Practice blog

A week in the life of the UK's only specialist Deaf Idva Service

For an audio version of each entry, scroll down to the bottom of each section or visit our Soundcloud page.

In this blog, the DeafHope team share with us the complex work that their highly experienced team carry out weekly. 

DeafHope is currently the only specialist domestic abuse service for Deaf women and girls in the UK. They were established in 2010 in response to deaf women and girls who struggle to access mainstream services, increasing the likelihood of staying with or returning to their abuser. The team have recently noted an increasing number of referrals for complex cases linked to immigration and forced marriage. DeafHope also deliver healthy relationship workshops to young Deaf people aged 11-21 to increase their understanding of domestic abuse and forced marriage.  

DeafHope are a full Deaf team, employing 7 qualified Deaf Idvas who cover pan-London boroughs, Kent, and Surrey and one hearing coordinator. They use interpreters in their office each day to interpret phone calls. 
 

Monday

As Service Manager I check with our Coordinator the weekly work plan of the rest of the team. One of our Idvas does not work Mondays, and another team member is unwell. This leaves us low on Idva support in one of our areas so I’m hoping we do not receive any crisis referrals from that location this week. After a relatively quiet September, we have had a high number of referrals this month. I review the two referrals that came in Friday to ensure they are being assessed and allocated to a worker.  

Idva V was due to support a client in court for a five-day hearing, but texts me to report the court has failed to book sufficient interpreters to cover the full week and so the case has to be adjourned for 4 weeks. Her client is understandably very distressed at the delay and the Idva remains with her all day to liaise with her legal team and to offer emotional support.  

Idva M had planned to visit two clients today. One client went into crisis over the weekend and was supported by our 24-hour crisis SMS line. Unfortunately, she is suffering from the stress of the weekend and so cancels today's appointment. The Idva sees her second client who has recently relocated with her children. There are a number of issues for the Idva to address on the client’s safety plan and a number of calls to make. Idva M has her own interpreter with her to help her manage these.

Idva S spends the morning with a family who have relocated from refuge. This client has a complex case and has needed a lot of support, but we can now hand over to DeafHope Outreach and the Children and Families Worker. The family have been moved 4 times in one year, involving changes of school and nursery and also a couple of spells in emergency hostel rooms when temporary accommodation proved to be unfit and unsafe for the children. As a result, the oldest child’s behaviour has deteriorated and become difficult for mum to cope with. The client has already been rushed to hospital a few times with stress and exhaustion.

At 2pm we receive a phone call from another domestic abuse service wanting to refer a Deaf client. A referral form is sent and if we receive it back before 5pm it can be processed that day. I was due to carry out a worker’s appraisal but this has needed to be postponed due to other clients contacting us needing support.

Tuesday

I'm in the office early to check any overnight referrals. We have had permission from Head Office to install and use WhatsApp within the team. This is a welcome decision as it means we can more easily contact each other when out of the office and it’s quicker and more reliable than SMS messages from our work phones. We have been trying to get newer work phones that are more versatile and quicker for SMS, Skype and Facetime. We cannot effectively buddy workers with work phones, so often have to rely on our personal phones for this, but we never use personal phones for client work.

Idva V is meeting with Friday’s new referral in South West London and will report back. Idva C usually visit clients in refuges or in the community on Tuesdays, but today is supporting a client in court. She meets the client early to go through last minute preparations for giving evidence and stays in court to support her. Interpreters are provided and she has her own interpreter which enables her to monitor any misunderstandings or errors by the court interpreters. The police later contact her with a sentencing update and she is able to relay this to her client.

Idva M has a very early start of 6.30 am to travel to a client in London. Her client is due to give evidence against her ex-partner. Unfortunately, no interpreter is booked by the Witness Care Unit, despite emails to them to ensure they made adequate arrangements. This means the client is unable to ask questions. Sadly, this is not an isolated case and we have now started mapping how many court cases are cancelled or adjourned due to failure to book interpreters so we can tackle the issue with the CPS. Two hours later they are in court for the judge’s decision. Special measures are in force and two interpreters are present, one for her and one for her ex-partner. However, neither interpreter had introduced themselves or checked the client’s preferred signing style (which can vary considerably) and the client struggles to understand the interpreter in court, impacting on her evidence and responses to questions.

