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Cunninghame House, Irvine, KA12 8EE

A Day in the Life of a North Ayrshire Women’s Aid Worker

Throughout 2023 we will continue our series featuring articles that focus on a ‘day in the life’ of people working in a variety of services and organisations across Ayrshire, whose dedication and efforts are key to reducing reoffending and improving outcomes for people in contact with the justice system and the wider community who are impacted by justice issues.

We would like to thank Catherine for sharing her story with us.

North Ayrshire Women’s Aid is a unique specialist service which provides both emotional and practical support to women and children affected by domestic abuse.   Support women who are currently experiencing domestic abuse as well as women who have experienced abuse in the past.  There are a variety of ways the service can provide support both emotionally and practically.

Operating a successful volunteering service, that includes making promotional films and being available to support and promote Women’s Aid with anything new that might come up.   Supporting women in the Garnock Valley, Irvine and Three Towns area as well as Arran and Cumbrae.   With refuges at various addresses around North Ayrshire.

Catherine is a Women’s Aid Worker, working with women who are experiencing or have experienced domestic abuse, this work extends into the community as well as working with women who had fled with their families to “safe space” family homes. Offering support to women through a 4-phase programme, initially assessing with the woman what areas have been affected by the domestic abuse.  Typically, the first area staff address is safety, and they do so by assessing risk and supporting women with an individualised safety plan.  As the support progresses, they aim to empower and equip women to reach a space where they feel comfortable and strong again.

How I got where I am

I moved to Scotland from Northern Ireland in 2020, I have worked several years in jobs where people are at the heart of the work I do. I also have a counselling degree, which serves well working in my current role supporting women emotionally and practically with issues pertaining to domestic abuse.  Whilst North Ayrshire Women’s Aid do not offer counselling services, the skills I learned are helpful in supporting women to move forward in their recovery from domestic abuse.

“The women’s voice and identified needs are at the centre of the work we do.”

A typical day

A typical day is never the same within North Ayrshire Women’s Aid, we work with women in the community as well as women in our safe houses. This work can present itself in a variety of ways. It may be attending to the needs of the women in the here and now for example, an emergency admission.  Or it could be working through our initial assessment process with a woman, which is always led by the women, it is important that she identifies areas where she feels she needs support and for myself as her Women’s Aid worker to offer support around these areas in a solution focused way.

The women’s voice and identified needs are at the centre of the work we do. I find it important that while we are working on domestic abuse recovery that the woman can identify and process her thoughts and emotions. At North Ayrshire Women’s Aid, we also feel the benefit of multi-agency working throughout the community in a bid to ensure that our women are receiving the best support they can get.

I use parts of my working day to connect with other agencies involved such as the police, housing, social services, education, health and other third sector groups. We also operate a duty system within the office, and at times this is a great chance to get caught up on paperwork, however, we are at the helm of ensuring any referrals that come in through telephone or our website are processed thoroughly – and with that we normally work swiftly to contact the woman who has been referred within 48 hours. The pace of an initial referral call is an important part of our work as it ensures that we are working quickly to offer support in what can be a small window of opportunity.  Our duty system also ensures that women who walk in or call can be supported immediately.

I prepare for the day ahead by

I normally prepare for my days with a cup of coffee and a chat with my colleagues. We all work closely together, and I find this is helpful to kickstart a working day.  I also check my diary for appointments that I may have out and about in the community and go from there. Typically, my day normally goes as planned, however, at times we have curveballs, these may be emergency admissions, a crisis call from a woman I’m supporting or helping another member of the team if they need that.

“The biggest part of this job for me is the small things that lead to having the biggest impact on the women we support”

One moment I’ll always remember

There are a few!!

The biggest part of this job for me is the small things that lead to having the biggest impact on the women we support – this may be as simple as offering a listening ear to someone who has never felt listened too before.

One thing I wish I had known when I started out

That I can’t fix everything.

Unfortunately, this has been a learning curve for me since I started working in social care.  However, I have discovered that celebrating the small moments are more important than anything.

“I am proud of the service we provide to women, always going above and beyond to help where we can.”

What I love about what I do

I love how responsive we are as a team within North Ayrshire Women’s Aid and meet every challenge with an open mind and with the needs of those on the receiving end in mind at all times.

I also love that we are encouraged within the team, if I share a lack of confidence in any area, I am met with understanding and offered support within this.

I am proud of the service we provide to women, always going above and beyond to help where we can.

Would I choose this path again if I could?

I think I would.  I always have the needs of others in place when working with people and enjoy working in a frontline service.  When something comes together with a piece of work no matter the size, if it has a positive impact on that individual, I feel like I have done a good job.

What would I say to someone considering this career path

I would encourage anyone to come to work within North Ayrshire Women’s Aid.  If you enjoy working with people and being challenged, it is the right move for you.