Tracey Folds, Vulnerable Victims Case Manager at Beacon Victim Care in Hertfordshire, discusses his role in helping domestic abuse survivors, the importance of technology, and the challenges of his role.
Thanks for joining us today, Tracey. Could you tell us a bit about Beacon?
Beacon Victim Care is a service delivered by Catch22 supporting all victims of crime and their families. From the age of four, any person can be referred by police or other professionals to us – the only criterion is that someone be a victim of crime, and even then, the crime does not have to have been reported to police. Anyone can self-refer too. Just like all Catch22’s victim services, the support can be emotional, practical, or just a source of information for victims. We work very closely with police to update our clients on their case when we can.
We help our clients with all types of crime so there is a lot for us to learn under each specific area. To help with this, each of my colleagues has a speciality in their support area – mine is Domestic Abuse (DA).
What are your day-to-day responsibilities in your role?
Our managers allocate our cases to us daily, dependent on the number of referrals coming through and what our speciality area is. I’ve recently been given some cases from our Fraud Hub too, which often feel really rewarding as we can recuperate some significant funds for our clients. The biggest amount I helped to get back for an elderly woman was £40,000!
Regardless of the type of case we deal with though, we usually contact a client within 24 hours of the referral. My day is made up of case management, contacting clients, arranging home visits, regular training for myself and partner agencies, and conducting visits. Some days I work from home and for others, I base myself in the office.
How do you balance remote support work and working from the office, since COVID-19?
Working from home allows me to achieve more, in terms of fewer distractions. A big part of my role requires phone calls with vulnerable victims, listening to them intensely, and asking questions; a quiet home environment has been great for this.
I save tasks like sending letters out, printing, or liaising with police officers for my office days. I also save risk assessments in preparation for clients’ home visits until I go into the office and can talk to colleagues in person.
In the office, I really enjoy the social interaction with my team members and the police team we work alongside. You can’t beat human interaction to brighten the day. We are also located very close to the police dog unit, so we get regular visits from the puppies in training!
You said you enjoyed working on fraud cases. What other aspects of your role do you enjoy?
I really enjoy the variety of my work as no two days are ever the same. This week I’ve had lots of different cases including domestic abuse, sexual abuse, assault, malicious communications, theft, fraud, harassment and a hate crime.
I chose to specialise in Domestic Abuse though, because this is an area I passionately care about. Many people associate domestic abuse cases with females and, although most cases are female, there are also a lot of male cases. I think, as a man, I can add something different to this role. I continue to learn every day and I’m hoping that next year I’ll be able to complete a course allowing me to be an Independent Domestic Violence Adviser (IDVA).
Domestic abuse cases can be very fulfilling as it’s great to know that you’ve helped someone who has nowhere else to turn.
Why is the relationship between a case manager and a victim of crime so important?
It’s a big step for someone to admit they need help with their situation.
Each victim is assigned their own individual case manager so they can start to build a trusting relationship. Many victims of domestic abuse haven’t had anyone they can trust throughout their often-long-term abusive relationship. They will frequently find reasons not to admit there is even a problem. They will make excuses as to why their abuser has treated them in a certain way. They might say “He’s always looked after the money”, “I can’t be trusted to pay the bills so it’s better this way” or “He does allow me money to go food shopping.”
With many domestic abuse survivors, the abuse is ongoing while they are accessing help so having the same case manager available if they come back to us for further support can be helpful. The last thing we want to happen is to re-traumatise the person by having to start at the beginning every time they seek help.
Quite often, with domestic abuse survivors, they come to us for one crime and once they start to trust us, they disclose other crimes.
How does the increasing use of technology affect your service?
I absolutely love technology and the way it can make all of Catch22’s services more accessible for clients. But like anything, there are good and bad sides to it. Technology has brought new risks to people of all ages – for children and young people, we are increasingly concerned by growing online harms. And for those unfamiliar with technology, particularly older generations, access to some services, jobs, or even their support networks, can become difficult as the digital divide widens.
At Beacon, technology helps us liaise with police and other agencies, keep our clients up-to-date, and helped our team keep in touch during COVID-19! There are some powerful examples of how technology can keep people safe too – for example, Hollie Guard is a useful app for domestic abuse victims and is completely free of charge. The app tracks your position and calls a nominated friend if you don’t arrive at your chosen destination at the time you predicted.
One of the huge benefits of technology is that most of our service users can easily receive all the information they need within minutes, to get the help they want. Whether it is by email or through our website, service users can be sent detailed guidance and accessibility is greatly improved, for example for those hard of hearing. Beacon also has an app in development which will have a huge impact on who can access our help, and how they communicate with us – we’ll be sharing more information on this later this month!