Because both interpreters are working individually there is no co-working as is usually the case, and this can lead to errors. It was clear that the client would have benefitted from a Deaf relay interpreter, and the court interpreter is not of sufficient quality to effectively interpret for her. Sadly, the defendant was found not guilty. The quality of court interpreters can be a big issue for Deaf people and this is a common problem we see. We can never know in advance which interpreters have been booked and whether they will meet the client’s needs for a Deaf relay or Deaf intermediary interpreter.

Late morning, I receive a text from the client who had been in crisis over the weekend and cancelled her meeting yesterday. Children's Social Services have come to interview her over concerns raised by her son’s school and the police, who were called out over the weekend. The client is panicking as the social worker has not bought an interpreter and is trying to go through a foster care agreement by communicating in writing; a second language for the client. I log onto Skype to talk with her, but our office interpreter is on her lunch break. While we are waiting I am able to talk to the social worker via messaging on Skype and relay this to the client.

Once the interpreter returns we try to continue the conversation but the client’s microphone is not working. When we update the social worker it is agreed we will have a meeting tomorrow with the client’s DeafHope Idva, Children and families’ worker and an interpreter. This means an SOS call to our interpreting agency to find a suitable interpreter in time.

Wednesday

Idva M attends the joint meeting that was planned yesterday. We have been trying for some time to get a round-table meeting for this client to bring in the relevant services, and so this was a welcomed though very heavy meeting. Finally, we now have a plan of action for this client and her children. We wait to hear from Children's Social Care if they will cover some of the costs of the interpreter used.

I’m again in the office to check any new referrals and to ensure the team have updated the files of new clients they’ve already met with. I'm due to meet with two new fundraisers, one corporate and one trust, to brief them on what we do and the areas in which we need funding. In the afternoon I continue training with the new Outreach worker and the Children and Families worker.

During training I have to leave to meet a new referral client who came to the office for assessment. This is an oral client so we communicate by speech and lip-reading and do not need to use an interpreter. We are able to complete the Dash and a safety plan. We register her mobile to SMS 999 in case her ex-partner turns up at her house. The client has not eaten for two days and has no money for food for the next six days and so after we finish our meeting I take her to a local supermarket and buy her essential food for a few days.

Idva C is meeting with a client who has been married for 20 years and is finding it difficult to leave her abuser. A refuge is not suitable for this client and placing her in one would most likely result in her returning to her husband. We have spent time with her, meeting regularly, building her confidence and self-esteem and moving towards some level of independence. Today the Idva takes her to college for her to enrol on a course to learn new skills which is a huge step forward. She was extremely overweight and unhappy about this, but with our support she has lost an incredible 11 stone! Her health has meant it has not been easy for her to leave, but we are now approaching the point where she is ready to move forward with our support. This client has needed long term support and their case highlights the vulnerability of some Deaf clients and the need to work at their pace or risk them disengaging. It also highlights the need to constantly review and manage risk. This client will be referred to our Outreach workers once she has left her relationship and support will continue until she is fully able to live independently.

Thursday

Today Idva M and I are delivering week four of our survivor workshop with five Deaf women with very different backgrounds, cultures and experiences.  This week we were covering the impact of experiencing domestic abuse on children. An emotional subject, but we also manage to have some laughs when sharing parenting experiences.  After the workshop, I return to the office and catch up with this week’s new referrals and to write up yesterday’s assessment for handing over.

This has been a relatively quiet day for the Idva team so an ideal time to update client notes, touch base with other clients and also start preparing the weekly updates.

