“Once someone has the right support in place, it can help them find the confidence and strength to proceed”
Jo is a team supervisor here at the Domestic Abuse (DA) Alliance, supporting our managers and directors to deliver our organisational priorities, whilst overseeing and providing guidance and support to our call handlers and caseworkers to ensure they can provide professional legal assistance to the victims of domestic abuse that we support.
Describe a typical day at the DA Alliance
I usually start my day responding to emails from our referral partners, and legal partners, and contacting individuals who have self-referred. I also ensure that our call handlers are actively contacting new referrals, to ensure we meet our service delivery targets. I oversee our casework team, who take witness statements and support victims to prepare their court documents. I regularly deliver training on civil injunctions to specialist domestic abuse support services, to help their teams gain a better understanding of the legal process and what victims should expect at each stage.
What attracted you to your role at the DA Alliance?
Domestic abuse is something that has impacted my life significantly. When I was experiencing it, I never had the legal support I needed, and this has driven me to help others who are walking a similar path. After I had successfully achieved a diploma in Domestic Violence and Awareness and completed my Family Law Paralegal and Legal Administration qualifications, I applied for a role at the DA Alliance. The service we provide offers a vital lifeline to victims of domestic abuse, and it is incredibly rewarding that I can help others, who face the same challenges that I did, to escape abuse.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your role?
The most rewarding aspect of my role is when a civil injunction (i.e., a non-molestation order or occupation order) is granted by the courts to protect a victim, or a victim and their child/children. Not only does this mean they are granted powerful protection in the form of a court order, but it also enables them to start to cope and recover from the abuse and trauma that they have suffered so they can feel safe again.
Are there any frustrations or challenges, and how have you overcome these?
I regularly speak with victims who are terrified of what their perpetrator may do if they [the victim] start the process to seek a protection order. Understandably, the victim is often emotionally attached to the perpetrator, or under the influence of a third party advising them not to make the application. That’s why we spend a lot of time working closely with every person referred to our service, so that they know they are fully supported throughout the process. In many cases, a victim of domestic abuse may not feel it’s the right time to pursue their application. When this happens, we always provide them with our contact details, and signpost to other specialist services who may be able to offer the practical and emotional support they need at that time. We also encourage people to report any further incidents of abuse to the police. Once someone has the right support in place, it can help them find the confidence and strength to proceed with the legal process.
What more do you think could be done to support victims of domestic abuse?
The single biggest challenge domestic abuse victims face is access to Legal Aid. I would like to see means testing for Legal Aid eligibility removed for all victims of domestic abuse, so that they can access funding when they need it most, to support them throughout the legal process.
What advice would you give to someone applying to work at the DA Alliance?
The work we do here at the DA Alliance is incredibly rewarding but it’s not easy. Not only do you need to provide the most up to date legal information, but you must be able to empathise, and show compassion, patience, and consistency. This skill set can make all the difference to someone who is vulnerable and trying to navigate a complex legal system. A good awareness of what constitutes domestic abuse is essential. Domestic abuse is not only physical harm – it takes many forms, including psychological, financial, and emotional abuse. The experiences that victims share with us can be difficult to hear. Our management team take workplace wellbeing very seriously and support us in creating a positive work environment. This means we’re in a strong, healthy position to help others. There are lots of opportunities at the DA Alliance to continue our professional development across many aspects of the law. I feel extremely lucky to be progressing my career in family law with the DA Alliance and to follow my mission to protect victims and families of domestic abuse.
In this blog post, our Head of External Relations, Rosie Watson, talks about the reasons why she became a White Ribbon Champion and how we can all help to #ChangeTheStory and prevent violence against women and girls.
White Ribbon UK is the leading charity engaging men and boys to prevent violence against women and girls. I am a White Ribbon Champion because ending violence is something I feel passionately about.
November 25th each year is marked as White Ribbon Day – it is an opportunity to reflect, to draw everyone’s attention to men’s violence against women, and to focus on what we can all do to make a difference.
Through my work with the Domestic Abuse Alliance, I’ve heard many devastating and shocking first-hand accounts from victims and survivors about their experiences of abuse. That’s why I decided to become a White Ribbon Champion – and raise my voice alongside theirs – to increase awareness and challenge the problematic behaviours, gender stereotypes and inequalities that can create a culture of fear and lead to violence.
The theme for White Ribbon Day 2023, is ‘#ChangeTheStory’. Throughout November this year many individuals and organisations are working to make consistent choices and actions to disrupt the root causes of violence so that women and girls are able to live their lives free from violence and the fear of violence. To make change happen so that violence against women is never seen as inevitable or expected.
