Policy blog

A cup of tea with: Susie Price, head of Research, Evaluation and Analysis

Ruth Davies is the Communications Officer at SafeLives. In this series she'll interview a different team member every month - over a nice cup of tea.

Susie Price is Head of the Research, Evaluation and Analysis (REA) team. 

Ruth: Hi Susie. So can you tell me a bit about your background and how you came to be at SafeLives? 

Susie: I’ve been directly involved with SafeLives for the last four years, but before that when SafeLives was CAADA I was working as an Idva so I was very much aware of their work. My involvement started when I was one of the lead trainers on the Children and Young People’s Ypva training programme. I then did Idva training and various other bits and bobs as an associate, then came on board as a trainer. I did that for about ten months, before I was seconded across to work on the Drive project [the perpetrator programme SafeLives is working on in partnership with Respect and Social Finance]. I then moved to head of REA in January.

What are you looking forward to in the year ahead? 

It’s an exciting year for REA. We’re at a point where we’re ready to take on a lot of new challenges. One of the things I’ll be focussing on over the next few months is our Insights tool. We’ll be working with services, commissioners and Idvas, to really understand what services need and what they use Insights for, to make it the best it can be. The team are all really invested in it and it’s a really exciting project.  

Obviously we’ve got lots of other exciting things happening across the organisation. Having been so heavily involved in Drive it’s great to still be involved on the evaluation side of things and see how the cases are going. I think when you’ve worked in the sector for as long as I have – I’ve worked in domestic abuse for about 17 years – now being part of this team where we’re trying new things and being innovative and courageous, that’s exciting in itself whatever role I’m in.  

Finally, what are you most proud of in your work with SafeLives? 

It sounds a bit noncommittal but I’m very proud of all of it! I’ve been really fortunate to be involved in some great things, and been given the freedom and autonomy to express my passions and put my own stamp on things – always as part of a bigger team.  

Drive has been amazing. In the past I’ve worked with families, I’ve worked with refuge and lots of areas across the sector. So suddenly being in a position where we’re developing a response to the people actually causing the abuse, shifting that focus from “why doesn’t she leave?” to “why doesn’t he stop?”, that’s been amazing, I’ve loved it. I’ve really enjoyed the dynamic nature of it – it’s felt a bit chaotic at times! – But the creative process has been wonderful. So those are definitely the things I’m most proud of being involved with.  

As an organisation we’ve done some great things, and it’s been so wonderful to walk alongside others and be involved in this work. I'm proud to work for an organisation that has integrity, courage and that strives to change the landscape of response to victims, children and perpetrators of domestic abuse.   

A cup of tea with: Diana Barran, SafeLives CEO

Ruth Davies is the Communications Officer at SafeLives. In this series she'll interview a different team member every month - over a nice cup of tea.

Ruth: So, could you tell me a little bit about how you came to found CRARG [the first incarnation of SafeLives] and what your motivations and approach were at that time?

Diana: Years ago I was working for New Philanthropy Capital, a charity that advises donors and grant makers on which charities to give their money to. On one occasion I asked some of the children’s charities we’d given to: “If we hadn’t given you this grant, who should have got it instead?” My criteria were that it should be the biggest human problem that was the hardest to raise money for – and all three of them said domestic abuse.

So what was the next step?

I went and visited a whole range of different domestic abuse charities, big and small as well as spending time with the police, children’s services and domestic abuse coordinators. I’m a believer that when you’re coming to something from the outside you can see it very clearly – whereas when you’ve been involved with something for a long time it can become overly nuanced and complicated.

I was very struck that the overwhelming focus at that time was on safeguarding women and children by taking them from their homes and giving them shelter in a refuge. I knew that if I’d been in that situation there was no way I could go into a refuge with my three teenage boys, so I thought ‘what do we do about those women who can’t go into refuge?’ It was clear that refuge played a vital role but that women needed more choices and options.

At SafeLives we always work with what we call the ‘best friend rule’; if your best friend was experiencing domestic abuse, what would you want for her? We decided that it’s a single person to talk to – which is the Idva – and that they should be an advocate for you with all the different statutory agencies – via a Marac. The third principle was that in a world without enough money, you have to start with the victims at highest risk of serious harm or murder. We wanted to make the case that it was a human, practical and cost-effective approach – that should be available wherever you are in the country. For the first ten years we focussed almost entirely on rolling out that model.

At what point did you realise that your approach was working?

When we did our first Idva training course, it was in a tiny room – the learners had to crawl under the desks to get to their seats – and I’d dragged the course materials across London in two wheelie suitcases to avoid paying for a taxi! Before the first course was over we’d had enquiries about running a second course. We then had a massive waiting list for about the next five years. It became clear that we’d tapped into a real unmet need for recognition in the sector. The last day of the first course was very emotional, it felt like a real landmark moment.

How do those early years relate to the strategy now?

From the beginning what’s always worked for us is the combination of practice, data and the voices of victims and survivors. What we do has changed, but how we do it is the same – I think we’re at our best when those three things work together. For example the Cry For Health report. That came out of the practitioners and the researchers sitting down together, looking at our Safety in Numbers report and saying “We’ve got a few referrals from hospitals, and they seem to be very different kinds of people to the other referrals. We need to look at this some more.”

What excites you the most about where we are now?

I think our vision of the whole family response is incredibly exciting. I think we’re at the most creative phase that I can remember since those early years. We focussed for a long time on implementation and now we’re in a real creative phase again. I also think it’s so exciting to be working in partnerships – almost everything we’re doing is in partnership, and I think we’re going to learn so much, and hopefully share some things too. The other thing which makes me smile, is that we’ve got some amazing people. If you look at the quality of people we’re bringing into the organisation at the moment, as well as those who have been with us for years, I sometimes have to touch wood to believe it’s all real! So I think it’s the combination of creativity, partnership and people that makes this moment so exciting.

Finally, what keeps you going? What makes you feel confident that we’re on the right track?

If you look at who is working alongside us to deliver our big projects, we seem to have the confidence of some incredibly thoughtful and experienced funders, really busy other charities who are already doing a huge amount of great work, and amazing sector professionals. When I walked out of the Cry for Health launch, I felt a real sense that we were part of a movement. Being part of something bigger feels very positive. I also think that our commitment to being very brave in the way that we work with our survivor Pioneers, and the trust they place in us, is extremely powerful. My amazing colleagues have such brilliant human instincts around how we work boldly but respectfully with people who have been through immense trauma. The relationship we have with our Pioneers just makes me grin from ear to ear. 

Speaking the same language to reach the same goal

When Standing Together recently published the Domestic Homicide Review (DHR) Case Analysis – it was clear that there are huge failings in agencies identifying risk successfully, and a lack of understanding of control and coercion. Such findings are common, but no less depressing and urgent because of how many times we read them. We want to make things better, working with agencies, charities, and survivors to make sure we have the best tools to provide a quality, tailored response that saves lives.

No profession is perfect; there is no organisation immune to the fact that people are fallible. But when those organisations support survivors of domestic abuse – that variation in quality can have life-threatening implications.

The Dash was developed in order to go some way to counter this. To provide a useful and uniform tool that could help everybody to identify risk – whatever their background or expertise.

It means that we speak the same language. If we believe in a multi-agency, holistic response to domestic abuse – and we do – it is a lot more effective if each agency not only has a common goal, but a common understanding of how to get there. If a police officer talks about whether a woman is pregnant, if a midwife asks whether the perpetrator has used an object or weapon in the home, we are successfully working outside of our silos. We are creating an understanding that reflects the complex nature of abuse, not our own professional agendas.

The Dash is not the answer to everything; it does not replace professional judgement or empathy. On its own, it does not change behaviour and culture. We know it takes more that that; we are staunch believers in high quality training to create change, such as our programme with the College of Policing: DA Matters.

Disclosure of domestic abuse is not predictable. It cannot be summarised with tidy flow charts and linear decision making. Survivors disclose in all manner of ways to a huge range of people. Creating a tool available to everyone means that all professionals can easily and quickly identify risk in challenging and changing circumstances.

The Dash makes the links for professionals between overt criminal and coercive behaviours, suicide, substance misuse, separation, child contact, pregnancy and fear.  Of course it is not a magic wand. It will not stop people from taking short cuts, or give them the confidence to ask sensitive questions. It’s guidance; it prompts risk thinking and provides consistency.

The Standing Together report reminds us that we have so much more to do so before we all have the same understanding of risk. A common tool is surely an essential part of making that a reality.

Why we still need specific provision to keep women and girls safe

In May this year, the Big Lottery Fund awarded £45 million to services for ‘Women and Girls’. Within this, they made a grant of £5.75m to a partnership between SafeLives and Women’s Aid. Both organisations are committed to making the lives of women safer, independent, and equal. 

I use the word ‘women’ deliberately. This money came from the Big Lottery’s ‘Women and Girls’ initiative and therefore the project will focus on how to make women and girls safe. This specific provision is welcomed by us; it is also something that causes controversy and concern in some quarters. 

Every day, we receive messages asking ‘what about men?’ We thought today (International Day to Eliminate Violence against Women) was the perfect day to be open, to be vocal, and to explain our approach. 

This is not about discrimination. It’s about the evidence. The facts speak, very plainly, for themselves. We know 95% of victims at the highest risk of murder or serious harm are women. Women are 52% of the UK’s population and are dying at a rate of two a week, far more if you include suicide linked to abuse as well as murder.  

These aren’t details. This isn’t historic. It’s now and it’s significant, and we have so far to go before it is made better. We believe that this means we must continue to protect and provide services for women, to reduce the imminent risk to them, to make them safe from the terrifying ordeal of abuse and to help them recover and move on. 

