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MEE CHEUK: I'm Mee Cheuk.I'm the MARAC coordinator for Barnet,but my contract is contracted to Hestia.MARAC stands for multi-agency risk assessment conferences.And the purpose of the MARAC is reallyto safeguard high-risk domestic violence victims.
MEE CHEUK [continued]: In the MARAC meeting, usually is chaired by the detectiveinspector from the police.We have housing sitting at the meeting togetherwith children's social services, adult safeguarding, education,mental health, drug agencies, sometimes voluntary sector
MEE CHEUK [continued]: groups like them refuge or housing association.But the most important person at the MARACis obviously the IDVA.The IDVA represents the voice of the victim.So the victim cannot be invited to the MARAC meeting.So what happens, after the MARAC meeting,
MEE CHEUK [continued]: the IDVA will feed back to the victim.IDVA stands for independent domestic violence advocacyworkers.And they are accredited by what we call Safe Lives.Safe Lives, they are an agency that overseethe quality of the MARAC.[MUSIC PLAYING]
SEEM ALSASA: My name's Seem Alsasa.I am a senior independent domestic abuse advisor.And I work for Hestia housing and support.Hestia is a London based charity.We have services across London and the surrounding areas.We support vulnerable adults and children in crisis.
SEEM ALSASA [continued]: We have services-- different services includingdomestic abuse, mental health, HIV, ex-offenders,and modern slavery.An IDVA can be based a police station, social servicesoffice, an organization's office or A&E department supportand harvest victims of domestic abuse,
SEEM ALSASA [continued]: advocating on behalf of victims, carrying out risk assessmentsto manage and reduce risks.She's been referred to us by social services.An example of a referral would be a referral receivedfrom children's social services to advisethat they have received a MERLIN from the police following
SEEM ALSASA [continued]: an incident, for instance the night before.A MERLIN is a safeguard in alert that the police will put into social services when a family with childrencome to their attention in cases of domestic abuse.The referral will detail that incident,information about the family, the victim,the alleged perpetrator, the children, the support
SEEM ALSASA [continued]: offered so far, and if there is any informationabout whether the alleged perpetrator has been arrested,has been remanded in custody, and so on,and whether contact has been made by social serviceswith the family.Social services do rely on IDVAs to make contact with victims.
SEEM ALSASA [continued]: Because we are independent.And we come from a supporting aspect.It's preferred that we initiate the relationshipbetween victims and social services.Ideally, a victim needs to be contacted within 24 hours.
SEEM ALSASA [continued]: And we need information on how safeit is to contact the victim and the best means to contact them.One of the first things we do is introduceourselves, where we are calling from, the purpose of the call,and how did the victim come to our attention.I'm calling to see if you are available to have
SEEM ALSASA [continued]: a quick chat today.Can I just ask, are you safe where you are?Are you able to have a chat with me?Brilliant, brilliant.Can I ask who are you with now?At any point, if you want to stop, if you feel distressed,
SEEM ALSASA [continued]: or if you have any questions, by all means, just let me know.Explaining the confidentiality agreement to victimscan put them on edge and make themreluctant to engage with us and disclose and engage.So one of our responsibilities isto explain that the purpose of sharing informationabout safeguarding concerns is to ensure that there is
SEEM ALSASA [continued]: a collective safety plan in place working with partneragencies to ensure that the person,or if there are children, are all safe.
MEE CHEUK: We are covered by what we call the informationsharing agreement, where all the practitioners canrefer without consent.That is because it's for the preservation of lifeand for safeguarding.
SEEM ALSASA: Lexi, you've come to my attention followinga referral from social services.Yeah, they did say that they would make a referral.Yes, brilliant, brilliant.Lexi, before we carry on, I just wouldlike to go through the confidentiality agreement
SEEM ALSASA [continued]: with you.Right, everything we talk about today is confidential.However, if you say to me anything concerningthat might put you and/or the children at risk,then I will not be able to keep it to myself,and I will have to share it with other agencies,and that could be social services or the police.
SEEM ALSASA [continued]: How do you feel about that?Yeah.And the purpose of information sharingis to ensure that all the support is available for youand the children.It is all very private, sensitive information that me,a stranger, calling you, for instance, to say,I know this about you.