We can all help to make this change happen. We need to start by disrupting the behaviours that are often dismissed as ‘small’ or ‘low level’ acts – sharing sexist ‘jokes’ at work or in group chats, catcalling women in the street, or harassing women on a night out.
Here are some suggestions for how we can make a difference. Learning the phrase, ‘I’m not OK with that,’ when confronted by ‘banter’ or sexist ‘jokes’ but uncertain what to do. We can make sure we have open conversations with friends, family and colleagues where violence, sexism and misogyny are noted and spoken about. We can make sure that people know they are not alone, and that help is available. We can find out more about allyship and how men can speak up and be active in preventing violence.
Wearing a White Ribbon can be a useful conversation starter. You can consider making the White Ribbon Promise to never use, excuse or remain silent about men’s violence against women. Find out more by visiting the White Ribbon UK website.
We can all help to end men’s violence against women when we choose to #ChangeTheStory.
For more information, resources, and ways to get involved this White Ribbon Day, please visit the White Ribbon UK website: https://www.whiteribbon.org.uk/white-ribbon-day-2023
The DA Alliance provides access to legal support and protection for anyone experiencing domestic abuse.
Business owner and survivor of domestic abuse Sharon Livermore has launched a nationwide campaign to help employers tackle domestic abuse. The campaign, ‘Working It Out’, created in collaboration with the Domestic Abuse (DA) Alliance and outsourced HR provider The HR Dept calls on employers to sign up to a six-step pledge to support employees.
After being forced to take five days of annual leave to attend the court case of her abusive partner, Ms Livermore created ‘Sharon’s Policy’ in 2021. The policy enables businesses to improve workforce safeguarding procedures for victims of abuse.
The Working It Out six-step pledge invites employers to take action by:
- Becoming a member of the Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse
- Introducing and embedding a domestic abuse policy in the workplace
- Ensuring all staff know where to get help if they are experiencing domestic abuse
- Raising awareness of domestic abuse among employees
- Publicly sharing their commitment to the Working It Out pledge
- Reporting back on activities and achievements annually
Following the introduction of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, the Home Office published Domestic Abuse Statutory Guidance to increase awareness and inform the response to domestic abuse. The guidance highlights the important role employers have in helping victims of domestic abuse to remain in work, in the workplace itself, and to help victims access the support they need.
Sharon educates organisations by offering specialised training on domestic abuse and its impact on their workforces. She also provides strategies to help employees resolve the issue.
“Colleagues and managers can often be the only other people outside the home that survivors talk to each day and are therefore uniquely placed to help spot signs of abuse. Whether providing a safe space to disclose abuse or signposting to the right organisations for help, employers can be a vital link between an employee and the support they need,” explains Sharon.
“When I was experiencing domestic abuse, my employer couldn’t fully support me – because they didn’t understand what help I needed or how to provide it. The Working It Out pledge provides a platform for employers to actively demonstrate their commitment to raising awareness of domestic abuse and providing the right support so their employees and business can thrive,” she adds.
“Our collaboration with Sharon and The HR Dept on the Working It Out campaign is a powerful example of how people and organisations can partner to protect victims of domestic abuse,” says Razi Hassan, Director of Partnership and Communication for the DA Alliance. “By engaging with employers and providing them with practical tools and resources, we can ensure that those experiencing domestic abuse are identified and receive the help they need as soon as possible.”
“For many victims of domestic abuse, the workplace may be an escape from abuse at home. But with many of the UK workforce now working from home, employers also have the responsibility to ensure that the remote workspace is not only prosperous and productive, but also a safe place for their employees,” says Felicity Kenny, Managing Director of The HR Dept.
“By signing the Working it Out pledge, it demonstrates commitment as an employer to raising awareness of domestic abuse and having the resources available to provide help.”
Domestic Abuse: The Facts
- As many as one in five victims may need to take time off work because of abuse (Domestic violence and the workplace TUC 2014).
- One in four women and one in six men will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime (Domestic abuse prevalence and trends, England and Wales: year ending March 2020).
- An estimated 2.4 million adults aged 16 years and over experienced domestic abuse in England and Wales for the year ending March 2022 (Domestic abuse in England and Wales overview: November 2022).
- The social and economic costs of domestic abuse are estimated to be in the region of £78 billion (2022 to 2023 prices) over a three-year average period of abuse (Government response to ‘A Patchwork of Provision: how to meet the needs of victims and survivors across England and Wales’).
- Lost output relating to time taken off work and reduced productivity is estimated to cost the UK economy £14 billion (The Home Office: The economic and social costs of domestic abuse. Published 21 January 2019).