 

Friday 

I'm covering the office today but with two Idvas on leave or TOIL, I’m hoping that there will be no crisis calls. Unfortunately, we get two calls today. One is an agency referral for a young client in North Kent who is assessed as medium risk. I have a chance to check the referral before allocating to our Young DeafHope Idva who works with under 25 year olds. The other is a self-referral from the Midlands; outside our funding area. However, we set up a Skype call and using this system through BSL I am able to make an assessment and identify what the client needs. She is experiencing continued abuse and harassment from her ex-partner and his family. I follow up with an email confirmation of action and advice.  

Idva S returns to the office after meeting with a new client. This client has been referred to Marac but the agency who referred the client is not responding to telephone calls and the Marac Coordinator is on leave today so we’re unsure when the case will be heard. Idva S is also having problems because her Access to Work budget for the month, which she uses for interpreters, is at a limit. This means she has to be selective about what meetings she can arrange. Fortunately, the office interpreter is funded by me so today she can use her for phone calls.

Before we close for the week we check all new our referrals are safe and know how to contact the crisis number over the weekend if needed. One of the challenges of being a specialist service covering a wide geographical area is the amount of travelling we need to do to meet with clients. Skype and Facetime can be really useful not only to communicate with clients quickly when they need it, but also for me to keep check on the emotional well-being of the team. The group Whatsapp system has also been really helpful this week, being able to send one message instead of 12 messages to each individual in the team!    

Keep an eye on our Spotlights Homepage for all the latest podcasts, blogs and other content in our series on disabled victims

Making the Marac process work for disabled people

For an audio version of this blog, please scroll to the bottom of this page or click through to our Soundcloud page.

Jennifer Daw is a Research Analyst for SafeLives. In this blog she looks at what current Marac data tells us about how many disabled people are accessing support services. She writes about 'hidden impairments' and SafeLives' recommendations for the inclusion of disabled people at Marac. 

Last year saw the 20th anniversary of the first disability-focused anti-discrimination law (Disability Discrimination Act 1995) (DDA) in the UK which was a major turning point for disabled people. Today, the DDA is no longer in force and has been replaced by the Equality Act 2010 which aims to make disability laws clearer and protect disabled people better.

In my former employment, I worked on a number of equality and diversity projects which made me aware of the difficulties disabled people face in education, training and employment. There is another area where people with impairments are particularly at risk – that is domestic abuse. There is a large gap in research on the issue of domestic violence and disability but from the information available we know that:

  • Disabled women are twice as likely to be victims of domestic violence as non-disabled women;
  • Disabled women are twice as likely to be assaulted or raped as non-disabled women
  • Both men and women with a limiting illness or impairments are more likely to experience intimate partner violence.
  • Disabled women are likely to have to endure abuse for longer because appropriate support is not available.

In our current release of UK Marac data (July 2015 – June 2016),  4% of high risk cases referred to Marac involved a disabled victim – far short of the SafeLives recommendation of 16% or higher, and surprising considering what the statistics tell us about the volume of disabled people suffering abuse. 

There may be a number of reasons why disabled people are not being identified at Marac.  One explanation could be the issue of ‘hidden impairments’.  A ‘hidden impairment’ means that a person’s injury or condition is not noticeable or visible.  The list of medical conditions that may be regarded as hidden impairments is extensive and can include people with epilepsy, diabetes, cancer, heart, liver or kidney problems and mental health issues.  Many people, including the victims themselves, may not realise someone would be protected under the Equality Act as having an impairment (and can be recorded as such) if a condition is long term and has a considerable negative effect on their lives.   

Saima Afzal MBE, an Independent Equality, Human Rights and Safeguarding Adviser states[1]:

“Those with 'hidden impairments' are often discriminated against because the general public and/or practitioners can’t see the impairment and as such assumptions can be made…or there is a stigma attached to Mental Health that prevents those suffering from coming forward”                       

As Saima highlights, if a condition is not evident, problems or difficulties may not be identified and needs not met.  One area of hidden impairments - mental health conditions – has a complex relationship with domestic violence.  Professor Louise Howard from the Institute of Psychiatry notes[2]:

"Domestic violence can often lead to victims developing mental health problems and people with mental health problems are more likely to experience domestic violence"

Research has shown higher rates of mental health issues with women who have experienced domestic violence compared to those who have not.[3] The SafeLives national Insights dataset shows just over a third (34%) of clients reported they have had a problem with mental health issues in the last 12 months. In the interim findings of the SafeLives Themis project nearly a quarter (23%) of non-hospital Idva clients disclosed mental health issues compared to nearly half (47%) of hospital Idva clients.

