What’s it really like to work at DVCS?
The Domestic Violence Crisis Service employs more than 45 people across a range of service provisions.
Some of the DVCS team work specifically with those in crisis, some work with clients seeking a legal response, some work specifically with women and children post crisis and some work with men who are seeking behavioural change. And then there are team members who don’t work directly with clients, instead helping to educate our community on the dynamics of domestic and family violence, and those managing all the administrative and financial things that come with running an organisation like DVCS.
DVCS want to share what it’s really like working with DVCS, on the front line. The first thing to remember is every day is different. The clients are different today from yesterday and they bring with them different complexities, different needs and expectations.
At 8am our Shift One team, Thom, Mel and Jaymini arrive and take over from our on call team. On call last night was Tess and Niesa.
At around 8.10am, Tess telephones Thom and gives him a handover of what happened last night. She received a number of calls last night. One was from ACT Policing. Tess and Niesa met with “Mandy” and placed her and her three children in emergency accommodation at about 2am.
At 8.45am a new client telephones the crisis line seeking out support to apply for a Family Violence Order at the Magistrates Court. Mel makes a time for this client to meet with Sam. Sam is one of our dedicated legal advocates who works from the ACT Magistrates Court and supports clients at court. The appointment is made for 10am.
At 9am, the first of DVCS’s outgoing team arrives. The outgoing team manages all the outgoing calls and is made up of three people who start at 9am, 10am and 12pm throughout the day. At 9am Helen arrives. She checks the DVCS diary and makes a call to client “Abby”. DVCS had supported Abby last week. Helen calls her to find out how she is travelling and whether we can provide any further supports.
Inez also starts at 9am. She works directly with clients who are placed into emergency hotel accommodation. Inez’s role is to help support those clients work out where they are going after being in a hotel. Can we support them to go back to the home with legal intervention or security upgrades? Or is it more appropriate for us to advocate for them to access refuge accommodation, or other community housing? Or does the client have family or friends they can stay with, either locally or interstate. Inez starts reading over Tess’ notes from the night before about client Mandy. Noting the time of the night Mandy was placed into emergency accommodation, Inez decides to leave calling her until a bit later. Accommodation was booked for two nights.
At 10am Sam meets with client “Margaret” at court. Sam chats with her about her needs and goals and supports Margaret to complete the necessary paperwork and lodge it at court. Margaret is applying for an Interim Family Violence Order and has been given a time before the Registrar that afternoon. Sam chats further with Margaret about safety planning before her listing in front of the Registrar.
10am is when Janne starts her shift. She is the second of the outgoing team to start today. She gets to work on making any urgent following up calls. At the same time, our other legal advocate, Rachel is meeting with “Bridget” at court. Bridget was assaulted by her then partner some 12 months ago. Bridget is now giving evidence at court in criminal proceedings. Rachel is meeting with Bridget to provide support while she waits to be called and while giving her evidence. Bridget is able to give evidence from a separate room within the court building. She is able to see the Magistrate and the lawyers via closed circuit television. She can’t see her former partner. Rachel was able to organise this a few weeks ago after discussions with Bridget.
Downstairs in a larger meeting room, the DVCS Room4Change team is holding their weekly meeting. This team works closely with men who are undertaking behavioural change. The team consisting of seven people and led by Belinda, work with men one on one and in a variety of groups. These men are making big commitments to change their behaviour. Behaviour that is strongly ingrained and perpetuated by the culture around us.
At 11.30am, ACT Policing call about a particularly complex and high risk situation unfolding. Jaymini, who is on Shift One takes the call. Once she has all the information she debriefs with Team Leader Susan and DPS Paige. Both agree that Jaymini and her shift buddy, Thom should meet ACT Policing to provide support and assess the client’s situation for emergency accommodation. Both leave in a DVCS vehicle immediately.
At 12pm, our third outgoing team member, Yolanda now comes onto shift. She will work through until 8pm tonight. She starts her day by logging a list of family violence arrests made by ACT Policing the day before. After that, she will take work as directed by our DPS, Paige.
Paige is a senior employee who works under our Team Leaders. Paige’s role as DPS is like a nurse triaging patients at the emergency department. She is across all the day’s work and distributing work in order of risk and safety. As the day progresses and more work comes in, the priority of things change.
It’s now 1pm and across our entire service, more than 60 incoming contacts have been received since 8am. Incoming contacts are received by telephone, email, SMS, social media and online chat.
Megan who works closely with the courts and prosecutors has received the outcomes of family violence matters that were before the court earlier that morning. It’s important DVCS receives this information because we can provide safety planning with at risk clients. Megan is able to advise clients whether someone has entered into any pleas, whether they have been remanded or released on bail, and what any bail conditions might look like. Based on the outcome, Megan is able to provide appropriate supports.