- In 2017, Vodafone Foundation published a report about the barriers that prevent organisations from doing more to support employees who are experiencing domestic abuse, as victim-survivors or as perpetrators. A link to the report can be found here: Domestic Violence and Abuse: Working together to transform responses in the workplace.
For further information about the Working It Out campaign and pledge and how you can get involved click here.
The Domestic Abuse (DA) Alliance is proud to be a Bronze Supporter of The Police Digital Summit, co-hosted by the Police Digital Service (PDS) and the National Police Technology Council (NPTC).
The Summit, taking place on 12-14 September 2023 at the Brighton Hilton Metropole, brings together professionals and experts from law enforcement agencies, technology providers, and government bodies to discuss and explore the latest advancements in digital solutions for policing.
This year’s theme is ‘Stimulating the Future’ which will offer a unique opportunity for attendees, speakers and supporters to gain insights, share experiences, and foster collaboration among policing, government and industry peers.
We will be showcasing our WEPROTECT referral service in the Exhibition Hall. If you are attending the Summit please visit our stand and find out more.
For further information about the Summit, speakers and exhibitors click here.
WEPROTECT evaluation underway through Home Office What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls Fund
An independent evaluation of the WEPROTECT service is currently underway following a successful funding application by the University of Birmingham to the Home Office What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls Fund.
The Government has awarded over £17 million to programmes across England and Wales in 2023 to support vital services for children impacted by domestic abuse, and to develop early intervention strategies to prevent violence against women and girls.
Minister for Safeguarding, Sarah Dines, said:
“The impact of domestic abuse is devastating and it is especially heart breaking that children are being affected by this horrific crime. This is why we have invested additional funding into vital services supporting children who have been impacted. We are also proud to invest further in projects which identify the most effective ways to intervene early and prevent these crimes from being committed in the first place, which will protect those most vulnerable to abuse.”
Razi Hassan, Director of Partnership & Communication, DA Alliance, said:
“WEPROTECT is the only service of its kind to be selected for independent evaluation through the Home Office What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls Fund. Our own service assessments have shown that over 70% of victims (for whom we had helped secure a court order) were no longer suffering from abuse. We know that WEPROTECT works. Now the University of Birmingham is independently verifying these findings, looking at the impact of WEPROTECT on reducing revictimisation and on reducing the mental health burden on survivors. The research will also include an economic analysis of the service against the estimated £66 billion that the Home Office estimates domestic abuse costs the UK economy each year.”
Three police forces will take part in a randomised control trial of the WEPROTECT service in 2023/24 and the University’s research findings will be shared in Spring 2025 with key national stakeholders and policymakers.
Are you an employer? Would you be able to spot the signs of domestic abuse? Or know how to respond if an employee disclosed they were being abused? Would you know where to signpost them for support?
We can help you help your workforce.
In 2020 we collaborated with the Employers Initiative on Domestic Abuse, HR Dept, and Sharon Livermore from Domestic Abuse Education to co-create a FREE template policy, and a set of associated guidance notes, to enable any employer to implement a domestic abuse policy in their workplace.
Every year the policy is refreshed, and undergoes legal review, to ensure it reflects current legislation and the needs of survivors.
The latest version of ‘Sharon’s Policy’ and guidance notes can be requested here.
Domestic Abuse: Make it your business.
Domestic Abuse (DA) Alliance Ambassador Sharon Livermore has founded Domestic Abuse Education as a platform to shared her lived experience of abuse to educate businesses and raise awareness, in order to help people who may currently, or in the future, go through the same thing.
Sharon works with employers to create a positive impact and end the perception and associated stigma that comes from the belief that what happens in a marital home isn’t our business.
Domestic abuse is everyone’s business.
Sharon can educate on the different forms of domestic abuse, how to recognise signs of abuse in the workplace, the impact of abuse on businesses, barriers to disclosing and how to start a conversation about domestic abuse, and signposting to appropriate support.
In partnership with the DA Alliance, Employers Initiative on Domestic Abuse, and HR Dept. Sharon has co-created ‘Sharon’s Policy’, a free template domestic abuse policy – and associated guidance notes – so that employers can embed a policy in their workplace immediately.
PolicingTV, the leading platform in progressive policing, has highlighted the impact of WEPROTECT in Cambridgeshire through a film that features the testimony of survivor, and DA Alliance ambassador, Sharon Livermore.
In 2015, Sharon came extremely close to becoming a statistic; on average two women a week lose their lives to fatal abuse. Fortunately, Sharon survived her experience and today she uses her voice as a force for good – educating and empowering statutory services and employers to better protect victims of domestic abuse. In this video we see her being interviewed by Rosie Watson, Head of External Relations for the DA Alliance.
