This paper was written by Samsul Huda from Goldsmiths University, and Jody Audley from Catch22.
- The role of caseworkers in victim services
- Benefits of specific point of contact (SPoC) models
- Challenges and limitations
- Quote comparison
In the field of Victim Services, the Specific Point of Contact (SPoC) model entails having a single designated caseworker from the moment you call up until the end of your journey. This appears to be crucial in supporting victims, but it is reported not to be used globally (Hall, 2018).
At Catch22 our Victim Services are divided into three contracts: Hertfordshire Beacon Victim Care; Leicestershire Victim First; and our newly opened Greater Manchester Victims’ Services. These three contracts function in different areas of England to help victims cope and recover from the impact of crime using a person-centred and restorative approach. The support offered from all three of these services is free, confidential, and available to any victim whether the crime has been reported or not. In 2021-2022, 32,520 victims engaged with our services. Of these, 99% were satisfied with our services and 99% reported improved or sustained health and wellbeing after our support.
This literature review therefore sets out to explore the effectiveness of SPoC models. Firstly we will define the role of a caseworker in Catch22’s Victim Services. We will then evaluate SPoC models by homing in on their benefits: trust, flexibility, personalised care, and attention. A wealth of research has been conducted into re-traumatisation among victims, so this literature review will explore the relationship between SPoC models in Victim Services and re-traumatisation with consideration of how this links into Catch22’s trauma-informed approach. We then address potential challenges and limitations of implementing and utilising SPoC models. In conclusion, we compare quotes from service users that worked with Catch22 and other Victim Services organisations to provide tangible evidence behind SPoC models, centralising the voices of those with first-hand experiences.
The role of caseworkers in victim services
Caseworkers in Catch22’s Victim Services hold an essential position in aiding victims of crime and helping them navigate the challenges they face in coping and recovering from the impact of the crime. They adopt a victim-centred approach, emphasising empowerment, resilience building and individualised support. Catch22 developed their Victim Services approach from Catch22’s wider portfolio of delivering different services across the criminal justice system, to provide staff with understanding and perspective of the multi-faceted and complex nature of crime and the subsequent impact. Catch22’s general approach to justice is that relationships are key in deterring from crime. Therefore, excellent case management and relationship-building between our practitioners and service users ensure long-term, positive outcomes.
Responsibilities of caseworkers:
- Victim-Centred Support: The wellbeing and needs of the victims are prioritised by our caseworkers. They ensure that the victims’ voices and preferences are at the heart of the support process.
- Needs Assessment: Caseworkers conduct a conversational, victim-led needs assessment. This involves engaging in open, empathetic dialogues with victims to understand their unique circumstances, obstacles, and requirements.
- Risk Assessment: Assessing the extent of the risk in the victim’s circumstances is a crucial duty. Caseworkers identify potential risks to the victim’s safety and overall welfare, this then helps them take the appropriate measures to mitigate these risks.
- Individualised Support Plans: Based on the needs and risk assessments, caseworkers work with the victims to create individualised support plans. These strategies outline the precise support and services that will be provided to help service users manage, recover, and regain control over their lives.
- Single Point of Contact: Caseworkers act as a consistent and reliable point of contact for service users. This simplifies the victim’s journey through the support system, ensuring progression and allowing the service user to only tell their story once.
- Solution-Focused Support: Caseworkers provide solution-focused and strengths-based support. They assist service users in identifying their strengths and capabilities, empowering them to overcome challenges and progress towards their goals and objectives.
- Tailoring Services: Caseworkers use Catch22’s innovative model for Victim Services as a foundation but adapt it to the specific needs of local communities. They draw on Catch22’s extensive experience in delivering various public services to ensure that support is well-rounded and efficient.
- Involvement of Victims: Victims actively participate alongside caseworkers in shaping and continually improving services. Caseworkers value feedback and insight provided by the service users, which help assure that the services remain responsive and are continually evolving to better meet their needs.
To summarise, the caseworkers at Catch22’s Victim Services have a crucial role. They provide victim-centred, personalised support which helps empower service users, keep them safe, and adds to their overall wellbeing and recovery. Having highlighted the key role of Victim Service caseworkers and delineating how this SPoC model is implemented, it is important to reflect on the benefits of this.
Benefits of single point of contact (SPoC) models
What is re-traumatisation?
