“We are still here…” - CASWA during COVID-19
None of us could have predicted COVID-19 and the significant impact that it has had over the past few months. At CASWA we quickly adapted our service, moving our service delivery model to a remote working from home model. Our priority throughout has been continuing to provide a service to women, children and young people who experience domestic abuse.
Home is not a safe place for everyone. The very nature of lockdown is the day-to-day reality facing women, children and young people who experience domestic abuse. Domestic abuse often means lockdown – a lockdown on rights, a lockdown on freedom and a lockdown on choice. Domestic abuse is a pandemic of a different kind, one which will be experienced by 1 in 4 women at some point in their life. The term “lockdown” in itself may be triggering, the experience of lockdown during COVID-19 more so. Lockdown for those who have experienced domestic abuse historically may be an incredibly difficult, traumatic reminder of the abuse. For those living with domestic abuse, lockdown may have presented means to exert further control. Perpetrators may not have had to significantly change their abusive behaviours in order to continue to exert control during this time. However, the impact and risk has been magnified as whole communities have isolated themselves and disappeared behind their own front doors.
“CASWA is still here”
Our core message throughout this period has been, “we are still here”. We’ve conveyed this in many ways: on our social media platforms, on our website, in press articles, on the radio, in e-mails, on the telephone... We are still here for the women, children and young people who accessed our service before lockdown and we are also still here for new referrals, for those currently experiencing domestic abuse or for those who have been triggered by lockdown following historic experiences of domestic abuse. We’ve kept our helpline (0345 408 0151) open and available throughout, redirected on a rota-basis to our team during office hours. We have continued to offer regular support to those who need it and while it has been challenging to temporarily remove face-to-face support from our support package, we have found solutions. We have successfully used a number of different support methods such as telephone calls, text messages, e-mails, WhatsApp message and videos, Zoom, etc. Our team have sent supportive tools for use during remote sessions via e-mail to service users to enable them to continue to use and have access to therapeutic resources at this time and our CYP Team also collated useful resources into a blog post.
"Thank you so much. You are such an amazing service looking after [my child] and other vulnerable children in a critical time like this." – Mother of young person supported by CASWA
At the start of lockdown, referrals to CASWA were lower than normal, in line with other organisations across Scotland and may have been for many reasons, such as:
- Women, children and young people considering their options during lockdown to be more limited (similar trend to Christmas period closures/reductions in services);
- There may have been barriers to safe access to services if living with perpetrator;
- There may have been barriers around the nature of support, for example: face to face support being preferred to telephone, text, email or video.
We anticipated that as time went on and lockdown measures began to be lifted, that uptake and referrals would increase and this has happened. We are currently supporting 67 women and 47 children and young people and since March we have received 27 referrals to our service.
We also continue to work closely with our partner agencies and work together to promote the safety and wellbeing of women, children and young people. We have worked with key statutory partners and funders to address barriers and challenges to enable us to find solutions and support for home schooling and financial hardship experienced by the families we work with. For example, we were able to source Chromebooks (on loan) for CYPs without adequate technology at home. We also secured a grant from STV which enabled us to provide financial support to those facing financial hardship to enable families to purchase food, heat and electricity. The STV grant also enabled our CYP Team to pick out and deliver some resources and materials (e.g. educational resources, games, toys, books and arts and crafts) for children and young people to keep them entertained during lockdown. We were able to provide this to 53 individuals in 21 households who we identified would benefit from a little extra help during this time.
“I am constantly having to make difficult decisions as to whether to pay money towards my utility bills or buy food. I have the children at home now who would normally have been at school. Thank you so much for the money I received, it allowed me to buy a good sized food shop, which freed up some cash to pay towards other bills. It was a tremendous help and so unexpected. Thank you again” – Woman supported by CASWA
A core challenge for us is visibility and a core focus is awareness raising and education. We have used our social media and website more than ever to reach people during lockdown – both those who need our support and the wider community to inform and educate around domestic abuse. We appreciate that not everyone who may need us may feel ready to contact us and we have spent a lot of time updating our website to include specific, relevant and important information to promote safety and understanding around domestic abuse. There is also information for those who are concerned about family and friends, those who want to learn more or more simply those who just want to find out a wee bit more about our service. We appreciate that a lot of people want to help, but sometimes well intended help can be unintentionally problematic and concerning and actually put people at more risk. We have explored this in our blog post, Right Intentions, Wrong Approach and will be doing more blogposts in the coming weeks. We have also been very active on Social Media (Facebook & Instagram). This is our way to reach out to people, share positive reassuring messages of support as well as resources and tools. Our team are trying out some creative self-care every Thursday in a project called, Therapeutic Thursdays with CASWA #therapeuticthursdayswithcaswa We’ve also had a go at making a video - watch this space for a video from our team later this week!
Our team have successfully adapted very quickly to ensure that we are there for those who need us. We are also working hard to support each other, look after ourselves and promote self-care and are being fully supported by CASWA as an employer in this regard. We find ourselves in very difficult times, but we strive to continue to provide our specialised, professional service to women, children and young people who have experienced domestic abuse.
Life is difficult just now. Life might be even more difficult for some. Home might not be a safe place right now. Please know: we are still here.
Abuse doesn’t stop during a global pandemic. Nor do we: we are still here.
Whether you are already supported by us or are reaching out to us for the first time: we are still here.
We are a small team of domestic abuse specialists working across Caithness and Sutherland. We are approachable, specialised and professional and only a phonecall, e-mail or message away. Please reach out if you need to: we are still here.
- Quote from a recent Social Media post.