For this marginalised group, acts of domestic violence can be linked to their impairment. For example, a perpetrator of abuse can withhold or intentionally refuse to assist with care needs. As the abuser can often be the person relied upon for care there is an increased opportunity to use power and control.  Dr Jackie Barron from Women's Aid explains:[4]

"We've heard cases where a woman's wheelchair was removed just as she was about to sit down, or a hearing aid thrown to the other side of the room leaving the victim unable to communicate"

It can also be harder for disabled women to get away from an abuser as it means leaving a home that has been adapted to meet their needs, or residential care. Refuges, already coping with cuts in funding, are not always accessible or able to meet certain needs. Saima Afzal MBE[5] highlights that “self-blaming, low self-esteem stops victims of abuse from coming forward, therefore an impairment, visible or non-visible will only further exacerbate the situation”.

The Research, Evaluation and Analysis team at SafeLives are keen to ensure the number of disabled victims at Marac is documented accurately, to ensure that they are being identified and supported by the Marac process. Low referrals of disabled victims could be a sign that local services are difficult to access, or there is a lack of awareness for agencies working with this group and their increased vulnerability to domestic abuse and the Marac process.

As Saima Afzal MBE emphasises[6]:

“Statutory agencies and those that work in the Domestic Abuse and safeguarding arena need to capture the diverse needs of victims…if a need isn't visible we [statutory bodies and practitioners] may be unwittingly not accounting for it.  We also need to monitor disabled peoples needs more explicitly…if someone is struggling to communicate is that because of their ethnicity, language, confidence or communication barriers, or is because of an impairment? Until we unpick those barriers and identify them we won’t know the true extent of the reasons for under reporting”

Useful resources

See the SafeLives guidance for identifying and recording disabled victims at Mara and our Spotlight page on disabled people experiencing domestic abuse

 

[1] Afzal, S. (Personal communication, 4th December 2015)

[5] Afzal, S. (Personal communication, 4th December 2015)

[6] Afzal, S. (Personal communication, 4th December 2015)

[Image below: the hand of a person making notes during a meeting]

What Domestic Homicide Reviews tell us about the abuse of older people

With thanks to Standing Together for providing this blog post. Standing Together Against Domestic Violence is a UK charity bringing communities together to end domestic abuse.

At Standing Together, we believe that all services and communities have a key role to play in eradicating domestic abuse and addressing it as early as possible. To do this we must identify domestic abuse in all its forms and – most importantly – everyone who is affected by it. 

This is especially urgent for older victims of domestic abuse. Too often assumptions about age can mean that, when older people are injured, depressed or display other potential signs of domestic abuse, the cause is assumed to be poor health or other social care needs. 

Earlier this year, Standing Together chaired a review of 32 domestic homicide reviews (DHR). We wanted to explore the circumstances that led to these deaths to identify patterns, address gaps in the system and help prevent similar tragedies from happening in the future. The findings were startling: over a quarter of those murdered by their current or intimate partner were aged 58 or above. This often surprises people who assume that domestic abuse poses a more serious threat to younger victims. There is a common assumption that older couples must be happy or they would not have remained in the relationship for so long. Sadly these DHRs found that, like the wider public, professionals can also fail to consider domestic abuse because of the victim’s age.

In some circumstances there was an age difference between the perpetrator and the victim which caused professionals around them to consider it more of a carer relationship, rather than an intimate relationship. In other situations the reviews found the victim’s age influenced her view of what help was available. As is common with all who are abused by their former or intimate partners, older women who were killed did not define their relationship as one that featured ‘domestic violence’.