Re-traumatisation refers to the process of reliving the emotional distress and symptoms that are linked to a traumatic event. This could be due to different triggers whilst recounting the traumatic event (Duckworth & Follette, 2012).
What are the effects of re-traumatisation?
The effects of re-explaining trauma-related events can be daunting and emotionally draining. It can intensify feelings that victims already may be facing, such as depression and anxiety. Having a SPoC can reduce these feelings by allowing the service user to explain their story once to the nominated caseworker that will work with them throughout their healing journey with Catch22. Moreover, victims often retell their story several times to different points of contact, such as the police, before working with Catch22. Repeated recounts lead to repeated re-traumatisation, so one caseworker in Catch22 prevents the need to revisit the traumatic event. Research has shown that “re-traumatisation can happen when a person does not have a consistent caseworker during their victim support service, as the lack of continuity and trust can bring back feelings of distress from their original trauma” (Centre for Substance Abuse Treatment, 2014). This research highlights the importance of SPoC models in preventing re-traumatisation.
Influences on the efficacy of SPoC methods of victim services and re-traumatisation
Regardless of the Victim Service delivery, its efficacy needs to be scrutinised regularly to ensure one’s service is of the highest quality. When a victim repeatedly recalls their traumatic experience to different individuals, they might start to feel frustrated and unheard, as the need for multiple retellings can create a sense that their story is not being taken seriously or acknowledged effectively. A single point of contact ensures continuity and reduces the likelihood of the service user feeling disregarded due to the need for multiple retellings of their story (Rose et al., 1996). Additionally, the psychological distress from recalling an event, and frequent retelling of an event, can lead to inaccurate reporting due to coping mechanisms and memory limitations respectively (Odinot et al., 2013). The wealth of research exploring the effect of frequent repetition on accuracy has been conducted into eyewitness testimonies. Gustafsson, Lindholm, & Jönsson (2022) had participants watch a staged crime and report an eyewitness testimony of this two weeks later. Results showed that time negatively correlated with testimony accuracy. They also found that the more someone repeated information, the more confident they were about incorrect information. This stipulates the importance of telling your story once not just to prevent re-traumatisation, but also to prevent the narrative changing in a way that is unproductive for the service user.
Trust, flexibility, personalised care, and attention
SPoC models in Victim Services hold various significant benefits in delivering considerate and thorough support to service users in a difficult situation. One is to provide continuity in care and support. By being assigned a SPoC that is consistently with them during the service, the ongoing relationship between the caseworker and service user nurtures a feeling of security as well as building trust and providing comfort which is effective in allowing the victim to open up and share their personal story.
Another noteworthy advantage of SPoC models is the personalised attention. This personalised approach is vital for the journey of healing for the victim because addressing their unique/specific needs and preferences would result in a better outcome for the victim. This is supported by the quote, “not a one-size-fits-all approach” (Hall, 2018) which suggests that there are different needs for each victim and consequently, the support they receive needs to be adjusted as such. This is where the effectiveness of SPoC models is shown: they ensure that support is individual and specific to the person in need, to optimise the effectiveness of support provided.
Research has shown that victims of crime tend to feel as if they have lost control over their lives after waves of flashbacks and ruminating thoughts (Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (US), 2014). With a specific caseworker working alongside the victim it can allow them to regain a sense of control during this challenging time that they are going through by having more flexibility with the caseworker. This could be through the caseworker adapting to that specific service user. For example, Catch22’s Victim Services recognise multiple protected characteristics and adapt their intervention delivery to accommodate these. This reiterates building rapport, developing trust, and enabling communication.
Further to building a relationship between the service user and caseworker, nurturing these relationships leads to improved ownership, autonomy, and power balances. This would promote the service user to own their stories and consequently feel more in control of their situation.
Communication is another pivotal element in Victim Services, and SPoC models actively improve communication between the caseworker and service user. This enhanced communication yields profound effects, as it establishes trust between the service user and their designated caseworker by building on the consistent communication and empowerment, through having a person they can comfortably turn to and feel heard by. Enhanced communication from SPoC models ensure that the victim’s needs, concerns, and progress are consistently understood and addressed. Having one point of contact not only reduces the different layers of people the service user must go through to get to the right person, but also prevents potential anxiety and frustration that the victim may be going through by speaking to several professionals.
