To finish our “Look Beyond the Pandemic” campaign, IRISi invited Advocate Educators to share their perspective on how the pandemic has impacted the support provided for Domestic Abuse and Violence victims and survivors and how the IRIS programme has been adjusted to address all the new demands.
To finish our “Look Beyond the Pandemic” campaign, IRISi invited Advocate Educators to share their perspective on how the pandemic has impacted the support provided for Domestic Abuse and Violence victims and survivors, and how the IRIS programme has been adjusted to address all the new demands. Below, you can have seen the responses from Liz, IRIS Advocate Educator at East Surrey Domestic Abuse Services (ESDAS); Jackie Suter, IRIS Advocate Educator at Women’s Aid-Rhondda Cynon Taff; and Aasifa Usmani, IRIS Advocate Educator at Solace Women’s Aid. You can also see a powerful message recorded by Haniya Chaudhary, an IRIS Advocate Educator at Coventry Haven.
Liz, IRIS Advocate Educator at ESDAS (East Surrey Domestic Abuse Service)
“Like many organisations we had to move all our services online, operating remotely in most instances. However, we tried to be prepared when we thought lockdown was coming, reaching out to those survivors we knew would be ‘locked in’ with their abusers and safety planning with them.
Initially during the pandemic, our contact with service users was via the phone, email, or video calls, so the biggest change was not having face to face appointments with service users. The window of opportunity for service users to seek help became exceedingly small so more than ever providing as much support as possible in one instance became really important as we were unsure when contact could be safely made again.
I commenced my role as IRIS Advocate Educator during the pandemic so networking remains challenging, I cannot just drop into surgeries to meet clinicians and service users. Working creatively, introducing myself and reminding clinicians of the IRIS project has been important, sending an introductory email, information on domestic abuse in Covid times and attending clinical team meetings via social media. Communicating in these ways has become important in establishing networks with clinicians and receiving referrals.
During lockdown 2, I have been able to work quite closely with some clinicians who have provided a safe space for service users to make phone calls for support and in some instances I have been able to meet in person with a client at the surgery. I believe this partnership working has enabled support of survivors of whom we would otherwise be unaware.
I was interviewed for my job role and trained to deliver IRIS training via the use of social media. I also attended a networking day with other IRIS Advocate Educators all of which provided me with helpful information in which to fulfil my work role and support service users.
Research carried out or highlighted by IRISi has provided easy access to knowledge and trends that I have been able to share with clinicians, keeping them informed.
Meeting with my local IRIS Regional Manager has also been extremely helpful in understanding the role, challenges I may face, good communication with clinicians and commissioners”.
Jackie Suter, IRIS Advocate Educator at Women’s Aid-Rhondda Cynon Taff
“The project has continued uninterrupted throughout the Covid-19 pandemic but appearances have changed somewhat. Whereas pre-Covid-19 appointments with patients would take place in surgeries these had to be suspended at the start of the period. Face to face appointments, where possible have been held in our offices, however the main delivery format of support has been telephone or Zoom appointments.
Clients have adapted well to this format, embracing the need to minimise transmission risk and comply with lockdown restrictions. Support has remained in place for clients for longer than usual, often due to the heightened anxiety around Covid-19, but also because Covid specific issues arose e.g. contact between children and ex-partners who were not complying with contact orders or relevant restrictions. Legal services for clients were available via Zoom / telephone to address this. Referral numbers were lower initially but began to increase as time progressed.
Practice training is usually delivered in-house with whole teams of practice staff. The IRISi training team were able to provide an adapted training package in order for IRIS AE’s to re-commence training over Zoom. This has allowed AE’s to continue this valuable part of their work and ensure that Clinical and Admin staff continue to be up to date with their training which incorporates Covid-19 specific guidance.
The theme of ‘Adapt’ has been apparent throughout for the IRIS AE’s. It will be a positive step and a sign that life is returning to some normality when we can resume face to face appointments with patients in surgery. Some training delivery may well continue via the Zoom platform going forward as it can be an effective means of delivering training to the intended audience”.
Aasifa Usmani, IRIS Advocate Educator at Solace Women’s Aid (Tower Hamlets IRIS Service)
“Working through the pandemic has been challenging since IRIS AEs would usually meet with the victim survivors face to face at the GP surgeries. There are situations when it has not been safe to talk to victim survivors due to their abusers/partners being around or partners being furloughed or out of work. It has been challenging to support in cases when English is not the victim survivors’ first language and we also must explain in more detail options with regards to immigration routes. The barriers and factors are compounded and confounded by multiple issues. At times, the interpreting services have been constantly busy and, on a few occasions, there has been no one available to help with telephone interpreting since the lines are constantly busy.
With victim survivors with complex needs as well, they feel more isolated and anxious and the pandemic has obviously exacerbated the trauma they go through in their lives. We know of a few cases where victim survivors lost their jobs due to coercive control while the victims were working from home – perpetrators were changing passwords of wi-fi, women had no space to work in confidence, were not allowed to use public transport and the weaponization of the virus was used to limit work and work related outings.
Our service users also experienced delays in court hearings, closing of one stop shop services, had delayed responses or none from the police. We have found some local authorities delaying the routes to rehousing and this has also affected the networks and support systems for our clients.
Where possible AEs are liaising with clinicians so that face to face appointments are booked to support vulnerable victim survivors.
Building rapport with new GP surgeries has been challenging because of lockdown. They are extremely busy with other emergencies and health priorities and urgencies during the pandemic.
IRISi has supported us by providing regular meetings. Reassurances from IRISi Regional Managers and their understanding in these difficult times have been great; they have acknowledged the barriers for AEs and given useful feedback when there are barriers in engaging surgeries”.
A powerful message from Haniya Chaudhary, IRIS Advocate Educator at Coventry Haven
To end our “Look Beyond The Pandemic” campaign, we are sharing this powerful message recorded by Haniya Chaudhary, IRIS Advocate Educator at Coventry Haven.