Having worked at Grand Union, as a Domestic Abuse & Safeguarding Coordinator, for more than five years, Gina and her team are committed to helping our customers feel safe and secure at home. They work with the local authorities to manage three refuge houses for domestic abuse survivors, with another refuge coming soon.
Gina said: “I’ve been working at Grand Union, as Domestic Abuse & Safeguarding Coordinator, for more than five years; my main responsibility is managing two refuge houses in Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire.
My role involves visiting these two facilities once a week and helping survivors of domestic abuse with their housing needs, helping them to find a safe and secure place to call home. While individuals are able to stay in the refuge for up to two years, we try and encourage them and give them the skills to return to the community; we want to empower people, rather than serve as a comfort blanket, and do all we can to make them feel safe at home.
I work closely with a wide range of organisations, from the police, to the council (where I previously worked) and other housing associations. I liaise with Path 2 Recovery – a service which helps people dealing with drug and alcohol addiction – and children’s services, depending on an individual’s needs. The YMCA also offer emotional support to those fleeing from domestic abuse. There is a male refuge, based in Kettering – and I’m determined to help remove the stigma surrounding men who are victims of domestic abuse.
It’s a challenging role but one that is so important. I think you need a certain type of personality; be empathetic and enjoying listening to people. Over the years I’ve developed a thick skin, as it’s very important to remain strong and a source of matter-of-fact advice when helping those in need. They are relying on you, so you cannot crumble. Maintaining hobbies, such as stained glass leading and making candles, outside of work helps me to switch off at the end of a difficult day.
I regularly assess the needs of individuals, by completing a Domestic Abuse Risk Assessment (DARA). Sadly, most people I interview are high risk and the numbers of reported domestic abuse cases are on the increase.”
The Domestic Abuse & Safeguarding Team
“I’m part of a three-person team who specialise in domestic abuse and safeguarding. We’ve recently expanded and welcomed a new team leader, recognising how Grand Union takes this area of work so seriously.
Our team has a lot of knowledge about Grand Union’s unique telecare service, Life24. Life24 is a personalised alarm system, which provides 24/7 emergency support for vulnerable individuals. Several of the domestic abuse survivors we work with use Life24 on a daily basis, ensuring they have emergency support available to them whenever they need it.
We also work in conjunction with our Internal Repairs team, who are on the frontline going into customers’ houses to tend to their property repairs and maintenance needs. They are trained to let us know if they spot anything untoward – from a frosty atmosphere to signs of neglect – so we can investigate. There may be no incidences of domestic abuse in the property, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.”
“Our team has a keen eye on the future which helps us to plan ahead in the services we provide. This involves monitoring levels of drug and alcohol abuse, as often goes hand in hand with domestic abuse.
I’m committed to changing the language involved in my field of work; I’m against describing abusers as ‘alleged perpetrators’, as the word allege infers an element of uncertainty, as to whether or not the abuse has taken place. The last thing I want is for someone to feel as if they aren’t being believed. I also refer to people as survivors, rather than victims, of domestic abuse – helping to empower and bring confidence to those affected by abuse.
I’m very proud to work at Grand Union and feel a great deal of purpose in my role; occasionally I’ll get a card or a message from a customer, saying how much they appreciate my support, and that makes it all worth it.”