August: Lisa

Lisa Woodward qualified as a Ypva (Young people's violence advisor) in November 2015. Prior to that she was a Teaching Assistant for many years. Lisa works at GDASS and supports a caseload, as well as delivering training and presentations around working with young people. Lisa sits on the Missing and Child Exploitation Forum monthly and is a well respected professional within the Marac and MAPPA.

What made you decide to work with people experiencing domestic abuse? 

I attended some domestic abuse training whilst in my previous post of Teaching Assistant. The topic fascinated me. I was actually in some training where I wasn’t clock watching! The family support worker at the school saw a role advertised for a domestic abuse worker for children and said I should apply. This was a tough decision for me; to go from a term time only, local authority, very secure job to going and working for a charity. I was successful and it was the best decision I ever made. The role initially was a floating support worker. But I knew my passion was high risk and I saw a gap in young peoples services so I pushed to do my Ypva training. That was in 2015 and since then I have created a specialist service within Gloucestershire Domestic Abuse Support Service for young people experiencing high risk abuse, and never looked back.

What are some of the particular challenges faced by the young people you support?

Being taken seriously. Professionals are getting much better at identifying risk within young relationships but I do believe there are still some people/professionals out there who believe that things will sort themselves out and it's not a concern. It's just teenage love and it won't last. When in actual fact young people's relationships tend to be really intense very quickly. This may be a first relationship, they may not have anything to compare it to. They may see unhealthy behaviours as the norm. Strangulation in young peoples relationships really concerns me. I find social media glamorises a male putting his hands around a girl's throat so there is nothing deemed wrong about it so they don’t see the risk or tell anyone what is happening. Young people are guided by the media and social media as to how life and relationships should be.

How has your work changed during the COVID-19 crisis?

Wow everyday is groundhog day! I have worked from home since March 13th. It's very challenging as I am having to try and engage new clients over the phone. My original clients who have met me and know me are fine and have adapted but new clients can be a struggle. Even though young people live on their phone they are not big talkers on it unless it's via message/text. So building a rapport is taking longer. I have had to adapt my way of working to either audio or video calls. I feel like I am constantly on the phone these days as no travel time...Good job I invested in a headset!

In all seriousness though, I’m pleased to say that through these difficult times my engagement has not dropped off and I am at my busiest I’ve ever been! I am enjoying the challenge of building relationships in a new way and having to use all my communication skills to get that initial engagement to be able to build that rapport.

What are you most proud of so far? 

Everything! I attended a grammar school, never really enjoyed it. I was the class clown. I never knew what I wanted to do in life so went from job to job. I then had my two children and it was then I decided I wanted to work with children. So at the ripe old age of 47 I have finally found my vocation in life. This is not a job to me, I am one of those lucky people that doesn’t wake up in the morning filled with dread that I have to go to work. I love my role and I never know what each day will bring.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone considering this career, what would it be? 

Do it! Don’t let inexperience hold you back. Get educated in the field, talk to your local support service let them know you are interested in this line of work. Volunteer, do what ever you can do to get your foot in the door. But trust me when I say this is not for everybody. You have to be a special individual to work in this field. We don’t do it for the money, we do it because we are passionate and want to make a difference. We have to look after our clients as well as looking after ourselves.

Lisa's team leader said: 'Lisa makes it her business to deliver consistently great results and service for clients; colleagues and the GDASS as a whole. It is a privilege to work with her and she is very much a shining light in the team. There is a no nonsense attitude that I believe Lisa is crafting – she will challenge decisions professionally and with confidence.  There is not a trace of arrogance in her delivery and I believe she is completely unaware of her skills and expertise'

Another colleague said: 'To say she goes the extra mile is an understatement. Lisa performs at an incredible level with an infectious enthusiasm; she is the expert on the team in relation to  young people and is responsive to ways of engaging them. I am in awe of her and what she achieves on a daily basis.'

Do you know a professional who has gone above and beyond to change the response to domestic abuse and keep survivors and their families safe? Nominate someone for Star of the Month by emailing communications@safelives.org.uk with ‘Star of the Month’ as the subject line.