I am walking into work with a plan. It’s a typical plan for a Wednesday; I have appointments booked in and a to do list to chip away at. But being a Domestic Abuse Practitioner means that often days never go to plan. I fire up the laptop and make my first brew of the day when I see a high risk PPN has come through for one of my clients. I need to be at another client’s house for nine-thirty, but I decide to try a quick call to this high-risk client first. I ring but she doesn’t answer, aware of her troubles sleeping in the night she’s probably not up yet, so I leave the office and head to my client’s house.
Visiting clients in their homes has many benefits. They can feel more comfortable, and safer & I feel we are able to get to know them in a way that we wouldn’t if they didn’t feel as comfortable.
During the height of the Covid pandemic, we were not able to do this and so now we are returning to a mixture of office and community-based support we are seeing those benefits again. We discuss their experiences of domestic abuse, but our appointments are dynamic and often dependent on what they have dealt with that week. We offer people a chance to speak to someone who understands the complexity of their experiences. But we do more than that; I have found myself to be a climbing frame for a 10-month old baby and a goalie for a client’s son just to give her chance to run upstairs and brush her teeth before I left. Domestic abuse has short and long term effects and we are there for our clients in a variety of ways.
By mid-morning, I am walking back to the office when my phone rings. It is another client whose perpetrator is taking her to court for child contact. She asks for a supporting letter so she’s able to apply for Legal Aid, and I assure her I’ll add it to my urgent to do list for the day.
The office is buzzing when I return. My colleagues have just finished running our Moving On from Domestic Abuse group. I hear the clients chatting to one another as they descend the stairs. Isolation is a common tactic used by perpetrators, so a vital part of our work is strengthening their support network. It’s always lovely to hear them making friends.
As I write my notes up for my morning appointment, my phone rings. It is a Domestic Abuse Officer with North Yorkshire Police wanting to speak about the high-risk client. We are both worried about her and agreed that a MARAC referral needed to be completed. Twice a week in York, a Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference is held to discuss the most high-risk domestic abuse cases. We attend each conference, ensuring the voice of our client is heard, there is such value in working with a multi-agency approach.
Someone in the team mentions lunch and before anyone can question how often we go to the Shambles Market, we’re standing amongst the food stalls, debating what we wanted. Although we all hold our own caseloads, we approach our work as a team. This involves peer support & ensuring we all have our lunches away from our desks.
It’s early afternoon when I speak to my high-risk client. She is frightened that her perpetrator has been released on bail. We safety plan and discuss refuge out of area, at this time my client doesn’t feel she can flee. She has a support network here – friends, family, and a child. After ending the call, I ring Housing Options to see enquire about her accessing temporary accommodation, they will look into the case & will call me back.
Whilst I’m on the phone, a colleague brings me an envelope from a client who I have just recently finished supporting. Inside, I find a handwritten thank you card. I read it to the rest of the team, and we all celebrate this client’s success. The card will sit on my desk as a reminder of how valuable the support we provide is to clients.
Two of my colleagues head out after lunch; they are going to a local school to give a talk about healthy relationships to some secondary school children. I have more client appointments – this time they are phone appointments. We talk about setting boundaries and post-separation abuse.
The afternoon ticks by quickly. It always does in this job. I am writing a Legal Aid letter and a housing support letter when discussion in the office turns to our plans for the 16 Days of Action global campaign. My colleague has taken the lead and has started contacting local businesses for help. As the Outreach team, we like to ensure we involve the local community in our work.
Our helpline is available until eight, so tonight I am covering the phone. I receive two calls that evening, both from people reaching out for support. I complete risk assessments and undertake safety plans. Together we create a support plan and I forward them through to the local team.
As I close my laptop that night, I think of my thank you card. This role has a mountain of challenges, but it also has its successes that make all the hard work worthwhile.