Motivated to Help

24th of April, 2017

“I get to help people live their lives free of family violence; I love it.”

Since July 2016 Aviva has been part of a new pilot response to family violence called the Integrated Safety Response (ISR). ISR sees core agencies such as Police, Child Youth and Family, Corrections, Health, specialist family violence NGOs and kaupapa Maori services work more closely together as a team to provide intensive support to families to whom Police have been called in relation to family violence, or when a potentially high-risk person is going to be released from prison. The aim is to provide more intense, immediate and comprehensive support that will lead to increased safety for those who have experienced violence, and a reduction in repeat offending. If successful in its aims, this response may be rolled out throughout the country.

Aviva provides the high risk Independent Victim Specialist (IVS) service and Perpetrator Outreach Services (POS) components of this pilot. One of our IVS is Katie Dixon, who joined Aviva in September 2016. Her role is to connect with women and children identified as high risk by the six-day per week Safety Assessment Meeting (the ‘SAM table’).

“The first thing I do is look at all of the information and review the file, to identify if there are any gaps in the information that might be relevant to our response” says Katie. “Then I have to consider how best to approach that woman (Katie’s adult clients are all female) – is it by phone, face-to-face, or through a visit by, or with, someone else? I try to engage her so that she trusts me enough to start the journey with me.”

The focus of Katie’s work is to decrease the current risk and increase safety for the woman and any children she may have. Katie will assess what supports the woman has in place and what she might need, to see if other referrals (e.g. for housing, or mental health issues) are required. She will undertake safety planning in relation to the home, and school or pre-school. Katie also attends the weekly Integrated Case Management (ICM) meetings at which all high risk cases are discussed, as well as other meetings related to specific families she is helping support.

Typically Katie will work with approximately 12 women at a time; some will be requiring intensive support for high risk situations, whilst others may be transitioning to lower risk levels and require less support. The pilot sets a preferred limit of 12 weeks maximum support, but this is not always realistic says Katie. It may take some time and effort to get someone to engage in the first place (Katie has an 80% engagement rate), before work can begin. Once immediate risk is decreased, women or children may be referred to Aviva’s education programmes, or for individual, ongoing support with a Family Support Worker or our Children’s Worker.

Ideally, when a high risk report goes to the SAM table, the person using violence will be contacted by a POS, and the person who has been assaulted will be contacted by an IVS. However, in reality this is not always possible. The abusive person may have current charges in place which are being acted on first, or they may not be aware of the disclosure of violence by the victim, so contact by a POS could put the victim at higher risk says Katie. “But I’ve seen some good results where we have been able to engage on both sides - better results than just engaging with one partner.”

Whilst the work is intense and can be difficult, Katie wouldn’t want to do anything else. “I love my job” she says emphatically. “I get the opportunity to work with women, and their children, who are experiencing family violence and I can help them make changes. Being able to provide the right support at the right time is really motivating. I get to help people live their lives free of family violence; I love it.”