A day in the life of a Refuge Support Worker
My role within Calan DVS is based in a women’s refuge. On a normal day in refuge I come in for 8:50am each morning to catch up with any emails and to organise myself for the day ahead. This said, planned days in refuge can soon change, as it is very unpredictable because it is the first point of crisis for women and children fleeing domestic abuse. It can soon change to a chaotic day, but at times like this I feel passionate about doing what I do, knowing I am supporting women and families to have a better quality of life.
Many women arrive in refuge with sustained physical injuries but more often than not women’s mental health is severely affected from the trauma experienced. There are many clients who have stated they would “prefer to suffer physical abuse rather than mental abuse”. It is my job to engage with the women to support them to recognise that mental abuse has been normalised and it is almost more detrimental to their wellbeing and lifestyle than physical abuse. It can be a very daunting experience for women to come into refuge, and often women can feel embarrassed. It is my job to make them feel comfortable and build a relationship with the client where they are able to trust me to support them to rebuild their strength in order to regain control of their lives and live fear free.
Supporting women who come into refuge can include many aspects. We look at their needs of support such as accommodation whereby we support client’s to liaise with housing providers to seek appropriate and more importantly safe accommodation. We then look at further support needs such as health and wellbeing, when a client comes into refuge they can be feeling very low and isolated from family or friends, however on times also relieved. We work in collaboration with services that can offer support for a client’s mental health and enhance their wellbeing. This could include me completing a referral to an appropriate service and offer to support clients to appointments where they may discuss their experiences.
Women who come into refuge often have children with them who have been exposed to domestic abuse and are suffering emotionally. We offer support using the appropriate services to provide the parent with appropriate parenting styles and techniques to help children overcome the exposure. The child may be suffering from ACES which we recognise in refuge as a first point of contact and involve the necessary agencies and follow the correct steps in order to provide the child and the parent with the best outcomes.
As mentioned above, no two days in refuge are the same and therefore working in refuge means it is essential for me to be prepared for every situation and circumstance. As a refuge support worker, I act responsively with the families to develop their support plans with bespoke solutions to address any abusive behaviour such as threatening, controlling, coercive behaviour along with financial, physical and emotional abuse.