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

With our new website live, 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 caught up in the Justice system, their families, victims, and the community as a whole.

We would like to thank Vikki from South Ayrshire Women’s Aid for sharing her story with us.

Vikki is a Support Worker with South Ayrshire Women’s Aid and is responsible for supporting women with their experience of domestic abuse whether current or historical and regardless of age, religion, marital status, responsibility for dependants, race, class, sexual orientation, disability or health problems.

Vikki began her working life as a beauty therapist.  During this time, she provided North Ayrshire Women’s Aid with a therapeutic beauty service for women who had experience of domestic abuse, this changed her career trajectory. After many years running her own beauty therapy business Vikki decided to change career.  She completed an HNC in Social Care and began working with Quarriers supporting young males in a home style setting who presented with social, emotional, and behavioural difficulties. Vikki then moved on to working with young homeless adults in supported living accommodation, but she always felt drawn back to Women’s Aid so when the opportunity arose with South Ayrshire Women’s Aid she jumped at the chance.

“This is not just a job; it is a calling!”

A Typical Day

Every day starts with a diary check, emails, and telephone messages, whether that be text or voicemail and then I prioritise who I need to contact that day and begin that process.   I’ll organise any paperwork or resources required for the day and then forward planning for the next day takes place, issuing appointments for calls or meetings.

The service receives calls and emails on a daily basis from women or family members looking for support and/or advice either for themselves or a loved one. If a woman is looking for support at that time I would put this on to our system as a new referral.

I am required to attend supports appointments, some taking place online or by telephone and more recently returning to in person.   Supports range from initial referrals, which allow me to hear of a woman’s experience in a structured way and helps inform the type of support and resources I may be able to offer.   This will also include a risk assessment which allows me to accurately assess the risk to the woman, her children if any other people surrounding her.

Supports could be development a support plan, which allows a woman to safely explore where she feels she is in her experience and what areas of support she feels she needs most at that time.  This is a flexible and time sensitive plan so the most important issues to the woman are addressed.  It allows me to see what the woman is successfully doing already and highlight areas I may be able to support her with.

During supports I may also be required to offer emotional support, engage the women or family in structured activities, go through CBT based resources, actively listening, and offering options the woman may not have been aware of, which may include signposting and referrals to other services.

At times I may also be required to attend Court with a woman as support or have to liaise with Court Officers or the Witness Service in arranging safety measures regarding attendance at Court, including safe areas, and times to arrive or leave as well as side door access.

One of our resources is additional security for which we receive referrals for.  I am required to identify and/or assessing the need for additional security and the processing of that information.  Referrals to the system are sent through to our partners at the monitoring station and then arrangements are made for installation of the alarm in the woman’s home.

“I feel very privileged and humbled to be able to support woman and in turn their children in recovering from their experience of domestic abuse”

Groupwork

South Ayrshire Women’s Aid offer group work, and I may be helping co-facilitate the session.  I will be there to support any woman who feels overwhelmed by the experience of the group or the information shared within it.  The woman can leave the group for a period of time and seek emotional support from myself until they feel ready to participate again.

We facilitate the Freedom group which runs for 12 weeks.  This group explores the character of the dominator and allows women who have experienced domestic abuse to come to together and share their experiences and offer support and validation to each other in a safe space.

We also facilitate a PTSD group which runs for 8 weeks and is hosted by our specialist worker.  In this group women are supported to explore information, tools, and techniques to aid their recovery process.

We are hoping to develop further groups in the future to help support women and children with their experiences of domestic abuse.

Links to other Services

I liaise closely with a range of local services and organisations.   At times I need to link with the local authority regarding housing, homelessness, security and other various issues and the police for updates or referrals and safety markers.

I will also liaise with statutory services such as social work or criminal justice either in regard to a woman’s perpetrator, the children, or the woman herself, depending on her situation.  This may also include attending Team Around the Child (TAC) meetings, facilitated by social work, where I advocate for the woman regarding her experience.

I have been required to reach out to other women’s aid groups around the country looking for refuge.  I will access ‘routes to support’ which is a linked system allowing me to search for refuge accommodation across the country for women and their children fleeing domestic abuse.

“I would change people’s minds on the myths and inaccuracies of domestic abuse which are highly harmful”

What I love about my job

I feel very privileged and humbled to be able to support woman and in turn their children, in recovering from their experience of domestic abuse and to be able to offer them a chance at a healthy, fulfilling future.

If I could change anything

I would change people’s minds on the myths and inaccuracies of domestic abuse which are highly harmful. I would also encourage people to talk about domestic abuse to bring it out in to the open, it has stayed in the shadows far too long.

The not so nice parts of my job

I have to listen to the most horrific and depraved acts of domestic abuse committed by perpetrators against women and children. This can and does have an effect on you as a person.

Thankfully, I have a good support network of colleagues, family, and friends as well as coping techniques to be able to stave off vicarious trauma

Would I choose this path again if I could?

I would definitely choose this path over and over again.

I know I am where I am supposed to be.

This is not just a job; it is a calling!

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