Rachel Purdy is a Senior Social Worker at Centacare. For the past six years, she has supported women at our Whyalla Regional Domestic Violence Service. Here, Rachel recounts a day on the frontline keeping high risk women and children safe.
It’s Wednesday and the first day of my working week.
I start my day by doing a handover with my colleague and obtaining updates on my cases. I’m also briefed on new clients that require follow-up. It is then time to prepare for a Family Safety Meeting.
This meeting is dedicated to discuss high risk domestic violence cases with key agencies across the sector, such as SAPOL, Victims Support Service, Housing SA and Families SA.
About 80 per cent of regional referrals across Centacare’s DV services come from SAPOL and the South Australian Government’s Family Safety Framework meetings.
By partnering with other agencies to share information and coordinate responses, we can minimise the risk of domestic violence to women and children in the local area.
Today’s agenda has six open cases and four new referrals to address.
An action plan for each new referral will need to be developed. A review of the action plan for current open cases will also be undertaken, and new actions developed if appropriate.
After the two-hour meeting, some priority follow-up is required for two open clients currently accommodated in our service’s Domestic Violence Crisis Housing Program properties.
I conduct home visits to my clients accommodated in these properties.
It is a sensitive time for women and children who have recently fled from violent homes and are coming to terms with the impact of this violence on their lives. They may be injured, traumatised, struggling with financial implications and so on.
The solidarity and sense of independence that crisis housing provides can be daunting for clients, as many are used to having restricted freedom and feeling disempowered by the domestic violence perpetrator.
Some clients view this space as an opportunity to reflect, heal and work on self. Other clients find it overwhelming to be alone with their thoughts.
Home visits to clients involve providing domestic violence counselling, reviewing current DV risk factors, developing safety plans (including technological safety) and working towards the client’s case management goals.
I feel it’s important to assist the client to improve their self-esteem, sense of empowerment and self-care post DV separation.
Following the home visits, an update is provided to the Family Violence Officer at SAPOL, as per agreed actions from the Family Safety Framework meeting.
After some lunch, I am on duty – responding to referrals from agencies, as well as self-referrals.
Today there are scheduled referrals booked in, and there may be a crisis presentation coming from the local hospital.
For each of these presentations, I complete an intake and assessment and begin to build engagement with the client. This involves DV counselling and completing a DV risk assessment.
If the client is deemed to be at high risk of domestic violence, a referral will be made to the local Family Safety meeting.
The client’s need for safety is at the forefront of our discussions with them.
A personalised safety plan is then developed. Safety strategies depend on whether the client intends to flee or remain in the relationship.
Clients become informed of their options and resources available to them.
If clients are still in the relationship, it can be difficult for agencies to make (safe) contact with them. Therefore, if the client consents, SAPOL may utilise the opportunity to conduct their follow-up investigations (for example, photos, discussing intervention orders and other conditions).
All clients receive a confidential, non-judgemental service and often feel relieved to be supported and heard, whether they choose to remain in the relationship or are preparing to flee.
I am in this role because I have a strong sense of social justice and a determination to keep my clients safe.
It can be emotionally challenging, especially working with high risk DV cases, but I am passionate about my job and helping clients feel valued, listened to, empowered and safe.