Domestic abuse - case study

Support services for clients suffering from domestic abuse

Gina was 20 when she fled an abusive relationship, with her two young children, to a Stonham refuge.

She was there for eight months but really struggled with communal living.  She was so keen to be re-housed she found a privately rented property.

Refuge staff referred her to the outreach service as she still had significant support needs and was extremely vulnerable.

Gina had met her attacker when she was only 17.  He was a lot older than her and she was very vulnerable.  He became very controlling from early on in the relationship and was particularly abusive to her child from a previous partner.  

She stayed with him for three years in which time the abuse escalated dramatically.  She also fell pregnant with his child.  

Gradually Gina started reporting incidents to the police who eventually referred her to social services due to concerns for her children’s welfare.  It was from there that she was supported to flee to the refuge.

Assessment of need / support plan

The outreach worker reassured Gina and conducted an assessment using My Way Forward (MWF), Stonham’s support assessment and planning tool to ascertain Gina’s needs and risks.

It was established that she needed support with:

•    Access to legal representation and support to attend court
•    Setting up home, safety in the home and target hardening
•    Assistance to claim benefits and develop budgeting skills
•    Contacting her GP to discuss her mental wellbeing
•    Confidence building
•    Assistance to liaise with social services support in respect to the children
•    Development of parenting skills
•    Finding a counselling service for herself and the children
•    Education – she left school with no qualifications as she had a baby at 15.

Risk assessment

Gina’s original indicator checklist was reviewed, updated and incorporated into Stonham’s My Way forward (MWF) support planning tool which contains a comprehensive section approaching risk management called Safety, Me and Others.  

Due to a court case involving her ex-partner it was important that solicitors were informed that her whereabouts could not be disclosed to home under any circumstances.

Nature of ongoing support provided

Gina received weekly support from her key worker at the outreach service.

The worker accompanied her to all of her court appearances and solicitors meetings at first to offer emotional support.

She was referred to the Space Sanctuary Scheme to provide extra physical security in the home including toughened window locks and extra door locks prior to her moving in.  There was a critical mark placed on her property with the police to ensure a rapid response should it be necessary.

The worker supported Gina to invite the fire service to complete a fire risk assessment on the home which resulted in fire alarms being fitted, advice on appropriate escape routes and what action she should take in case of a fire.

Gina received intensive support around claiming her benefit entitlement and subsequent budgeting skills.  The perpetrator had previously withheld all her money so she had no skills in this area.  

She also claimed a community care grant that she was able to use to purchase second hand furniture for setting up her home.  As she had fled St Helens with nothing when she moved on from the refuge she had to start from scratch.

She was supported to register with a dentist and a GP and was subsequently able to access counselling through the latter.

Gina attended a weekly support group, an 8 week gateway recovery programme that helped her identify abusive behaviours and an 8 week confidence building programme called Advantage.  She also partook in drop-in sessions where guest speakers from local colleges attended and healthy living and cookery taster sessions were held.

She also engaged in the Nurture programme, Stonham’s tenancy sustainment programme for victims of domestic abuse.  Modules include ‘Self-belief and Confidence’, ‘Daily living skills’, ‘Safety in the home’, ‘Benefits’, ‘Move-on’, ‘Managing money’, ‘Personal safety and safer relationships’ and ‘Substance misuse’. Gina selected the modules applicable to her and sessions were facilitated and supported by Stonham staff and where appropriate, outside organisations.  

Gina was referred to a parenting programme at the local children’s centre as she was finding the behaviour of her eldest child difficult to handle.  A referral was subsequently made for the child to also attend the Jigsaw programme run by the NSPCC.

Service user involvement

Gina was heavily involved with many aspects of service and organisational delivery.  

She was a regular attendee at local and regional client involvement meetings and provided feedback on a regular basis on all aspects of delivery and policy.  

She was involved in the business-planning for the service and in auditing other services.  

These opportunities, combined with the therapeutic interventions she received within Stonham and externally were invaluable in boosting her confidence.  

They also demonstrated to Gina what she could achieve, how much she can influence and the potential she holds to have a much more constructive role in her local community.

Partnership working

Gina's support worker liaised with a number of agencies/partners in order for her to receive a tailored, holistic package of support, including:

•    Police
•    Housing
•    Social Services
•    GP
•    Credit union
•    Local college
•    Children’s centre
•    NSPCC

Outcomes achieved

Gina was with the service for a year.  

As a result of the court case the perpetrator was eventually granted supervised access.  Initially, the baby was taken to him by a friend of hers however gradually over time Gina built up her confidence so much that the perpetrator no longer carries any fear for her and she drives up on her own to drop the baby with him and his mother.

Gina has successfully set up a warm and inviting home, and is having no problems sustaining her tenancy.

She successfully completed a parenting programme and implements the behaviour management strategies regularly, finding they are having a really positive effect upon both her child’s behaviour and their relationship.

The worker liaised with the credit union to assist Gina with a budgeting plan, which she now finds invaluable in helping her to plan provision for the family.

Gina has undergone treatment for depression which has lifted her mood considerably enabling her to sleep better and approach her recovery from a much more proactive standpoint.

She has since started a college course to get her Maths and English qualifications.  

Her confidence and self esteem have soared so much that she is now keen to help others.  She volunteers for the service, co-facilitating the Gateway programme and running the Nurture programme for other survivors.  Her ambition is to one day work for the service as a support worker.  

With regard to her personal relationships, she now lives with a new partner and is in a loving, constructive and respectful relationship.  She places high emphasis on the Gateway programme having shown her what that should be like.

Lessons learned

Environment is key and a very individual preference.  

Gina was struggling that much with refuge life that she took a gamble on a privately rented property with an unscrupulous landlord that was not a particularly secure tenancy.  

This highlighted how refuge life is not for everyone and how we need to improve our links with alternative accommodation options such as accredited private landlords.

Offering the ability to complete a full cycle from being supported, to supporting others is invaluable for many domestic abuse clients.  

Enabling the service to use ex-clients as volunteers benefits; the service in terms of additional resources; current clients who can connect with someone whose been where they are; and ex- clients who are looking for something meaningful to do with their time that can also prepare them for future employment endeavours.