the Domestic Abuse Repeat Incidences Meeting (DARIM). Usually, the cases aren’t high risk, but they’re for clients that have regular incidences.
We then go into the MARAC, where we talk about the high-risk clients. The purpose of this meeting is safety planning and risk reduction. It ensures all the relevant agencies are aware of the clients and that the referrals have been made.
For example, if the client has children, we make sure that children’s services are aware, or we might speak to the fire service to install fire-retardant letter boxes if arson has been flagged as a risk.
I also support clients to find refuge. Some clients will have already fled, and I'll support them to find somewhere to move to.
Around 30-40% of people we come into contact with at this stage will still be in a relationship with their abusive partner. We have to be really careful if people are still in the relationship about how we communicate with them to ensure their safety. When we're doing face-to-face appointments, we would never go to a client's home, partly because of the risk to the client, but also the risk to us if the perpetrator is living there or knows the address.
We also ensure that we don't send them emails unless we know that it's a private email address that the perpetrator doesn't have any access to. We always make sure that it's safe to leave phone messages for them because we know that perpetrators often look at their phones.
The day started off with a child in need meeting. This was to discuss clients who are open to children's services but where a child protection plan was not yet in place. A child protection plan is one of the highest levels of plans that can be in place with children's services.
I then attended a webinar about abuse in later life. This is an area I’m passionate about and have come across in my work. I try to take advantage of as many training courses as I can to keep on top of any legal changes and to enhance my skills to support my role.
In the afternoon, I delivered a smart doorbell to a client. This was the same client I had been in court with on Tuesday. As the perpetrator wasn't remanded or sentenced, the client was feeling extremely anxious, so we applied for funding for her for a video doorbell. We sometime have to provide smart doorbells for clients because we know that so much is captured on the doorbell’s video capabilities, and it can be used as evidence in court.
Today I had seven appointments. One was a client I'd spoken to earlier in the week. Normally I talk to clients on a weekly basis. However, she'd had a disturbing experience and I always try to offer extra support towards the end of the week if they feel that they need somebody to talk to.
At the moment I have 18 clients. This is a fairly high number and the maximum number of clients we can safely manage is 20 if it’s purely face-to-face, due to travelling involved.
No two days are the same in this role, and we’re dealing with a large range of circumstances with a very varied range of clients. We see people of all genders, and of all ages from 16 upwards. It can be very challenging at times, but it’s very rewarding, and I feel lucky to do a job I enjoy so much.
Get in touch if you need help
Our trained staff are here to offer confidential advice and guidance as well as practical support to help rebuild your confidence and empower you to make the changes you want.
You can find information about our domestic abuse services in Oxfordshire or West Berkshire and our direct helpline, which is available to support anyone who is living in Oxford or West Berkshire.