Sheer determination to do whatever was needed
Story by Vanessa Anderson, Project Manager for Floating Support Services
I’ve worked at Llamau for eight years now and throughout those years I’ve faced plenty of challenging situations.
Situations that my team have always joked I have the solution to, but these last six months have brought on challenges that I really never thought we would be dealing with, so unsurprisingly I didn’t have the answers this time. There are much more obvious solutions to most things but Covid has turned all of that on its head and it’s meant that we’ve had to adapt and find solutions together to something no one has ever experienced before.
I manage Llamau’s Domestic Abuse Floating Support Service in Newport. We’re a small team of five and all have slightly different roles but ultimately our aim is to support women and men who have experienced domestic abuse to stay safe and move on from abuse, by delivering support in their homes and within the community.
As a team we spend a great deal of time building rapport with the people we’re supporting. We want them to feel safe and secure in our company and know they can trust us to support them and to guide them towards making positive choices for their future and for the future of their family.
As we went into lockdown, we were faced with the prospect of supporting more than 80 people who had experienced, or were still experiencing domestic abuse, without being able to have any face to face contact with them. We always felt that our support had worked so well because of the trusting relationships we were able to build with people, and I will admit that the prospect of building those connections and relationships over the phone or video calls wasn’t one I was relishing. We all had to adapt and adapt quickly. After all, it was our responsibility to make sure that those who needed us were kept safe and felt supported.
Whilst we were coming to terms with the new ways of supporting people, we also had to understand how other agencies were operating and find out what other support we might be able to access. Our roles soon included delivering things like food and hygiene parcels to those who were self-isolating or whose income had disappeared. But the biggest challenge of all was trying to keep people safe and protecting their wellbeing at such a challenging time.
Our service primarily supports people who’ve fled abusive relationships but we also support women and men who’ve decided they want to remain in a relationship with their abuser.
When a person has fled we still need to understand what risks the perpetrator of abuse poses so we can put safety measures in place for them but when the relationship is ongoing, it’s one of the most difficult situations to manage and during lockdown even more so when people were virtually imprisoned in their abusive home. It was crucial that we continued to support these people, but always in a sensitive and appropriate way which wouldn’t escalate any risks. That meant checking in regularly with them, making sure we had code words in place for any emergencies and making sure they understood what they needed to do to keep themselves safe.
Although our support is principally for adults who’ve experienced domestic abuse, a significant proportion of the people we support have children so we always make sure our support extends to the children involved too. Children are often the forgotten victims of domestic abuse and struggle with their own fears and anxieties that have been heightened by the abuse within their home. During lockdown we were often faced with parents who were trying so hard to look after themselves and their children; trying to care for them and educate them at home whilst still very traumatised by the abuse they’d experienced. We delivered crafts, games, activities and learning packs aimed at helping parents to acknowledge their child’s anxieties and feelings, helping them to understand their children’s thoughts and feelings.
These last six months have been tough and I’d be lying if I said there haven’t been times where I’ve wondered how we’d get through and how many more challenges we could take on, but I can also say that we’ve learned so much and grown as a team. I’m so proud of the team and how we’ve been able to support more women and men than ever before. Every member of the team took on the responsibility of working with more people to make sure we were there for everyone who needed us. And we’ve found new ways of working, some of which we thought would never work until Covid forced us to think differently.
If I had to sum up the last six months, I would say that it’s sheer determination to be there for people who need us that has got us through.
Stories you may like…
Since April 2020 we have supported 3xmore women and families through our Domestic Abuse Floating Support Service in Newport.