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General Principles

Changing and adapting services

All service providers are responsible for taking reasonable measures to minimise the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in workplaces and premises under the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 2) (Wales) Regulations 2020. Read guidance on reasonable measures to minimise the risk of exposure to COVID-19 at workplaces and open premises.

Social and physical distancing should be adhered to at all times.

If services or programmes are accredited, they should seek advice from their accrediting body at the earliest possible opportunity.

Services should carefully consider and record the risks associated with each approach before making the decision to pause, adapt or resume a service or treatment.

The decision to pause, adapt or resume a service should be communicated to service users, multi-agency groups, commissioners and funders at the earliest possible opportunity.

If a service is being stopped, service users should also be given information on how they can seek alternative support and whether they will be able to continue to use the service in the future. Stopping or adapting a service or treatment may be distressing and difficult for service users and services should seek to reflect an understanding of this in their approach, while not compromising the need to assess risk and take appropriate actions.

Service providers should be mindful of their equality impact assessments and ensure accessibility is inclusive when reviewing services.

Safeguarding and multi-agency working

Safeguarding should guide every decision made by an organisation in how it continues to operate. You must ensure that you are familiar with your duties under the Wales Safeguarding Procedures. Read more information on safeguarding.

Safeguarding referrals should still be made where necessary, for example, to Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (MARACs) or to children and adult services.

Most Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs) will still be operational at this time. Services who may refer service users to a SARC should ensure they are aware of any changes to provision.

Services should take account of the impact of trauma associated with adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) related to VAWDASV in supporting children and young people who have been victims of domestic abuse. Read more information on ACE Aware Wales.

Service users may be concerned about contact and visiting arrangements between parents being impacted by restrictions and easements. Read CAFCASS Cymru guidance relating to Coronavirus.

Risk assessment and management

Services should make use of valid and reliable risk assessment tools. All changes to services should be risk assessed and risk assessments will need to be updated frequently in light of the changing situation.

COVID-19 and the associated changes to daily life in the UK may increase the risk and severity of VAWDASV taking place in a number of ways. Victims and those who perpetrate may have more difficulty accessing their usual support networks and services where they may have made disclosures. A lack of privacy away from partners and family members may also prevent disclosures to specialist helplines or web chats.

Specialist services anticipate that forced marriage cases may increase as lockdown eases and many areas of society re-open and as travel restrictions and quarantine requirements are lifted. Teenaged children and young people may have been living with multiple perpetrators in the form of family members and without the privacy and space to be able to access advice. Read further advice and guidance on forced marriage.

Children from female genital mutilation (FGM) practicing communities have had much less opportunity to reach out and they are often living with multiple perpetrators. If children do reach a phone or computer, it is vital they reach specialist support quickly, especially as the risk may have increased due to a time delay in waiting for a response. Read further advice and guidance on female genital mutilation.

Those who are victims of sexual violence in the home may also have had less opportunity to make disclosures and access support and should be referred to specialist support as quickly as possible.

It is recognised that those who perpetrate domestic abuse may utilise the COVID-19 measures to further their coercive and controlling behaviour. COVID-19 may also increase stress for a number of other reasons, including concerns around health, loss of employment, financial difficulty and the stress associated with large changes to daily lifestyles. This may also increase the risk of VAWDASV perpetration, both from those who have perpetrated previously and those who have not.

Record keeping, confidentiality and GDPR

Good practice principles should still be adhered to when services adapt, including good record keeping.

Services must continue to adhere to GDPR and make every effort where safe to do so to protect confidentiality, and should consider this carefully while adapting to new ways of working. Services should refer to their organisations’ sharing information without consent procedures.

GDPR policies may need to be reviewed to reflect changes to working practices and how services will manage GDPR with new way of working, for example whilst working from home, outdoors or whilst groups or programmes are operating online.

Test, trace and protect

Read information on test, trace and protect.

All contact tracers in Wales complete VAWDASV e-Learning as a part of their training.

If someone is contacted to say they have come into contact with another person who has tested positive for COVID-19, they are not given any information about the other person, such as their name or where they came into contact with each other.

Preparing for a potential increase in demand

International evidence suggests that there will be in increase in demand on VAWDASV services as self-isolation and social distancing requirements are eased. This may be the result of victims and survivors once again coming into contact with friends, family and professionals who they may confide in, or who may recognise the signs of VAWDASV.

