31st October 2016
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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