Call Me, Any Time

30th of November, 2015

I’m not really sure if you can help me”.Jen answers Aviva's 0800 line

Those are often the first words that greet our staff when a call comes through to them via our 0800 number. “I just say, ‘tell me what’s going on, and we’ll see’ ” says Jen, one of Aviva’s 0800 phone support team.

The 0800 AVIVA NOW line is available 24 hours and Jen is one of three staff rostered to receive urgent calls all through the night, on weekends and on public holidays – Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve too. This line is often the first point of contact through which people access the support they need. After 5pm on weekdays, and during the weekends, a call centre takes the initial call and provides basic support and essential information. Experienced Aviva staff like Jen are also rostered on-call to receive all high-need calls requiring immediate support.

“That’s the difference with the after-hours line” says Jen. “You are dealing with distressed people. In the day people are often seeking information or referrals. After-hours, the Call Centre only put calls through to us when someone seems to need support right away. They may have burnt out friends’ and family members’ ears or this may be first time they are speaking to someone who understands the dynamics of family violence. There’s a real need for that line because what is happening is real and raw, and through the 0800 number people can pick up a phone and hear a person on the end of it. They are able to talk about what is happening now, and that can be enough to tide them over emotionally.

0800 AVIVA NOW received 3,968 calls to July 2014 - June 2015, up 17% on the previous year.

“When people call, they realise that this confidential conversation will lead to the support they need. It can take weeks of courage and lots of personal energy to make that call; I appreciate how hard it is to pick up a phone and talk to a stranger and I thank them for that. I reassure them that what they’re feeling is a normal response to this abnormal situation.”

Because people calling the 0800 number after-hours tend to be in crisis and in need of immediate support, calls can be emotional. “You do hear some difficult things but it’s important that we as a service can be part of that - crises don’t just happen 9am – 5pm. For instance, I recently received a call from a man working with ReachOut to move away from his angry behaviour. He knew he needed help now and couldn’t wait until his appointment. I was able to help de-escalate him, and reinforce that he’d done the right thing in calling us. If he hadn’t been able to talk to someone when he needed to, that night could’ve ended in an arrest for him.

"I'd hate to think what might happen if someone was not there to take that call."

Jen


 

"I know that for men it may be an even harder phone call to make, and it may be hard to talk to a woman, so I thank them for sharing. I’ve had men burst into tears – they may be struggling with access to their kids; realising the seriousness of their actions; or feeling that they have no support. I take on board the ‘wow’ of that emotion for them, and you just have to be silent and wait until you can reiterate they’ve made a brave decision in calling. We see that with older women too – they are often embarrassed. But they don’t have to wear that cloak of embarrassment because they are far from alone – so many people need this support.

Jen has spent her last four Christmas Holiday seasons rostered on the 0800 line, and she doesn’t mind at all. “I really believe in offering the 24-hour phone support. I may be at home or in a public space when a call comes in, or waking up at 4am, but to get to say ‘Welcome to Aviva, you’re speaking with Jen’, and have someone talk about the worst aspect in their life in the current moment – that’s a privilege. Maybe I can give them what they need to get through to tomorrow morning. I’d hate to think what might happen if someone was not there to take that call.”

Aviva’s 24-hour 0800 AVIVA NOW line ensures that anyone who has experienced violence, and/or used it, can access support whenever and wherever they need it. We are also able to connect people with other relevant services, and provide information and support to family and friends. In fact Jen has noticed that “since we changed our name (May 2013) and became a family-focused service, more men are ringing to get info about women in their lives they are concerned about.”

Following the February 2011 earthquake, calls related to direct client support rose by over 50% and they have been sustained at that level ever since, peaking in the last financial year (ending June 30 2015) at almost 4,000 – our highest ever recorded volume. One-fifth of those calls are received outside office hours.

Some of those children, women and men needing support may be your neighbours, friends, families or colleagues, which is why donations raised this Christmas will be used to support Aviva’s local 24-hour 0800 AVIVA NOW phone line. 

It's easy to donate, simply click here to make an online donation now or visit our website to find out others ways you can donate.