There may also be escalations or increases in abuse as restrictions change. Those who perpetrate may experience increased stress as a result of changes to their work and lifestyle or may believe that their control over victims is diminishing. 

It is difficult to tell exactly when such an increase may occur or how large it might be, however, services should consider and plan for potential changes to restrictions which may trigger an increase in demand as soon as possible.

The increase may happen at different times for different services. While domestic abuse support services may expect this could happen as soon as easement on restrictions are made, sexual violence services suggest this increase in demand may occur several months later and that there may be a sustained increase in demand over a long period of time

Children return to school

  • As more children return to school, domestic abuse may be disclosed to or identified by those who work in schools.
  • ‘Honour’ based abuse, including female genital mutilation or preparations for forced marriages, may also be disclosed or identified.
  • Children returning to school may also provide an opportunity for victim-survivors of domestic abuse who are parents or guardians to come into contact with other adults, including teachers and other parents and guardians.

More NHS services resume

  • As more NHS services return, victim-survivors and those who perpetrate all forms of VAWDASV may disclose to or be identified by healthcare professionals.
  • An increase in in-person appointments may also contribute to this, as individuals may feel more able to disclose when they have privacy to do so.

More people return to work

  • An increase in people returning to work may allow victims to make disclosures at their workplace, or reach out to a specialist service while their partner believes them to be at work.
  • As those who perpetrate domestic abuse return to work, they may make disclosures or their partners may take the opportunity to contact specialist services.

Planning for the long term future

Funding

If it is considered necessary to spend funding in alternative ways, services should speak to funders at the earliest opportunity in order to seek formal agreement.

Services should speak to their usual funders, including charitable trusts, to establish whether funding they may usually depend on will still be available. Many organisations have redirected funding to COVID-19 efforts.

Flexibility

Services should aim, wherever possible, to build flexibility into their approaches and should prepare for the possibility of restrictions returning, either on a national or local level.

Staff and workplace

Location of work

During periods of firebreaks, face-to-face work with those in the community should only be considered when essential to risk and/or safety management and where remote working is not appropriate. When deemed necessary, the following guidance should be followed.

Services should consider whether staff should be working from home, in the workplace or in other locations taking into account relevant guidance for employers and employees. Different activities will require different responses. For example, general administrative work could be completed remotely, while home safety planning may require staff to visit service users’ homes. Some activities, such as counselling may be possible both remotely and face-to-face, and services should assess the benefits and risks of each approach. If possible, a flexible approach for both staff members and service users should be pursued. Read the Public Health Wales Advisory Note in relation to face-to-face, housing and social care settings.

As services continue to adapt and resume their operations, it is essential that they take all reasonable measures to maintain physical distancing on their premises, both between staff members and between staff members and clients. In addition workplaces and premises are required to take all reasonable measures to minimise the risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Services should keep in mind that failing to maintain 2 metres distance in the workplace could risk harm to staff and service users, both as a result of the virus itself and potential staff shortages, should multiple workers become ill at the same time. However, there may be circumstances where it is not reasonable to implement measures to ensure 2 metres distance is kept and other measures will be necessary to reduce the risk of exposure.

Services may wish to consider implementing some of the following options to enable physical distancing and safe working in the workplace:

  • Offering clear guidance to service users and creating and disseminating a handbook, training, access to All Wales workplace risk assessment tool for COVID-19, and/or information for staff
  • A rota for which staff members can attend on which days may limit the number of staff members in the workplace at any one time and/or work teams of staff who may be in the office at the same time
  • Clear markings on workspaces and throughout offices for physical distancing and room capacity
  • Meetings by appointment only and no drop-in service
  • Only holding emergency appointments for access to services such as the police and refuges, in person

Service providers are also under a duty to take other reasonable measures to minimise risk of exposure. This will apply whether or not it is reasonable to maintain 2 metres distance between people. This could or will include measures such as:

  • avoiding using hot desks and wiping down desks and spaces after use
  • ensuring provision of sufficient hand washing facilities
  • ensuring provision of sufficient hand sanitiser facilities
  • wiping down frequently touched surfaces such as door handles and light switches regularly and using furniture that can be wiped down – easily between meetings, such as plastic chairs/ tables
  • only providing drinks in disposable cups
  • offering service users new pens/ paper to keep or asking them to bring their own from home
  • carrying out cleaning in line with guidance.

