Days at refuge vary so much that I could not possibly write all the different scenarios that happen here. You can plan your day in your diary and then a crisis happens when you walk through the door which requires immediate attention and engulfs the majority if the day. Luckily we have a good support network of staff that you can pull on in a crisis to ensure that clients are still seen.
On an average day at refuge I will firstly check the log books which shows staff if clients have logged in or out, I then walk around the refuge to make sure that there are no issues. At nine o clock a phone call is received from the on call staff from the night before, information can vary from serious incidents to women calling to let us know they are staying out. If there is a crisis that has happened during the night this can involve staff liaising with various different people depending on who is involved with the client. This could be professional’s police, social workers, health professionals, or the woman’s next of kin. If the on call staff confirm that a client has stayed out over night staff will call the woman on their phone to check that they are safe and well. Due to the nature of why our clients are at refuge, if we can not get hold of them we make a call to 101 to log a missing person, the police will then search for the woman to ensure she is safe.
So ill take you through work we do with a client from the initial referral so that you can understand how this is incorporated in to a general day at refuge. We receive referrals from the Live Fear Free help line, The One Stop Shop, health professionals, police, social workers and many other areas, the woman can also self refer. We go through a form to get the woman’s details to evaluate weather they fit the criteria to be accepted to refuge, if the referral is accepted we then arrange a time and place to meet the woman so we can bring her in to refuge. On arriving at the refuge we offer as much comfort as we can, this can be one of the best parts of the job as at this point clients tend to sigh with relief and you can visually see them become less anxious. We then make sure that a risk assessment is carried out so that we can work out dangers that may need addressing. From this assessment safety measures are put in to place by informing the Domestic Abuse Unit and all other necessary agencies. The risk assessment is worked out via a scoring system which lets us know how in danger the woman is, if the results are 14 or over then we will refer the client to MARAC. This is where multi agencies can share information about the perpetrator and client. We ask the woman for all agencies that are currently working with them so that we can call them to share information that may help the clients case.
Support plans are put in to place where women can disclose any issues that they have revolving around issues such as mental health, housing, finances, religion, safety, legal issues, children or education. Clients who arrive at refuge can sometimes feel anxious to look at these issues alone; staff provide support with building the clients confidence until they are able to apply their own abilities on their issues. We look to rehouse clients in an area that is safe and make sure that all relevant safety measures are in place at their new property. We look to set up a good support network in the area that the clients are rehoused; this can be counselling, substance misuse support, children’s schools or GP registrations. We support clients to start again and give as many tools as we can to help them to reach their goals in the future. Two of our best tools are the freedom program and the Recovery tool kit, these courses enable clients to understand the abuse they and their children have been through and to recognise risky relationships in the future. Staff run the courses one morning a week over a 12 week period.
Now that you know how we work with our clients I will take you back to our average day after applying solutions to the on call update. I then update the UK refuges online with any vacant rooms that are currently at refuge. I then check my emails and apply accordingly, lately they have been emails to attend training courses, I then write all relevant dates of the training in my diary. I meet my clients on an appointment basis every week where a new support plan is made and prior support goals are reviewed. A meeting usually takes up to an hour and can sometimes involve offering positive input on how far they have come, choosing to come to refuge is not easy and I feel it is important to make them aware that in itself is a step forward. Following a one to one session I then write all information that was discussed in to our general recordings. The woman will then need to be registered as homeless as the refuge is not a permanent home for them, this is done via telephone or an email to housing options. During a one to one the woman will be asked what areas she would like to move to be safe, this can sometimes be influenced by legal issues involving where the perpetrator is. I will then call the relevant housing association and ask for them to call the woman for an assessment on eligibility for housing. Throughout the day the phone will ring from various agencies that are involved with the clients, I will then update the recordings of the relevant client. I am part of an on call system where staff contribute to a 24 hour on call service, I need to update our on call information and send it to the staff member that is on call. This is important as it lest staff know everything about the current dynamics of the refuge, it also has all details of residents so that on call staff can have access to this in a crisis.
Following this I carry out a house meeting where refuge dynamics, maintenance, suggested activities, accidents and issues are discussed with the women, I choose to bring cake to this meeting. I then ask the women for their service charge which they need to pay weekly, the amount of money the women have paid is then logged on a spread sheet. If the women has a history of arrears with housing associations I would offer to carry out a forever learning booklet. These booklets are our third best tool that we can give the client, These are booklets that are carried out during our weekly one to ones which ask the women to do research and answer questions. For arrears issues we can offer a “Budgeting” or “understanding a tenancy” booklet which helps them to better understand their finances. I would offer a booklet in an area that I feel could hep the woman at this time. Although this work is sometimes hard we work as a team to ensure that all residents needs are met and we show support for each other, I love my job and I love the staff that I work with.