SEEM ALSASA [continued]: So the person on the other end of the phonecan be apprehensive, can feel that their privacyhas been invaded.There can be a reluctance for themto disclose any information.I understand that there was an incident last nightbetween you and your partner.Yeah.And I'm really sorry to hear about that.
SEEM ALSASA [continued]: Could you just tell me what happened?We have to do the DASH risk assessment.[MUSIC PLAYING]It's a risk assessment made of 24 questions.The questions are quite intrusive.They ask about physical violence,about how does the person feel in terms of safety, fear,whether there has been sexual abuse, financial abuse, harm
SEEM ALSASA [continued]: to children or any family pets.So the way I ask questions is, after all the introduction,I say, so can you tell me what happened?And I feel that just saying that, youget a lot from the victim telling youeverything that happened.
SEEM ALSASA [continued]: And when they are telling me, goingthrough what happened to them, I am takingin my head the risk assessment.And if I feel that I've not touched on a riskthat I know that I need to identify,then I would prompt the person by askingappropriate questions.That doesn't come across on completing a form.
SEEM ALSASA [continued]: Because at the end of the day, I needto be mindful of how sensitive the issue is.And I don't want to come across as intrusive.And just tell me everything that you arecomfortable sharing with me.OK, I see.
SEEM ALSASA [continued]: All right, and was there any injuries?OK.Did you go to hospital?Has this happened before?How long ago?Once we've completed the DASH RIC, which
SEEM ALSASA [continued]: is the risk assessment, we then go through the safety planwith the victim.For each risk identified, there needs to be one action, maybetwo, maybe more.If the victim is not ready for an actionto be taken immediately, then this can be put on hold.
SEEM ALSASA [continued]: But we need to consider the risks.The safety plan is agreed with the victim.It will be actions for the IDVA to carry out,for the victim themselves to carry out as well.And they are likely to be other agencies who willbe allocated actions to take.
SEEM ALSASA [continued]: That could be for the police to put safety measureson the property.It could be an alert that they put on the address.So when a 999 call is made, the response will be quicker.It could be for them to put a panic button in the property.
SEEM ALSASA [continued]: Or it could be for an independent organizationto attend the property, do an assessment,maybe change the locks, secure the windows,put arson-proof letterbox.A referral to the multi-agency risk assessmentconference, the MARAC, is a must for high-risk cases.
MEE CHEUK: At the meeting, there will be identified risk means.The person might need to get out of the accommodationvery quickly.So therefore, that safety plan willbe looking for a safe place for the victim and the children,if there are any children, to stay.So it will be a multi-agency effort.
MEE CHEUK [continued]: It might also be where there is no non-molestation orderin place to prevent the perpetrator from harmingthe victim more.
SEEM ALSASA: We agree safety plan, safety actionsfor each agency to take back and implementwithin a set deadline.This could be, for instance, for an IDVAto support a victim to obtain a protection orderor to advocate on their behalf to support them
SEEM ALSASA [continued]: with their housing matter.Thank you, Lexi.You have been very brave sharing with me your story.And as I said, none of this is your fault. Unfortunately,abusive behavior happens for all sorts of reasons.And it's never the victim's fault.
SEEM ALSASA [continued]: The good thing that you have reported this now.And we have made the initial contact with you.And there is a lot of support that we can offer you.If we receive a call from a victim to say,my partner is here with me, and he's just assaulted me,
SEEM ALSASA [continued]: and I'm calling you because I want you to speak to my partnerand ask them to stop, I will have to call the police.Because from what you're telling me,I can assess that this is likely to escalate.So it would be for me to call 999, give themdetails about the incident, any risks that are known to me,
SEEM ALSASA [continued]: whether there is weapons or mental health conditions,and the names of the parties, if there is any pets, if thereis any children.
MEE CHEUK: I think the challenging ones arewhat we call the three issues of domestic abuse,mental health, and substance abuse,when alleged perpetrators are affected by those issues,and at the same time victims are also affected by those issues
MEE CHEUK [continued]: as well.
SEEM ALSASA: For instance, when wemake a referral to children's services,and they don't agree with us that there is a riskor there is a role for them to play.Sometimes, it ends up being a battle and responsibility beingpassed on from one agency to another.IDVAs, counselors, or legal advisors, or social workers,
SEEM ALSASA [continued]: we come under all sorts of job titles.But we are limited in terms of resourcesand what we can do to support.Our main job role is to focus on riskand to manage risks to ensure that families are safe.