Additionally, enhanced communication developed from building a rapport and trust creates a safety net where the victim can comfortably share their feelings and thoughts. This leads onto the benefit of confidentiality. Confidentiality is a crucial benefit to SPoCs as fewer individuals are involved in the support process (Shepherd & Lisles, 1998). The link between confidentiality and SPoC models is quite significant as it places a great emphasis on maintaining confidentiality. This is because it creates an environment where the victim can openly discuss their thoughts to one person without the fear of their information being passed around to a multitude of different organisations and personal connections. As a result, this links with the effectiveness of communication because trust and confidentiality are pivotal elements in creating an open and honest passage of communication between service users and their caseworker.
Moreover, from the perspective of a caseworker, having specific service users that you are assigned to enhances the effectiveness of the service. The caseworker needs to create an environment specific to the victim’s needs where they can openly discuss their situation, as well as feeling comfortable in doing so with their dedicated caseworker. This may manifest in the needs and risk assessment conducted with the service user at the beginning of their contact with Catch22 in which the service user and caseworker communicate to identify the most productive environment and structure of support that will produce the best outcomes for the service user. This includes avoiding triggering places to conduct sessions, using a person-centred approach so the service user is at the forefront of identifying the outcomes they want to address, and conducting these sessions with focus on restoration and forward thinking.
In addition, it also enhances the flow of communication between the caseworker and the victim, by ensuring their voice is heard. It also reduces the chances of misunderstandings that could occur when more people are involved. The communications become more streamlined by reducing the number of people to communicate through, creating an efficient channel for information to flow through to gain effective support. This consequently provides a more organised approach which naturally improves the quality of services by allowing more thought and care to go to the service users they are working with, in turn nurturing that relationship to achieve the best possible outcomes for the victim.
Wedlock and Tapley’s (2016) article ‘What Works in Supporting Victims of Crime: A Rapid Evidence Assessment’ gives us a better understanding on the importance of communication and goes hand in hand with the idea of having a specific point of contact throughout their time with Catch22’s Victim Services. This article repeatedly highlights the importance of informing the service user consistently on their case progression and ensuring they are involved in any updates or challenges of their case. This aligns with the idea of having the same caseworker from the moment they call up until the end of their journey, as service users also want information to be provided by a “consistent, professional source.” This stresses the importance of having one point of contact which is more reliable and can communicate with the victim throughout their case (ibid.). When providing the updates or challenges of the case this is best from someone with a good rapport with the service user. The SPoC will know the best communication style for that service user, how best to approach them, and can anticipate their response. This feeds into the trauma-informed care adopted by Catch22 as you are handling and conveying this information in a way that is least likely to distress them.
Impact on victim recovery and wellbeing
Getting the right emotional support and finding the right coping mechanism for each individual is crucial and SPoC models help provide that requirement. This is because Catch22’s Victim Services generally have a great impact on the wellbeing and healing process of individuals- as evidenced by 99% of service users reporting their wellbeing has improved after working with Catch22. The advantages that derive from specific point of contacts in Victim Services are that victims often deal with difficult emotions and SPoC methods can help ensure that they have someone they have built trust with to provide a safe space to express their feelings. This approach allows the caseworker to provide consistency throughout the service user’s journey by being that one point of contact. In addition, it can have a positive effect on the service user’s well-being because it allows the caseworker to meet their needs by understanding their situation over time and getting to know the service user on a personal level.
The SPoC model in Victim Services proves to be vital in situations where there are intimidated and vulnerable victims. By offering simplified access to a caseworker who is familiar with their situation supports the development of trust at the victim’s own pace during their sessions. This approach aligns with Wedlock and Tapley’s (2016) article, which explains the importance of identifying and supporting those who are in a vulnerable situation, so they get a service which is more effective and allows them to receive focused and controlled support. This paper reviewed 28 different studies into the most effective victim support and identified five key necessities in service design and delivery: information, communication, perceived fairness, multi-agency support, and professionalisation. Catch22 captures these by using a person-centred approach so the service user is always informed on case progress and at the forefront of the service they receive. They can be signposted to other services that may be beneficial and a service user plan that is solution-focused and strengths-based is formulated to utilise research and support the service user in looking forward and obtaining skills to cope after their journey with Catch22 has ended.
