The Role of an Independent Domestic Violence Advisor Hi, my name is Jenni, I’m an IDVA at Next Chapter and I’ve taken over the blog for today to introduce you to our team…. First things first… IDVA… I expect that you may not have come across this term before (it’s pronounced just like it’s spelt). IDVA, or Independent Domestic Violence Advisor to give it’s full name, is the professional title given to a practitioner who has successfully completed their professional training and is qualified to hold the title. It should give you confidence as it means that you know the person you are working with is skilled, experienced and above all, qualified, to work effectively within the Criminal Justice System, understanding how the Police, Social Care and the different court systems work, so that they are able to best support those of you that are at high risk of harm. But why do IDVA need the “independent” part in our title I hear you ask? Well, for me, the “independent” part is really important because it means that we work alongside other professionals to make sure that what is best for you and your family is always at the centre of our discussions. We are non-statutory which means we can be your voice we understand domestic abuse, we do not work for the Police, social care or indeed probation services, we work alongside them, which means we are able to help you to navigate through these statutory services. We want you to feel comfortable talking to us you may have already had to speak to the police, children’s social care, you may feel they do not understand your personal circumstances, you may even feel that you are to blame in some way - this is why we can be your voice when you need us to be. We make sure that we bring your voice, your needs and your choices to every discussion we are involved with so that wherever possible you can retain your control and choice over what happens. I will then work with you to create a safety and support plan that is unique to you. When someone seeks help, there are a huge number of services they might need; housing, civil and criminal courts, the police, benefits advice, probation services, parenting programmes, mental health support workers, substance misuse workers, refuges, children and young people's services, their GP - I could keep going with the list…. So, imagine for a moment that you’ve summoned up the courage to finally leave, you’re feeling vulnerable and afraid and understandably really nervous about what the future might hold – you have to try and find your way through all that…. that's if you even knew half of it existed in the first place or where and how to start to getting in touch with them… So that's where we IDVA’S come in. I have been training specifically to help navigate through all these different services with my clients, to understand domestic abuse and how it might influence their emotions and decisions. I thought it might help if I talked a bit about what I do on a “normal day” (if there is such a thing!) and that might help explain the sorts of things that we do… At the moment we’re all working remotely, from home, so that we can continue to provide our services but keep safe and abide by the current restrictions. I have my own set of cases, so part of my daily routine will be to liaise with other professionals, to check in with my current clients and respond to any events that might have happened since we last spoke. I usually start by checking whether I have any new referrals – they might have come from the police, social services or Compass who run the 24/7 referral helpline for Essex. (You can get hold of them on 0330 333 7 444 if you need them). The first conversation I will have with you can be the longest and the hardest, after all we have never met before and you may not be ready to trust me, I need to carry out a risk-assessment which will help me understand your needs. I know that there will be some questions that you might find difficult to answer… it’s a tough thing to talk about the abusive relationship that you have experienced, …. but I understand that you know the abusive person better than anyone and this information will help me to understand your personal situation so I will do everything I can to make this first discussion as easy as it can be. There is no need to be fearful of what we might talk about - I don’t judge and I’m a really good listener! I will then work with you to create a safety and support plan that is unique to you. Everyone’s needs will be slightly different – one person might need additional security at home but someone else might need to leave home and be looking for specialist refuge accommodation, another person might need help with securing their right to remain in the country and another might need help with child contact. Our first aim is to reduce the risk and then to work with them to give them the knowledge and confidence to prevent this happening again through our support which is empowering and safety focused. Whatever you need, we will work it out together, to carefully plan small steps towards freedom. I know that my colleagues have discussed what domestic abuse looks like in previous blogs, but I just want to say again that the chances are we will all know a victim of domestic abuse, because it doesn't just happen to one sort of person. I know that sometimes the person won’t even realise that they are living with domestic abuse because they might not have a black eye - but they are being emotionally abused, financially controlled, bullied and coerced. They live in fear of their partner's reaction - and yet they are also fearful of the consequences of telling someone... Will he/she be arrested? Will their child be taken away? Will they bring shame on the family? Nothing is simple… That’s why we are all so passionate about supporting victims of domestic abuse to leave, recover and live their life free from abuse. We don’t want them to be fearful of the consequences of telling someone so we will do everything within our power to advocate for them, enabling and ensuring that they get a voice that will be heard. My job is to show our clients we're working for them and with them, not against them. For many, it's hard for them to get their head around that - they've haven't had anyone on their side for so long. They've lived without choices or freedom for months, years, sometimes decades. Our team, our passionate and dedicated and the training we have means we can start to give our clients options for their future.