One Week On: Victim Support Is Open For Business
As New Zealand reaches the end of its first week of lockdown, Victim Support is reassuring victims and the general public that access to its full range of support services continues to be available during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Victim Support says knowing where to go for help is crucial for their wellbeing and recovery, and that's never been more true than during the added pressure of the COVID-19 lockdown.
The organisation supported almost 40,000 people affected by serious crime, trauma, and suicide last year alone. It operates 24 hours a day to provide psycho-social support, information, advice and practical assistance for victims.
Victim Support is conscious that lockdown rules and social distancing may compound stress levels for victims.
"Victims of crime who are isolated from friends and family are more susceptible to depression and anxiety because they don't have their normal support network around them," says Wilson Irons, a frontline Area Manager for Victim Support.
"Although we can't replicate that natural support, contact with their support worker can begin to restore some of their confidence and coping strategies."
Access to good information from a knowledgeable support worker also removes some of the uncertainties that compound stress.
Wilson Irons says Victim Support staff have more than risen to the challenging circumstances.
"I've been impressed by the support workers who have put their hands up to volunteer for additional work during this difficult time," he says.
Committed to providing a seamless service, the organisation has adjusted its approach to meet the current challenges. For the period that the country remains at alert level-four, support workers who would generally attend in person will do so remotely, contacting victims by phone and working from home.
Under normal circumstances, Victim Support undertakes around a third of its service via the phone. So for a workforce equipped, trained and experienced at providing support remotely, this transition has been a very smooth process.
Making sure those who need help always have somewhere to turn, the Victim Support Contact Service continues to operate at full capacity.
Open around the clock, the Victim Support Contact Service is the default point of referral for victim assistance for Police. The role of the Contact Service is to liaise with support workers and other agencies to ensure victims are connected with the right people to get the support they need.
"This is the first time the Contact Service have had to work from home in a real emergency situation, and the team have responded professionally,” says Contact Service Manager, Sam Isa'ako.
“Our systems have supported the transition to remote working very well, and a caller would not experience anything different to our normal environment."
Bereavement support is also core business for Victim Support. In addition to the services provided to more than 3000 people affected by suicide each year, Victim Support assists some 2000 people affected by homicide and another 6500-7000 people bereaved by sudden or traumatic deaths annually.
The organisation's nationwide network includes more than 550 Support Workers, supported by the Contact Service and a national network of Service Coordinators and homicide and suicide specialists who provide oversight and case management.
With the majority of New Zealanders confined mainly to their homes, there has been a reduction in the number of calls related to some types of trauma such as traffic incidents. However, other incidents, such as family violence remain steady.
Wilson Irons encourages those who need support to get in touch on 0800 842 846.
"We do recommend that victims of crime and trauma reach out to Victim Support so that we can assist them during a stressful situation which has been made worse by being a victim of crime."