21st August 2017
Claire Karslake is a Housing Idva for Splitz Places of Safety Project, with over 10 years’ experience as an Idva. In this blog, she discusses the unique challenges of her role, and how she helps her clients to get the housing support they need. For an audio version of this blog, scroll down to the bottom of the page or visit our Soundcloud profile.
“My advice to housing providers is when a survivor of domestic abuse is sat in front of you, remember they are not ‘just a roof’. They are human beings with stories to tell, and unless you a have walked a mile in their shoes you have no idea of the unimaginable things they may have been through to get them here today”.
After 11 years as an Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (Idva), I’ve realised that our clients experiencing homelessness and domestic abuse need a different approach. They do not always get an empathetic response from the Housing service and are left questioning their decisions to leave and become safe. Relationships need to be built between our clients and Housing. Clients leaving and abusive partner are at their most vulnerable and they need wraparound support as well as crisis management and safety planning to reduce the DVA risk. Being rehoused does not mean that need comes to an end and the support offered needs to reflect this. Even more, emergency housing provision-such as refuge and B&B-doesn’t always provide a space for women and men with multiple and complex needs or older children.
Places of Safety was developed to respond to this gap in support and our response is two-fold:
First, we provide homes within the community that are a safe place where anyone can rebuild their lives free from violence and abuse. It’s a place where a client’s son who is over 16 can remain with their family, where male victims can bring their children to be safe, and where women and men with complex and multiple disadvantage can receive a service that recognises and responds to their needs. Our project’s aim is not to replace or replicate the vital work of refuges.
Second, Places of Safety provides a specific Housing Idva. This is me. My sole role is to support women and men who are experiencing possible homelessness alongside domestic violence and abuse. As a Housing Idva I have a much smaller caseload. This gives me the time and space to build relationships and provide holistic support, which is especially vital for individuals who are facing domestic abuse and homelessness alongside multiple and complex needs. I am able to go to appointments with my clients at housing, solicitors, the GP – wherever they feel they need support. It is also my job to work closely with the Housing Options team; to advocate for my clients, ensuring that Homeless applications are activated promptly and investigations are done promptly.
“As an Idva, my starting point is belief, and conveying this belief to other professionals is a major aim of my role’’
That is why another key element of my role is to give the Housing Options teams across the eight districts of Devon necessary training around domestic abuse risks and responses. It is essential that housing professionals better understand and respond to individuals’ experiences of domestic abuse amongst other needs and circumstances.
This is a very new project so we as yet have little evidence to provide. However, with just two current Places of Safety we have successfully and safely housed three families, helping 13 children. The feedback from our training has been good and we are hoping to really affect the culture within housing teams, helping them to see that they need to look at the person and not just the housing need.
My advice to housing providers is when a survivor of domestic abuse is sat in front of you remember they are ‘not just a roof. They are human beings with stories to tell, and unless you a have walked a mile in their shoes you have no idea of the unimaginable things they may have been through to get them here today. We need to move forward from looking at bed spaces to supporting and caring about the individual in order to affect change for the better.
Claire Karslake is a Housing Idva for Splitz Places of Safety Project. Claire has over 10 years’ experience as an Idva. Splitz has delivered services to people experiencing the trauma of domestic abuse since 1989. We are women and girl focussed with 85% of our referrals being female. We deliver a holistic, person-centered approach that is best placed to meet the varied needs of our community. We are committed to working with other agencies to deliver an integrated, coordinated, community response.