When the UK government enforced lockdown, Victim Support NI offices were closed to the public and our staff moved to working from home. Courts in Northern Ireland closed to the public, which meant our Witness Service offices also had to close, and staff are now working on other projects within the organisation. The remainder of our services have adapted to remote working. Our telephone lines remain open and our community service is still reaching out to victims of crime in order to offer support. We have implemented a Live Chat facility on our website in order to answer online queries and book appointments. Our volunteers are now helping to delivering emotional support sessions over the telephone. Our ISVA, ChISVA, Hate Crime Advocacy, Criminal Injury Compensation Advocacy, and our CAATcy project, for children and young people affected by trauma as a result of abuse, have all adapted in order to be able to deliver their essential services via telephone.
As staff are no longer working together in offices, a weekly staff newsletter has been circulated containing contributions from staff. This is intended to keep everyone up to date with what their colleagues are doing around the country. This includes tips on mental health and physical wellbeing, as well as fun items about children’s activities, gardening, baking, cooking, DIY and recommendations of virtual cultural offerings like museum tours, theatre productions, books, TV and movies.
We have encouraged staff to use videoconferencing apps in order to stay connected. Meetings are being held regularly between teams, and virtual coffee breaks via MS Teams are now a regular occurrence.
Our training and development calendar has adapted – we are offering one-to-one performance coaching to staff over MS Teams and have started to roll out our new Community Resilience Model training virtually. There has been a move to e-learning to facilitate updates on our internal policies and systems. We are also using this time to update our learning resources and develop ways we can move our traditional classroom delivery to a digital platform.
Our Communications Team has been circulating all the latest information pertaining to crime during lockdown via our social media channels and making sure the public know how to contact us and that we are still available to them if they need support.
We have also been preparing our response to the current legislative review of Hate Crime in Northern Ireland and responding to the introduction of new domestic violence legislation in the Northern Ireland Assembly. We are lobbying to ensure this legislation will offer the best possible protection to victims of domestic violence in NI.
Victim Support NI will continue to monitor the current situation and respond promptly to the challenges it brings. The safety of our staff, volunteers and clients remains our priority while we offer our support services to all victims of crime in Northern Ireland.