Social workers are used to dealing with referrals from neighbours and family members – people who are concerned about women and children in their own homes. For them, domestic abuse is business as usual.
Domestic abuse in the spotlight
We would be hard pressed to call our current situation business as usual. This week, the battle against coronavirus continues, and across the country the key workers who have died from the infection have been honoured. In Westminster, the Domestic Abuse Bill has returned to Parliament for its second reading.
Having spent the last few weeks in lockdown, the Bill seems more relevant than ever. The problem of domestic abuse, exacerbated by social distancing measures, is very much in the spotlight – and our invaluable specialist services. The hope is that this legislation will address funding shortfalls and help survivors get support they need to rebuild their lives without violence and fear.
While the threat of the virus seems to be diminishing, tragically, the opposite is happening in domestic violence cases. Charities such as Refuge have seen calls for help soar – by 120% in one day. It’s clear that, while staying at home is an important part of the battle against coronavirus, it is anything but safe for some people.
Heightened risk to families in lockdown
Social workers across the country are examining their caseloads and thinking about where the pressures are greatest. Without their usual outlets such as school and extended family, some households are struggling. Where there are flashpoints, these can be triggered by a sense of impotence and heightened by isolation and financial hardship. Social workers are well aware that the most vulnerable in society do not do well in times of crisis and that lockdown and social distancing may increase the pressure in already risky situations.
Socially distant communication
During the crisis, social workers have been forced to review some of their essential practices, but their commitment to victims of domestic abuse has not changed. They are thinking creatively about communication - and digital technology will definitely play its part - but it’s not always as straightforward as that. How does an individual social worker decide whether to stay at home and make a phone call, or travel to the office to use video? It is always challenging to engage with women and children who are at risk in their homes, and social workers have new public health barriers to deal with.
And where is the abuser in all this? They may be using the current situation as a smokescreen - to avoid accountability, to justify non-compliance, or to avoid assessment. When it comes to maintaining contact with abusive individuals, there are resources and support designed to help, and these are likely to focus on de-escalation and the reduction of immediate risk.
Social workers should remember they are not alone – their teams still exist, even if they are not in the same building. External support structures are there to offer help too. Met Police commander, Sue Williams, has spoken about her commitment to taking “positive action”. Campaigners are also trying to find alternative sources of help: Whilst it might not be straightforward, some of the UK’s largest hotel chains have offered bed and board to victims of domestic abuse.
Social work experience at a premium
At the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, Social Work England launched an appeal to increase the number of practitioners available to deal with the impact of coronavirus. 8,000 previously regulated social workers were invited to come back to the profession, and by mid-April, more than 800 had signed up. There are still jobs to fill, though as local authorities manage absences and respond to the need to increase out-of-hours support.
The ongoing need for skilled key workers comes as no surprise to the consultants at Pertemps Professional Recruitment. There’s a marked increase in the need for social workers with domestic abuse experience. Sonny Cogan, a senior manager in PPR’s London office said: “Domestic violence won’t stop for anything. Social workers are working from home as much as they can, and they will not abandon their families during this emergency. It’s sad, but we need more of these skilled and committed workers - now more than ever”.
Pertemps Professional Recruitment finds roles for social workers in public and private organisations throughout the UK. We’re proud of our reputation for high standards and empathetic approach towards our workers and the employers we introduce them to.
We never lose sight of what really matters: providing outstanding service to our candidates and clients who provide help to society’s most vulnerable children and adults. We know that our workers often experience tough and challenging circumstances, and we’re aware that the coronavirus outbreak is making this harder than ever.