Being a Community Support Worker and supporting survivors of ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices at Savera UK is busy, unpredictable, sometimes challenging but always rewarding. Given the nature of the people we work with and how difficult their circumstances can be, you never really know what each day is going to bring. There is a broad spectrum of what I do and it can range anywhere from having to crisis manage a high risk case of someone fleeing their perpetrator and being relocated that day, to attending multi-agency strategy meetings to create safety plans for clients.
My role includes: supporting clients at court hearings, solicitors and Home Office appointments and interviews, writing letters of support for legal, housing and immigration purposes, researching other support organisations and social events to signpost clients to, organising Savera day trips and helping run our weekly drop in service, or spending a day in the office catching up on case notes, sending emails and making phone calls to check in on client welfare and liaise with professionals about their cases.
There is an element of community engagement in the role too, reaching out to the wider community about what we do, why we do it and how to find us. This takes the form of a presentation with for questions at the end, which inevitably leads to a lively discussion. ‘Honour’-based abuse (HBA) is still an issue that many people are unaware of and there are lots of complexities within it that need clear explanations from a culturally sensitive lens, for example, the difference between an arranged and a forced marriage. We deliver these sessions to a range of different people, from professionals within the public and charity sector, to ethnic and religious community groups. We are always looking out for organisations who want a session, as we feel all organisations operating in a multicultural society like ours would benefit from an increased awareness of Savera UK and the issues we specialise in.
The main pillars of my role are advocacy, emotional support, multi-agency working, specialist consultation and reducing social isolation. In practical terms they mean the following:
The main aspect of being a Support Worker is being an advocate for the client. Often the voices of minority communities aren’t heard, especially those of women. Trying to understand situations from their perspective and communicating that to the relevant professionals is key. Therefore, adopting a culturally sensitive lens is the way we approach our work. It should not be the case that someone does not feel they will be heard, and that an advocate has to step in to ensure their needs are listened to – but sadly it is. Wherever possible I encourage empowerment of clients and for them to do things for themselves. This is the end goal for all of our clients, to lead fully independent lives – but it is often a difficult journey that requires assistance from us.
This means being a listening ear to clients whenever they need it, and providing non-judgemental, confidential support. Often our clients haven’t been able to disclose what they have been going through with anyone else. This is because those who many would commonly turn to such as our family, friends and community members are often not safe for our clients to talk to about the issues of honour as they can often be the perpetrators. The knowledge that someone who cares is there to turn to can be really comforting and quite powerful in a period of extreme emotional strain.
It is absolutely essential that we work in collaboration with other statutory services, charities and organisations to give the best possible support to clients. We are such a small team so certainly cannot do it all alone. This is mainly achieved by attending closed MARAC (Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference) meetings, strategy meetings and generally liaising with other agencies throughout the time clients cases are open to us to ensure that everyone is on the same page, and working within their own remits to provide the best possible safeguarding and care to clients. Sometimes, this means challenging professionals too as an advocate for the client with their safety as our main priority.
Our 9am-5pm helpline runs in conjunction with our one to one support service and we get calls each day from individuals at risk as well as a range of professionals from across the country (and sometimes beyond!) looking for advice on HBA cases. We would consult on this in line with the HBA protocol which is a series of safeguarding measures to be implemented on disclosures of HBA.
Reducing social isolation
Another part of what we do is run weekly drop ins, cultural events and day trips to help reduce social isolation among our client base. Often they have been ostracised by their communities, and sometimes relocated for a new start after fleeing their perpetrators so it is really important that they feel welcomed and comfortable in a new social group – forming our beautiful Savera community.
What I love most personally about being a Community Support Worker is being with the clients themselves, developing a working relationship with them and trying my best to help them with their range of different needs. Seeing the journey of a client going from a place of fear and low self-esteem to independence, confidence and empowerment is truly amazing and is why I truly believe in the work that we do at Savera UK. It gives people a chance to lead their lives without oppression and become aware of their rights to freedom of choice.
Overall, being a Community Support Worker is a diverse and challenging role, but a necessary one that is done with so much love and care for the clients.
By Beth, Savera UK Community Support Worker