Click here to watch Sharon’s powerful account of experiences of the services designed to keep us safe, and how WEPROTECT is helping police forces improve the response to tackling abuse.
Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (HPFT) is the first NHS Trust in the country to launch a domestic abuse app, which will enable staff to quickly refer victims of domestic abuse for free legal advice, in just a few simple steps.
The free to download app, WEPROTECT, will allow a clinician, who identifies someone that needs help, to make a referral to the Domestic Abuse Alliance (DAA), who will contact the victim within 24 hours. The support offered may include general legal advice, issuing a warning letter to a perpetrator, applying for an emergency court order or making an application for legal aid on behalf of the survivor.
The WEPROTECT app is already being used by frontline officers across Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Cumbria and Sussex Police Forces, and by several independent domestic violence and abuse services and charities across the UK, who support victims of domestic abuse.
Karen Taylor, Chief Executive at Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust said:
“We are excited to be the first NHS Trust in the country to launch the WEPROTECT app. We know survivors have said that accessible and affordable legal support would have really helped them, and many felt they did not get the right help at the right time[i]. We hope that, through the app, our practitioners will be able to offer vital support at the right moment which, up until now, many have not been so fortunate to receive.
“We always encourage survivors to disclose concerns to a health professional and for them to do so before the situation becomes high risk. We want to keep people safe, and the app will support us in doing this.”
A domestic abuse survivor explains how she benefited from the app.
“I was nervous at first but the support I received [from the Domestic Abuse Alliance] was excellent. The lady I spoke to, took her time to explain things to me, which really helped as I have a learning difficulty. She was listening and wanted to help rather than just take information. If I hadn’t had that support, I think the abuse would have carried on and he would have been able to keep doing what he was doing because I wouldn’t have spoken out. I’m still on edge as it’s still on my mind but it’s better now I’ve spoken to somebody about it.”
Razi Hassan, Director of Partnership and Communication, Domestic Abuse (DA) Alliance said:
“Often it is healthcare services who are the first point of contact for people suffering from domestic abuse. The roll out of the WEPROTECT victim referral service by HPFT will support staff when they are acting on disclosures of abuse by providing a vital legal lifeline for victims. All victims referred through WEPROTECT receive professional civil legal support, provided by the DA Alliance and our Legal Partner Network, ensuring that appropriate assistance and protection is actioned without delay. Since 2020, we have received almost 6,500 referrals from frontline professionals in Hertfordshire on behalf of victims seeking legal advice and protection. Over that time, more than 500 court orders have been secured to help Hertfordshire victims break the cycle of abuse. We are delighted to extend the WEPROTECT referral pathway through HPFT to help victims who disclose abuse, and need legal assistance, to feel safe again.”
An event to launch the app within HPFT included a presentation from Rachel Millar, (Practice and Partnership Geographic Lead for the East of England) from the Domestic Abuse Commissioner’s Office and an address from Mr Robert Voss CBE CStJ, Lord Lieutenant of Hertfordshire.
Nearly two million people in the UK each year, suffer some form of domestic abuse[ii], equating to approximately 114,147 women and 78,003 men in Hertfordshire experiencing domestic abuse in their lifetime[iii].
We were delighted to be invited to attend and exhibit at the first ever Victims’ Awareness Conference in Hertfordshire, organised by Beacon – Hertfordshire’s Victim Care Centre, which is staffed by professionals from Hertfordshire Constabulary and Catch 22, an independent organisation commissioned to support victims of crime in Hertfordshire.
The inaugural annual conference took place on Friday 24th February, to mark Victims Awareness Week and focused on:
- raising awareness of victim experiences
- sharing expertise
- highlighting best practice for supporting victims
- introducing and providing networking opportunities to bolster joint working around victims’ needs.
Speakers included Dr. Madeleine Storry, Victim Commissioners Office, Mark Brooks, Trustee Chair of the Mankind Initiative, Kevin McGetrick, Victims Commissioning, Hertfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner’s Office, and Charlotte Calkin, Restorative Engagement Forum.
They were joined by a number of Lived Experience Speakers sharing their stories and experiences as victims and survivors.
Other stallholders included Herts SARC, ISVA service, OWL, Beacon, Fraud Hub, Herts Refuge (IDVA service) and SADA.
To find out more about Beacon visit: https://hertfordshirebeacon.org.
Since 2020 over 800 Hertfordshire users have registered on the WEPROTECT app. Over this time the DA Alliance has received almost 6,500 referrals from frontline professionals, in Hertfordshire, on behalf of victims seeking legal advice and protection. Over 500 court orders have been secured to help victims in Hertfordshire break the cycle of abuse.