At 2.15pm, Thom and Jaymini return from the crisis visit they attended with ACT Policing. The client, “Jasmine” was at high risk and the perpetrator of violence had fled the scene, meaning he is still on the run which puts Jasmine at risk. A decision was made to place her and her children into emergency accommodation. Thom and Jaymini took Jasmine and her children to the hotel accommodation, checked her in and provided some immediate crisis support. They told Jasmine, our Shift Two team would come back later that evening with some food and other information.
Thom and Jaymini haven’t yet stopped for lunch. They quickly grab something to eat before writing up their notes from their crisis visit and preparing the file for handover to Shift Two who start at 3.30pm.
Christa and Margy work within the Women and Children’s Specialist Program. This program consists of four front line staff, plus a Team Leader. The team works one on one with women or children, and their families, post crisis. They provide support and referrals to help re-establish themselves with community, obtain employment or retrain, housing and security and other therapeutic supports to ensure long term recovery.
At 2.30pm, Margy leaves the office to pick up “Billy” from school. Margy is going to take Billy for some afternoon tea and have a bit of a chat about how things have been going for him over the week since they last saw each other. She will then take Billy home and do some exercises with him and engage his mother and sister in further conversations. Billy witnessed horrific violence perpetrated against his mother. He requires long term intervention and support. This is what Margy is providing to him.
At 3pm, Louise who works as part of our Administration and Finance team does a stock take on the number of colouring-in books and activity books we are holding. These books are gifted to children who are placed into emergency accommodation. She notices we are running low, so asks Alanna who manages the DVCS social media accounts, to seek more donations via DVCS social media. This is able to be posted almost immediately. Within the next seven days donations will start flooding in by mail and delivery.
At 3.30pm, Chris and Pantip arrive at the office. They are Shift Two. Once they have settled in, they met with DPS Paige for a handover of what’s been happening that day and some of the priorities they will need to get to.
At 4pm, Sarah and Kerrie return to the office. They have been located off site for the day providing training to members of the ACT Government on domestic and family violence. They started at 9am. Shift One, Thom, Jaymini and Mel have now finished their notes and are leaving the office at 4.15pm, 15 minutes after their rostered shift was scheduled to finish.
At 5.30pm, Chris takes a call on the crisis line from staff at The Canberra Hospital. A woman was brought in by ambulance a little while ago. She has been seriously assaulted and requires support from DVCS. Right now she is undergoing some tests, but should be ok to chat with in a few hours. Chris undertakes to visit the hospital after they have visited the client placed into a hotel earlier that day.
Chris and Pantip drive out to the hotel to see Jasmine. They provide her with a few basic food packs, some toiletries, information pack, a Woolworths gift card and a Telstra Safe Connections Phone as Jasmine’s mobile phone was destroyed last night by her partner. The food packs are just enough to see her and her children through for 24 hours. They can use the Woolworths voucher to purchase some more food once they are feeling a bit more up to getting out of the hotel room. The toiletry packs provide things like hair ties, toothbrushes and toothpaste as well as the staples like shampoo and soap. All of these items are either donated to DVCS or purchased with funds raised by or donated to DVCS.
Jasmine and her children are now getting tired and are keen to settle down for the night. Chris and Pantip encourage her to call the crisis line if she needs support overnight and confirm someone will come to visit her again tomorrow, after a telephone call.
Chris and Pantip are now off to the hospital, not having had the opportunity to grab any dinner. Once at hospital, they are taken to the patient. They are brought to see “Sally”. Both of them are familiar with Sally’s situation, having provided support to her in the past. Sally is able to speak, albeit softly. Sally will be staying in hospital for another few nights. After some initial crisis intervention, Chris and Pantip eventually get back on the road and head back to the office to write up their notes and respond to other incoming calls. They make a note for the Shift One team to contact Sally again the following day to check in and reassess her situation and condition.
Come 11.30pm, Chris diverts the crisis line to Julie who is managing the on call for the night. After the line is transferred, Chris and Pantip complete their notes, lock up the office and leave.
The following morning it all starts again. This is only a very small snapshot of what it’s like working in the DVCS office each day.
DVCS is an uncapped service, supporting children, young people and adults impacted by domestic and family violence within our community. This means DVCS doesn’t “get full” and turns people away. However, there are times when DVCS experiences peaks and troughs. When DVCS is experiencing a peak in client demand, it is imperative the team triage clients based on their risk and safety. This ensures those with the highest of risk are supported first. Nobody is ever ignored, but due to the ever increasing workload, sometimes it does take longer than usual to respond to some clients.
If you are seeking support from DVCS, you are encouraged to reach out in one of the following ways. If you are required to leave a message, or are sending a SMS, email or social media message, we strongly encourage leaving your name, contact details, confirming whether it is safe to contact you and a brief message about what you are hoping to chat about. This information supports DVCS’s ability to triage client needs. It helps DVCS to help you and all people impacted by domestic and family violence.