Services may also need to consider necessary levels of PPE for different activities based on a risk assessment of the level and expected duration of the contact. Working from the office while maintaining social distancing may require no PPE or minimal levels (masks or visors) when interacting with other staff and clients; whereas staff working from service user’s homes or other venues may consider the need to wear additional PPE. Services should review their infection control risk register regularly as local risk levels may fluctuate. Read information on face coverings.

Service providers are also under a duty to provide information to people entering or working in their premises on how to minimise risk of exposure to COVID-19. Information is included in the guidance for taking all reasonable measures to reduce the risk of exposure to coronavirus in workplaces and premises open to the public.

Staff wellbeing

Services should be aware that staff may suffer secondary trauma as a result of their work and should work to reduce this risk.

The British Psychological Society considers working from home increases the risk of staff suffering from secondary trauma, as there may be less distinction between home and work life, and support from co-workers may be less available. Read guidance from the British Psychological Society on reducing the likelihood of secondary trauma where working from home.

Services have also reported victims and survivors with increasingly complex needs and higher levels of risk accessing help. As well as ensuring they have the appropriate resources to help these victims and survivors in place, services should ensure they increase the supervision offered to their own staff members accordingly.

Support for staff should continue to be available through phone or video call, including clinical supervision, debriefs, professional support, counselling and team meetings.

Services should be aware that staff may themselves be victims of VAWDASV, including during the COVID-19 pandemic, and should have policies and procedures which reflect this. Welsh Women’s Aid have published guidance.

Resuming face to face work

Face to face work should be avoided where physical distancing cannot be met. Where this is not possible, considerations should be given to additional mitigations which may be put in place, such as face visors and having meetings in well ventilated rooms.  Services should make risk assessments prior to restarting face to face work.  Find guidance on COVID-19 social distancing. Read guidance on taking all reasonable measures to minimise risk of COVID-19 in workplaces and open premises.

Some services may be looking at resuming face to face work outdoors. This may be a solution you wish to consider, however when considering any new location, you should also take into account the additional risks, in particular in terms of confidentiality that this may present. This may also be disruptive to clients if a level of continuity cannot be offered.

You should prepare to resume face to face work with appropriate physical distancing and protective measures in place. In practice you may want to consider:

  • how large your meeting rooms are and whether you can adhere to physical distancing guidelines
  • whether exits and entrances can be managed to allow physical distancing
  • waiting room and reception arrangements
  • how meeting spaces will be cleaned before and after use
  • if you have members of staff or service users who are at increased risk from COVID-19 or shielding, who may not be able to resume face to face work, and how will you accommodate them. Find guidance about who is at increased risk from COVID-19 and guidance on protecting people who are shielding for defined medical reasons
  • whether some members of staff and service users who are not at increased risk or shielding still feel uncomfortable working face to face with others.

Services can make use of the All Wales workforce risk assessment tool to assess the risk level of their employees.

Services should remain in contact with services users and ensure they are aware of safety measures and precautions before face to face work is resumed.

Services should consider the complexity of the needs of their service users and the risk associated with needs and lifestyle. Services working in the community with service users who may find it difficult to follow safety precautions, both while accessing the service and in their daily lives, and as a result may be at an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19, should consider the need for additional safety measures and use of PPE.

Guidance on working with women exploited through the sex industry has been produced by Welsh Women’s Aid.

Working with service users remotely

Where possible, options for continuing to work with service users where direct contact is not possible, such as through video call or phone calls, should be explored.

Services should also ensure that their offer is accessible to all and that barriers are reduced.

Many services have been operating programmes and interventions via online platforms, services need to take into consideration the safety and security of the platform they use, ensure adequate risk assessments are completed and have procedures in place that mitigate risk that may occur with online groups, including; safeguarding, GDPR and data collection.

Additional considerations should be made for maintaining confidentiality and GDPR in the context of online group work, where there is a risk that participants may be overheard by household members of other group members.

Where possible, service users should be helped to find a space in their homes where they will have privacy to engage and will not be distracted. If this is not possible staff should consider alternative solutions and the location of the service user and others present in the house should be documented.

Where some or all services are continuing to take place remotely, organisations may find the British Psychological Society’s “Effective Therapy via Video: Top Tips” useful.