We know male victims exist. Recognising their needs in no way prevents the need for specific provision and funds for women.  

We welcome the Lottery’s commitment to women; as we welcome the Government’s continued commitment to making specific provision, in its strategies and funding arrangements. 

All violence, fear and control in a relationship is wrong. And we can say that while still believing in specific provision for women. Denying or minimising the lived experience of hundreds of thousands of women is not the way to make progress. 

We support campaigns that encourage men to be part of the solution, such as the White Ribbon Campaign. We work closely with organisations that specialise in supporting male victims, such as Respect. And we believe perpetrators must receive specialist intervention to change and be challenged, such as the Drive Partnership between SafeLives, Respect and Social Finance. All family members need appropriate support if domestic abuse is to end. 

We passionately believe in a world where women and girls are free from abuse. A world in which women don’t go home scared at the end of the day. We don’t want to keep reading domestic homicide reviews which tell us yet another story of a preventable death. So we will not bow out of the debate.  Domestic abuse is gendered. And for that reason, we welcome specific provision for women and girls. We are determined that this Big Lottery ‘Women and Girls’ grant will bring us closer towards a reality of our joint goal: to see women and girls free from fear.  

Big Lottery Logo

 

 

Cry for Health

Today, we publish our research ‘A Cry for Health’ – a rallying cry to every hospital in England and Wales to have specialist domestic abuse support onsite.

This is a recommendation after years of research. Women and children living with abuse have been waiting for much much longer.

Domestic abuse is a public health epidemic and health must be part of the solution. We must meet victims where they are.  We know four of five victims do not call the police. We have to go to them: where they feel supported, where they feel safe and free from stigma.

We must have Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (Idvas) in hospitals across the country.

Our research shows very starkly that domestic abuse victims in hospital experience multiple vulnerabilities. The levels of physical and sexual abuse as well as coercive and controlling behaviour are frankly shocking. Two thirds of victims in hospital disclose serious mental health issues, including half with PTSD and nearly half have self-harmed or attempted suicide. We also found that half of the victims who disclose in hospital are still with their partner.

By failing to ask the question in hospital – they are being discharged back into the arms of the perpetrator who put them there. Only to inevitably return weeks later. This cycle of abuse could be stopped - if we have had specialist professionals to ask the question and provide support, right then, right there.

And of course many of these victims have children – children who are growing up in households that are filled with fear. Everything we know about the development of children’s brains tells us that these are exactly the children who need our help. And their mothers are just women who understandably do not want to call the police. It only takes each of us to think for just one second how hard that must be, and how long we might all wait before calling the police on a family member. On the father of our children. We mustn’t wait until victims call the police because they are scared for their lives. We must find ways to ask them first.  And Idvas in hospitals could help us do just that.

More broadly, our research shows that this is also an issue for staff working in hospitals. Our best estimate is that over 50,000 NHS employees (44,000 women and 6,000 men) are victims of domestic abuse. We need help in hospitals for staff as well as patients. With domestic abuse – there is no ‘us’ and ‘them’. Only us.

Sometimes our enthusiasm and passion for the cause can blur our judgement about what is possible. But I cannot think of another time where I have felt more personally excited about the potential for change. We have absolute focus that this is a common sense vision that can be achieved. There is nothing simple about addressing domestic abuse, but improving support in hospitals for victims at their most vulnerable seems like a pretty good step in the right direction.

And we think it will cost just £100,000 per hospital to unlock the capacity of the clinical staff and for specialist domestic abuse professionals to be onsite. When we know that domestic abuse costs the NHS £1.76 billion – that is put into perspective. 

There is a book by Roddy Doyle, The Woman Who Walked Into Doors, and I would like to just include a short extract from Paula – the heroine of the story who represents so many thousands of heroines up and down the country.

In this extract, Paula is in A&E after another assault from her husband Charlo. She puts it better than I can.

Someone once told me that we never remember pain.  Once it’s gone, it’s gone.  A nurse.  She told me just before the doctor put my arm back in its socket.  She was being nice.  She’d seen me before.
I fell down the stairs again, I told her.  Sorry.
No questions asked. What about the burns on my hand? The missing hair?  The teeth?  I waited to be asked.  Ask me.  Ask me.  I’d tell her.  I’d tell them everything….Ask me about it.
In the hospital.
Please ask me.
In the clinic.
Ask me, ask me, ask me….
I would get worked up waiting.  I believed it was a matter of luck.  Maybe this time.  A nurse would look at me and know.  A doctor would look past his nose. He’d ask the question. He’d ask the right question and I’d answer and it would be over.  One question.  One question.  I’d answer.

I’d tell them everything if they asked.”

For more information on our research, see our A Cry For Health section and join the conversation on Twitter at #CryForHealth