Posted by familylaw on 7th December 2017

Susan Ellingham interviews Kris Knight, Mentor of North Devon Against Domestic Abuse (NDADA)

What brought you to NDADA?

About 30 years ago I fled domestic abuse and came to refuge in Devon. I lived in Devon for 7 years before moving to Newcastle to train as a Probation Officer. Once qualified I decided that I would prefer to work with victims of abuse than offenders. To tailor my knowledge to this I completed a degree in Psychology and Sociology in Edinburgh.

From 1998 to 2015 I worked in Sunderland.  I managed 3 Refuges and an Outreach Service. In 2008 I set up the IDVA (Independent Domestic Violence Adviser) service and helped partner agencies to set up MARAC (Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conferences) and the Specialist Domestic Violence Court.  I also worked directly with children who had lived with domestic abuse and I was the organisation’s Safeguarding Lead for children and adults for 14 years.

Additionally, I was responsible for preparing and delivering training programmes for approximately 1,000 staff including police, magistrates, social workers, health professionals, and other agencies around domestic abuse awareness, responding to disclosures, managing the needs and risks for children and families, and around MARAC and Specialist Domestic Violence Court. I was part of a pilot for a year where I attended domestic violence incidents overnight with police to offer immediate support to victims of abuse.

In 2015 my role was changing as my employer wanted me to set up the Health IDVA service. I was having a long-distance relationship with my partner of 29 years who had relocated to Devon due to family illness. I had recovered from breast cancer and I decided to seek opportunities to relocate to Devon. I was fortunate to be offered a position with NDADA as MARAC IDVA working with high risk victims. As they had provided me with refuge 30 years ago it felt like life had come full circle and I was pleased to be able to give back to the organisation.

In 2016, the Local Authority changed their funding provision, so I was transferred to Splitz (Devon Domestic Abuse Support Service) as Senior IDVA. A short while later an exciting post with NDADA became available to develop a Mentor/Case Co-ordinator Service funded by the Big Lottery for 5 years. I was lucky enough to be offered the role in November 2016 and that is what I now do.

What does your role entail?

Maintaining freedom, via

Emotional support, and

Nurturing growth as a

Trusted individual who

Offers or organises help needed to

Recover from coercive control.

In practice this means I work in partnership with survivors to overcome the negative impact of domestic abuse. It’s a holistic support and I generally work with people who are no longer living with the abuse or harassment. It’s a needs-led service rather than one of managing risk.

I undertake an assessment with each person who is referred to me, usually face to face, so we can decide together what support they need and want. I then either signpost people to appropriate resources or stand alongside them while they make contact themselves. If they struggle to leave the home unaccompanied I may pick them up and take them to a service, or I will bring other services in, or assess if we can deliver the service directly ourselves. There is no set amount of sessions or set amount of time that I work with people.

Hopefully I bring my experience to act as an advocate and champion, as a mentor helping them to develop and move forward or as a case coordinator with other agencies and other community resources to assist our clients. Throughout my role there is focus on hearing the voices of the service users.

To develop a Support Plan, I use a variant of the Power and Control Wheel (Duluth model). This explains how perpetrators of abuse use tactics to control and have power over their victims. The mentor service aims to do the opposite, instead helping people take back control of their lives and empowering them to do what they need to for recovery.

We have internal services between ourselves, SAFE and Splitz which aim to address the needs identified such as:

Family intervention workers are attached to the refuge.

Civil Court IDVAs provide support around contact arrangements for children.

If we cannot meet a client’s needs with these internal services I try to promote a coordinated response with other agencies or community provisions such as Drug and Alcohol, Rape Crisis, Housing, Health and Social services. We will research the resources/support available. For example, to aid in improving support networks, we will research relevant Facebook groups, activities, faith groups, friendship groups, courses, employment and voluntary work. If there is no resource available externally then we look to see if we can create it and if we can obtain funding to help provide it. To increase capacity, I work closely with invaluable “Finding your Voice” service volunteers who assist with Research, Groupwork, Charity applications and Befriending.

What sort of things have you organised to help support your clients?

Brighter Horizons is held fortnightly in Barnstaple by invitation only (to make sure the attendees are at the right stage of recovery). The group is about finding new friends, having a cuppa and a chat, supporting each other; it’s about building up confidence but also about trying new things. The group is quite small with about 8 to 10 people at any time otherwise if the group is too big it becomes too intimidating for people to join. Although we work with men one to one, the group is currently a women only safe space. The group is also a standing focus group whom we can consult and hopefully get volunteers from in the future. We are going to start a group in Bideford and in time we will start one in Ilfracombe.

I secured funding for the group from Barum Bridge Trust who gave us £1000. This is being used for refreshments, materials, outings and also gifts such as a potted plant to say recipients are beautiful and strong. It is a flower from a non- abusive person. During the meetings we will do activities such as crafts – we are not teaching crafts just using it as a task to focus on while the attendees are beginning to socialise; or play board games/quizzes. We can bring others into the group and have had people offer gardening opportunities; yoga experiences; music workshops; pamper sessions. We have had outings to Rosemoor and a picnic and beach outing in Ilfracombe, we are planning Christmas activities. One client said, ‘It is like sitting with a bunch of friends and having fun’.  I would echo this, and I truly love my job.


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