As guidance from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) shows, there are a huge number of reasons why older women may not disclose domestic abuse: embarrassment, lack of awareness about services and options, and feelings of isolation – to name just a few. Older survivors may also have less experience of ‘self-help’ models or disclosing personal circumstances to a stranger.

In many of the domestic homicides our review looked at, the victim and the perpetrators were considered to be carers for one another. Six cases involved an ex/current partner who also was the carer of the victim. Yet, carers’ assessments were not completed despite research suggesting that the potential for violence in these relationships tends to be greater when the carer is a partner or close relative, and where the carer is trying to support a relative with a substance misuse issue. 

For professionals in the domestic abuse sector, the coordinated community response is not just a theory. It builds the strategic and operational structures which hold us all to account for the work we are (or are not) doing. There are vital lessons to be learned from the work of  groups like Solace Women’s Aid or housing providers like Gentoo to reach out and support older women. The Older People’s Commissioner for Wales has also launched a campaign on domestic abuse that is well worth a look. 

The review emphasised to us why it’s so important for professionals to think creatively when working with older victims. For example, have you considered your Marac referrals for older women?  What links can you make with your adult safeguarding board, and how can you ensure that there is adequate training for domestic abuse? What lessons can you learn from the domestic homicide reviews in your area which have involved older people? 

We have to grapple with the detail if we’re ever going to make a difference. Standing Together means working together. 

Find out more

Throughout July and August, we're focusing on domestic abuse as it affects older people. Listen to our new podcast, catch up with our webinars and more on the Spotlight webpage.

Older people and domestic abuse - completing the jigsaw

How can we help older people living with domestic abuse? Join the conversation – Twitter Q&A with Age UK 1-2pm on Wednesday 31 August. 

Richard Powley is Head of Safeguarding at Age UK. In this thoughtful blog post he takes a look at what can be done to improve the help and support offered to older people experiencing domestic abuse.

A few weeks ago I was able to do my civic duty by taking part in jury service and, as I first went into the jury waiting room, it became clear that it had been set up for people who would be doing a lot of waiting around. As well as the usual piles of out of date magazines there were tables dotted all around with jigsaw boxes sitting on them. 

As a jury we couldn’t speak about the trial when we were in the waiting area. But the jigsaws let us talk to each other, without talking about the case, and they became the subject of intense discussion and competition.

Inevitably, as we came closer to the end of one 2,000 piece behemoth (a Venetian lagoon if you want to know) we began to realise, to our great dismay, that there were some crucial pieces missing. 

Looking into the issue of domestic abuse and older people this week, that image of gaps in a jigsaw came back to me. Some of the necessary legislative and operational pieces are in place to empower and protect older victims of domestic abuse, but they are just not joining up to create a coherent whole. The outcomes of this are much, much more serious than an incomplete picture of a picturesque lagoon. They can, in fact, be devastating. 

There is no doubt that a more coherent approach is needed. Domestic abuse does not go away with age, and its damaging impact certainly doesn’t lessen. For older people domestic abuse is a hidden issue with hidden victims, and it is not clear that the current law and practice is applied consistently or that it is able to respond effectively to the needs of older people.

So let’s look at a few of the missing pieces in a bit more detail:
 

Piece #1: Recognition
There is evidence from criminal cases, Domestic Homicide and Serious Case Reviews that domestic abuse issues for older people often go unrecognised, which means that protective or supportive measures that may have reduced the risks of harm are not put in place. 

The Domestic Homicide Review for Mrs Y, a 79-year-old woman killed by her husband found that she was not considered to be a potential victim of abuse, due in part to her age. Had the potential signs of domestic abuse been recognised and explored, then it may have been prevented. (Sunderland City Council)

Older people may also be particularly affected by what may be perceived as ‘low level’ individual incidents which can, as part of a longstanding pattern of cumulative abusive behaviour, have consequences that can equal or surpass any individual incident. 
 