Home visits

Work carried out in people’s homes can continue and, as such, home visits for safety planning and assessing can continue to take place where remote working is not possible when appropriate precautions are taken to protect staff and clients from possible exposure to COVID-19.

Services should ensure before conducting a home visit that nobody in the household or extended household is displaying symptoms of COVID-19, is self-isolating or is a contact of someone who is self-isolating and that the staff member(s) conducting the visit and their household members do not have symptoms of COVID-19, should be self-isolating, or are a contact of someone who is self-isolating. Read guidance on self-isolating.

Services should make every effort to maintain physical distancing at all times, including when entering a person’s home, avoid touching surfaces as far as possible, wear appropriate protective items, dispose of them carefully and wash hands on departure.

If anyone in the household is considered to be at increased risk to their health from COVID-19 or is shielding, additional consideration should be given to whether a home visit is suitable. Read more about increased risks and shielding during COVID-19.

Additional considerations for support with children and young people

This section provides additional considerations to services which work with children and young people. These services should also services refer to the guidance above for information on adapting to COVID-19.

Children and young people

Services should ensure that the rights of the child are taken into account when making plans to resume face-to-face provision. The Right Way: A Children’s Rights Approach in Wales is a framework for working with children, grounded in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to help public bodies integrate children’s rights into every aspect of decision-making, policy and practice.

The principles of a Children’s Rights Approach:

  • Embedding children’s rights – putting children’s rights at the core of planning and service delivery.
  • Equality and non-discrimination – ensuring that every child has an equal opportunity to be the best they can be.
  • Empowering children – enhancing children’s capabilities as individuals so they’re better able to take advantage of rights, and engage with and hold accountable the institutions and individuals that affect their lives.
  • Participation – listening to children and taking their views meaningfully into account.
  • Accountability – authorities should be accountable to children for decisions and actions that affect their lives.

While services have done everything they can under difficult circumstances, sadly some children will have come to harm without us knowing. Providing time and space to listen directly to children supports a child-centred system and promotes good safeguarding practice.

Additional considerations for specialist accommodation providers

Services should also consider their response to staff working in emergency accommodation services and the flexibility needed to effectively manage the accommodation. As levels of support increase in accommodation services and/or services resume full capacity, it is expected a greater level of staffing may be required. It is also expected that the level of complexity of cases will increase as a result of restrictions throughout COVID-19 and services should consider this within their staffing ratio.

Read further guidance for providers of accommodation for survivors of violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence.

Additional considerations for perpetrator services

This section is for additional considerations specific to services which work with those who perpetrate VAWDASV. Perpetrator services should also refer to the guidance above for information on adapting to COVID-19.

The Welsh Government’s Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Perpetrator Service Standards, provide guidance on the range of factors services for those who perpetrate VAWDASV should consider when adapting their delivery, helping them to remain evidence-based, safe and effective.

Respect have published guidance for their accredited services and for practitioners.

HM Prison and Probation Service have issued their own guidance to staff in relation to the management of domestic abuse offenders in the context of COVID-19.

In times of depleted resources, risk-need-responsivity principles should still be applied, and the individuals who pose the highest level of risk should be the focus of services and resources. Risk assessments and the appropriate follow-up referrals and actions should be completed for all service users, even if the decision is taken to only continue direct work with those at the highest risk.

Where it is established a service user is unable to access a programme or intervention without direct contact, for reasons such as a lack of internet, computer, smartphone or privacy, this should be communicated to relevant agencies.

Services should be aware that the lack of direct contact may impact on the quality of engagement and effectiveness of behaviour management and/or change efforts.

If it is not possible to continue a service, programme or intervention without direct contact, or if the risk of doing so would be too high, it may be necessary to stop or pause. Non-completion of an intervention or programme can be associated with a risk increase. If a group or one-to-one intervention is stopped then steps should be taken to ensure the risk level of participating service users is monitored and communicated to relevant agencies.

Services should be mindful of the impact that stopping programmes and interventions may have on other related services, such as the police or National Probation Service, and should seek to communicate the decision to stop a programme or intervention with these partners as soon as possible.

Services should have a clear process for dealing with new referrals during this time. If a programme or intervention is stopped, the likely impact on motivation and risk of putting new referrals on ‘hold’ should be considered.

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