SEEM ALSASA [continued]: We can't do it on our own, hence whywe need support from partner agencies.There is a risk that IDVA's identity will be compromised,which will put an IDVA at risk of being harmed.I do recall a colleague was threatened by a perpetrator.
SEEM ALSASA [continued]: If they find out your name, you need to be carefulwhat you post on social media.You need to make sure that your social mediaaccounts are private.They can't see your picture.They don't know what you look like.However, we have practices in-houseto ensure that IDVAs are safe.
SEEM ALSASA [continued]: We complete lone working risk assessments.We complete assessments when attending appointmentswith victims, whether it's going to housing, social services,or at an in-call.We are also registered with Guardian24.We can trigger an alarm if we are in danger.
SEEM ALSASA [continued]: When a victim declines support, we attempt further contactwith them.This could be a week down the line or a few daysafter the first contact to revisit the supporteris available.If they are happy and decline support again,
SEEM ALSASA [continued]: we respect their wishes.However, based on professional judgment,a MARAC referral will have to be made and referralto social services.You are most welcome.Lexi, thank you so much for your time on the phone today.And I will see you at 3 o'clock later on today.
LEXI: Perfect, see you tomorrow.
SEEM ALSASA: You take care.
SEEM ALSASA: Bye.Despite the fact that we are supporting peoplein crises at a very high-risk, weneed to be mindful of the fact that they need timeto process what's going on and that support is available.Because not everyone knows of the support that is available.
SEEM ALSASA [continued]: So if someone is not ready to talk to us today and maybein a week's time, then we give them that time.The advice I would give to social workersis attend training on domestic abuseand make sure that you are up to speed with the changes.
SEEM ALSASA [continued]: Domestic abuse is evolving.It's not just the physical abuse.It's the controlling behavior.It's the financial abuse.It's the emotional abuse, which has long lasting effectson victims and children.
MEE CHEUK: My advice to student social workers willbe to have good listening skills,to be nonjudgmental, and also go on further training for MARAC,especially concentrating on what wemean by high-risk domestic violence factors.
SEEM ALSASA: There were times when social workers did notbelieve victims.And there was a lot of blaming.And there was a lot of finger pointing,things said like if you don't move out,if you don't go to a refuge, if you don'tget a non-molestation order, we will remove the childrenfrom your care.
SEEM ALSASA [continued]: The victim has already been going through abusefor so many years or months.They are frightened.One of the reasons they have not left alreadyis because they are scared.Because they have been threatened, if you leave me,I will kill you, and I'll kill the children.So they remain in that relationship
SEEM ALSASA [continued]: because it's safer than leaving.
MEE CHEUK: You have learned the theory, obviously,which is fantastic.The experience is very important.If you're not sure, don't shy away from not referring.And also, try your best to get to know your domestic abuseservices and your MARAC coordinator.
MEE CHEUK [continued]: Those are the two agencies that willbe able to help you with familieswhom you've identified have got domestic abusein the household.
SEEM ALSASA: Be empathetic.Be understanding.Put yourself in that person's shoes.Domestic abuse is a hidden crime.It happens behind closed doors.[MUSIC PLAYING]And It's not easy for anyone to come forward and say,I am experiencing domestic abuse.
SEEM ALSASA [continued]: Sometimes, we miss opportunities because we pass on a judgmentor we don't look at the bigger picture.And we all have a duty to safeguard vulnerable adultsand children.But in terms of self care, IDVAs receive clinical supervision
SEEM ALSASA [continued]: on a fortnightly basis.But to be honest, I don't think thereis an IDVA who can switch off 100% once they have left work.[SOUND EFFECTS]
Domestic Violence Practical Help, Prevention Work and Advocacy at Hestia
View Segments Segment :
Mee Cheuk and Seem Alsasa discuss how Hestia Housing & Support helps domestic violence victims and how they try to prevent abuse from reoccurring.
Mee Cheuk and Seem Alsasa discuss how Hestia Housing & Support helps domestic violence victims and how they try to prevent abuse from reoccurring.