To elaborate on the simplified access point, service users get a more straightforward route to their caseworker which has the benefits of reduced confusion and frustration. In doing so, it acknowledges and addresses individualised victim impacts and needs, contributing to an in-depth and more empathic Victim Service framework. In essence, the SPoC model in Victim Services is a testament to the commitment to provide a multifaceted, supportive, and individualised approach to victim recovery, ultimately promoting healing and well-being (Hall, 2018).
Challenges and limitations
Though the points of the effectiveness of SPoC models remain robust, it is still important to consider the counterpoints. A disadvantage of SPoC methods in Victim Services is the restricted outlook. Relying only on one person for support may limit the service user to fewer viewpoints and approaches. This could result in the service user feeling disconnected from broader support networks, which can be crucial for their overall well-being (Generes, 2023). Examples include group support sessions, community events, insight from different skilled caseworkers and lived experience peer support. To address this, Catch22’s Victim Services built a team with a wide range of expertise across subject matters that can be utilised to inform other members of the team. This enables SPoCs to build relationships whilst ensuring they can utilise the knowledge of a wider team so that best practice is being implemented and the service user is not limited to one person’s expertise.
Moreover, a SPoC model may inadvertently create a sense of dependence on the specific caseworker to whom they are assigned. Though this caseworker can provide varied beneficial support, it can create an unhealthy relationship between the victim and the caseworker that they are so used to and rely on for support. It can occur when the victim service journey comes to an end or the caseworker leaves. Over-dependence can also lead to the service user having to be re-allocated to a new caseworker and begin again with building a rapport, which could arguably be more detrimental to one’s recovery than working with several caseworkers and those subsequent tribulations.
Ultimately, though SPoC methods offer many benefits, it is important to find a balance between individual support and a comprehensive support network for an effective Victim Service. This balance can be achieved through methods such as assessments carried out to help determine the amount of individual support a victim would need. Additionally, providing the caseworkers with the adequate training needed to help identify when to utilise broader resources or support networks. For example, when they feel that a victim would benefit from group support to meet people with similar lived experiences and consequently reduce feeling alienated. Catch22 strives to achieve a balance between SPoC models and comprehensive support, recognising that “not one size fits all” and therefore working to utilise a combination of different methods to achieve the most effective outcome.
It is apparent from these two quotes that SPoC models utilised in Catch22’s Victim Services enable service users to access more comprehensive support. Having a dedicated case manager means the caseworker can also develop more attachment and sentiment to the service user’s situation, motivating them to provide an effective service. It is also evidenced that Catch22’s Victim Services caseworkers are adequately trained and are well-equipped in signposting and advocacy that they can still provide someone with all the support they need despite being the only point of contact for the service user:
Catch22 service users
“I feel so much better now I’ve been able to talk. My case manager helped me so much – she listened and cared.”
– Javier, Catch22 service user
“Victim First offered me all the support that I needed, which I didn’t even know was out there.”
– Jilly, Catch22 service user
Users of other victim services
“I was disappointed by the very limited scope of the service. The only thing they can really provide is emotional support. They cannot discuss the specifics of your case or the workings of the legal system. In fact, I was concerned that my Live Chat support person did not seem to know what I meant by ‘private prosecution’”
– Service user of a different Victim Service
Our focus was to establish the efficacy of the SPoC model, and the evidence presented emphasises its positive influence on victim recovery, well-being, and the prevention of re-traumatisation. This review has also emphasised the SPoC model’s ability to foster improved trust, communication, and tailored care, all of which contribute significantly to victims’ overall welfare. However, it is as important to acknowledge that challenges and limitations exist. To maximise the potential of the SPoC model, ongoing refinements are essential. We believe that with thoughtful and continuous development, the SPoC model can further solidify its effectiveness, ultimately offering a crucial approach to Victim Services. This review thus addresses the ‘often overlooked’ approach to Victim Services and provides valuable information on SPoC models which helps offer insight into giving service users a different approach. This is imbedded through Catch22’s adoption of working with one caseworker for your entire time with Catch22’s Victim Services and training our staff to provide comprehensive support. Our service design implements this by prioritising working with service users to build trust, communicate effectively, put them at the forefront of their action plan and utilise the varied knowledge of their team.Continue reading