Piece #2: Understanding
Specific risk factors for older people, including the development of health needs, retirement from work (resulting in increased contact), stress associated with caring roles and social or geographical isolation may place them at increased risk from domestic abuse. As we age our ability to recover from both mental and physical abuse can be adversely affected, and the impact of domestic abuse can be particularly profound for those who may be reliant on a partner to provide care and financial support.

Additionally, for some older people, there will be factors that may make them less likely to disclose domestic abuse. These include concerns about sharing information considered to be private, and embarrassment and shame about a situation of domestic abuse. Long term undermining of an individual’s self-esteem over many years could intensify these feelings.
 

Piece #3 Joined up approaches
For older people psychological, financial, physical and sexual abuse may trigger adult safeguarding rather than criminal justice and/or protective domestic abuse processes. It is important that the possibility of domestic abuse is fully considered in adult safeguarding enquiries involving intimate partners or family members. Issues of coercion, pressure and mental capacity also need to be carefully considered. Person centred approaches and the appropriate sharing of information and expertise across safeguarding partnerships will help this to happen. 

Consistent inclusion of older people’s needs and insights as part of local Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences and Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements could also help to identify and reduce serious risks that may affect older people. 
 

Piece #4 Developing the law
The broadening of the cross-Government definition of domestic violence and abuse is very welcome, as is the new offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship (Serious Crime Act 2015).  

However the Serious Crime Act states that these behaviours will be deemed to have had a “serious effect” where the victim either fears that violence will be used against them on “at least two occasions”, OR they have been caused “serious alarm or distress”. This means that controlling or coercive behaviour may not be caught in situations where the abusive behaviour is hidden (e.g. hidden financial abuse) or where, because of cognitive impairment, an individual does not fully appreciate the nature of the behaviour and experience serious alarm or distress. It may help protect those in such circumstances if this were changed to include serious alarm, distress or detriment. (CPS: Controlling or Coercive Behaviour in an Intimate or Family Relationship)

Putting these pieces in place, alongside approaches informed by the experiences and insights of older people, would be a significant step forwards in preventing harm. I warmly welcome the focus of organisations such as Safe Lives on this issue, the more we talk about it, the greater the chance of real progress. 

 

Find out more

Throughout July and August, we're focusing on domestic abuse as it affects older people. Join our free webinars, listen to our new podcast and more on the Spotlights webpage.

5 challenges older victims of domestic abuse face – and what you can do to help

Monsura Mahmud is a Domestic Abuse Prevention Adviser for the Silver Project, a specialist service for women aged 55 and over affected by domestic and sexual abuse. The project is run by Leading Lights-accredited Solace Women’s Aid and provides one-to-one support, as well as training professionals who come into contact with older victims.

The person sitting in front of you has taken the hardest step of all: they’ve told someone about the abuse they’re experiencing. Now they need your help to become safe.

In my last post, I looked at some of the reasons older victims can find it difficult to seek help. But what happens once they’ve found your service? These barriers don’t simply go away. If your client is over 60, the chances are they’ve been living with the abuse for a long time – maybe even decades. This might be the first time they’ve ever reached out for help.

At the Silver Project, we see this scenario all the time, but we also know that because of a range of factors linked to age – health, mobility, financial security and isolation to name a few – keeping your client engaged can make offering support even more challenging.

1. Health and mobility issues are affecting the victim’s ability to access services

It can take longer for older victims to get the right support because they can’t get out as easily, don’t have anywhere safe to go or don’t have access to a mobile phone. This may be exacerbated by the fact the perpetrator is also their carer.

How can I help?

  • Be flexible in where and how you provide support – hold drop-in and outreach sessions at places older women feel comfortable or can access more easily, like health centres, GP surgeries and day/community centres
  • Meet face-to-face wherever possible and ensure any communication meets their needs – for example, using minicom, videophone or interpreting services for hard of hearing or deaf service users
  • Visit clients in their own homes, where safe to do so, and arrange joint visits with other professionals if their presence is reassuring for your client
  • Be aware of refuges that can accommodate carers

Stepping into a large organisation can be very overwhelming when you’ve already been through so much. Just taking the time to explain the service and what they do made a huge difference.

2. The victim has limited eligibility for housing, legal or financial support

Older victims might require specially adapted homes to help them live independently. This can limit the options available to them, particularly in areas like London where there is a lack of housing and a long waiting list for adapted properties.

If they have savings or a home of their own it could mean they are not eligible for legal aid. Others may face financial hardship as leaving the perpetrator can require costly care options.

How can I help?

  • Know the housing associations which operate in your area – some offer the option to register directly without going through the local authority
  • Be aware of local solicitors/legal services that offer pro bono support. Ask whether they can visit clients at home or in a safe location.
  • Ensure staff are trained on the needs of older people, including pensions and benefits available to them
  • Remember that all older people and carers have the right to request a Community Care Assessment. This can be a good way to work jointly with social services.

Getting Legal Aid was difficult, but I couldn’t give up and had to stay positive. The Silver Project gave me the extra support I needed.

3. The victim is reluctant to leave or has complex needs which make it difficult to do so

Older victims typically live with abuse for many years before getting help. This could mean that it will take them longer to deal with the trauma or leave the abusive situation at all.

They may have complex needs such as dementia or use alcohol as a coping mechanism. This can mean that you’ll need to work with clients on a longer term basis and steps to safety, such as re-housing, legal advice and access to care, may take longer.

How can I help?

  • Respect your client’s autonomy and their right to make decisions in their own life. They will leave when they are ready.
  • Help your client plan for their future safety. What have they tried in the past to keep themselves safe and is it working? Do they have a place to go if they need to escape?
  • Feelings of isolation significantly affect older people’s quality of life. Explore options like befriending services, local activities and day/community centres to help address this.
  • Give clients as much relevant information and assistance as possible, without overwhelming them, to help them make informed choices about their future. Where possible, give options in writing.

It's always good to see a familiar face. You can build a rapport and don’t have to keep repeating your story again and again.

4. The perpetrator is elderly or has health issues of their own

We often see cases where the perpetrator has dementia or memory loss, or conditions which are known to make them violent. The perpetrator may be viewed as vulnerable and not capable of serious harm. A criminal justice response may be seen as inappropriate, and could result in an inadequate or unsuitable response by professionals.

How can I help?

  • Where possible and safe, look for support services for the ‘vulnerable’ perpetrator as this may be the only way to ensure the victim’s safety
  • Recognise that your client may want to maintain the relationship and help the abuser. You must always support any decision they make.

In my experience, the best way to engage is to listen carefully and give all the support and resources you can.

5. The abuser is the victim’s adult child or grandchild

We find that victims in these cases are even less likely to report the abuse to the authorities. This is often because they still love their child and want them to get help. They may worry about being alone or even blame themselves for the abuse because of how the child was raised.

The perpetrator may also have complex needs, such as mental ill-health or problematic alcohol or substance use. However, unless they are a risk to the community, you may find that services are reluctant to intervene.

How can I help?

  • For the reasons outlined above, the options for clients in these situations can be limited. However, wherever possible, explore alternative solutions with your client – for example, we found that women were happier if a neighbour reported the abuse to the police, so we worked with them to agree a code word with a trusted neighbour.
  • Speak to other local domestic abuse services to find out about their experiences of this type of abuse. What worked for them?
  • Link in with specialists such as drug and alcohol services, housing and social care. If the person causing the harm is under 18, find out if there is a Young People’s Violence Advisor (Ypva) working locally.

You were always ready and willing to help, no matter what. You gave your time to listen – always.

Whatever challenges your clients face, it’s essential that you build strong partnerships with the services your client is already using. We work closely with local Age UK groups, as well as adult social care, care homes and sheltered accommodation, health services, the police and the fire service. Share information whenever appropriate, and visit the client together if it makes them feel more comfortable. By working together, you’ll achieve far greater outcomes and, ultimately, help more older victims to become sustainably safe.

Find out more

Throughout July and August, we're focusing on domestic abuse as it affects older people. Join our free webinars, listen to our new podcast and more on the Spotlight webpage.