Posted: Wednesday 1st February 2017
Back in September I spent the day with the AVoice team. AVoice are one of suite of victim’s services which we commission in the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC). The service is a partnership between The Care Forum, SEAP and SARI which provides advocacy support to vulnerable adults affected by crime and anti-social behaviour (ASB) across Avon and Somerset. Part of my role is to oversee the service; meeting with the service manager on a quarterly basis and reviewing performance reports. Having the chance to actually spend the day with the team was something I was really looking forward to so I could see for myself the ways of working which sit behind the reports.
I started my day with the two senior practitioners, Jo and Sand. Their role is to manage the advocates, providing support and supervision. One of the challenges of delivering this type of service across a partnership is how to make people feel part of a team when they’re not physically located together. This is something Jo and Sand clearly spend a lot of time and effort doing and they described some really positive ways of working which had developed over the first year and a half of the service. They also explained the new volunteer roles which they’ve just established. The use of volunteers as part of AVoice is really exciting and I’m keen to see how the roles develop over the coming months.
The rest of my day was spent with two of the advocates, joining them on home visits with victims. First of all I joined Sarah who was due to visit a victim for the first time. As we drove through Bristol, Sarah explained that during this first visit, she would be listening to the victim and trying to understand what support they would like. As an advocacy service, AVoice are always guided by the individual, supporting them to say what they want, secure their rights, represent their interests and obtain services they need. In the past I’ve managed case workers, so seeing an advocacy service in action was a real eye opener for me and really helped crystallise the difference between the two approaches. It was fantastic to see Sarah work with the victim on this initial visit. She was clear about how she could work with them, managed expectations and agreed next steps which the individual had determined would be of most value to them.
My second visit of the day was with Dom. This was an ASB case he had been working on for a long time and it was immediately apparent just how valuable his support had been to the people we were visiting. The case was complex, involving lots of other agencies with a huge range of actions having taken place to date. It’s hard to imagine what it must be like living day to day with this type of ASB, and it was clear from our meeting that it had really taken a toll. What was also clear however was that having someone like Dom who is there to offer support and help you navigate the system was a huge help. It doesn’t take away from your experience as a victim of crime or ASB, but it can make living with the experience and going on to cope and recover from it that little bit easier.
I’m really grateful to the team for letting me spend the day with them. I’m also very thankful to the people who let me come into their homes and sit in on the visits with their advocates. The insights I got from my day with AVoice were really valuable. While I always try to have the individuals involved in mind when I’m reading a report, seeing first-hand how a service operates and hearing from victims themselves about how valuable a service is really brings home the fantastic work that services such as AVoice are doing.
If you would like to find out more about AVoice, are interested in becoming a volunteer or would like to make a referral, please visit the website for more information www.thecareforum.org/pageavoice.html
Senior Commissioning and Policy Officer
Avon & Somerset Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner