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A national study of support needs and outcomes for women accessing refuge provision in Ireland

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SAFETY AND CHANGE A national study of support needs and outcomes for women accessing refuge provision in Ireland ISBN Preface When I first met the staff of (known then as the National
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SAFETY AND CHANGE A national study of support needs and outcomes for women accessing refuge provision in Ireland ISBN Preface When I first met the staff of (known then as the National Network of Women s Refuges and Support Services) I was incredibly impressed with their dedication to the work, their critical analysis, and their willingness to take on yet one more project if it might make a difference in women s lives. We were working at that time on a multi-country project whose purpose was to develop an evaluation model for refuges (funded by the Daphne Programme of the European Commission). After that two-year project ended, continued working with their member refuges to refine a model that would be straightforward to put into practice and that would provide useful information about how women experience refuge in Ireland. That work is the basis of this report, which represents the first such national report of its kind. Evaluating refuges is a complex undertaking, which is why few evaluation models currently exist for this sector. Unlike some service programmes with obvious and tangible outcomes such as those designed to prevent teenage pregnancy or to teach parenting skills domestic violence refuges provide multiple services with intangible or hard-to-measure outcomes. In some cases, services are extremely short-term (such as providing crisis intervention) and/or are provided to anonymous individuals (as is often the case with helpline calls). Further, every woman who enters refuge comes with her own unique set of experiences, knowledge, and desires, and the goal of refuge is to individualise services to the needs of each woman. Refuge workers do not dictate to survivors what decisions they should make; rather, their role is to provide immediate safety, to help survivors and their children heal from the abuse they have experienced, to help ensure that they receive justice from their communities, and to restore their sense of power and autonomy. Appropriate outcomes for refuges, then, need to focus on domestic violence services effectiveness in helping survivors create changes that they have determined to be important to them, and that lead to increased safety, justice, and wellbeing. This looks different for each individual woman, making the creation of a standardised evaluation model difficult. The evaluation model on which this report is based represents years of work on the part of and their member services. As a result of numerous conversations, focus groups, survey drafts, piloting activities and model revisions, the final model has successfully achieved the balance of capturing important information while remaining straightforward to use by both service users and refuge workers. Especially impressive about this model is its focus not only on what women specifically need and receive while in refuge, as well as how they are treated by staff, but also on the impact a stay in refuge has on women s lives. Ireland s National Refuges Outcome Evaluation Project is significant at the local, national and international levels. Locally, refuges now have information specific to their service and community regarding what is and is not working for survivors. Nationally, Ireland now has country-level data on the needs and experiences of domestic violence survivors and their children. This information can be used to improve policies, target funding and raise community awareness about this serious and widespread problem. Internationally, other countries are also 1 struggling with how to accurately document and measure the work of domestic violence refuges and support services. Ireland s model is already being viewed as an exemplar for other countries as they move forward in these efforts, for four overarching reasons: (1) it captures the complexities inherent in the work; (2) it was developed collaboratively with refuge workers and survivors; (3) the evaluation can be conducted by refuges themselves; and (4) it keeps women s voices and experiences at the centre. The information provided in this report came directly from women using refuges in Ireland over a four month period in Through their willingness to share their experiences, thoughts, and feelings Ireland now has a wealth of indispensable information on which to build policy and practice. I join and their member refuges in thanking these women for their generosity and applauding their incredible spirit and resilience. Cris M Sullivan Ph.D Michigan State University USA Acknowledgments The National Refuges Outcome Evaluation Project and the completion of this report involved and depended on the commitment, expertise and passion of many people. In particular, we would like to thank the women who participated in the study and acknowledge their confidence and courage in sharing important aspects of their experience. We would also like to acknowledge the amazing commitment from the member refuges of in supporting and implementing the research method with total dedication and openness. In producing this report we would also like to thank John Burrows for conducting additional data analysis and Carmel McNamee for her editorial input. In addition, we wish to acknowledge the guidance and expertise provided by the staff and Board of Management throughout the project. hopes that by producing this report we have done justice to all involved and that we have highlighted what we consider to be the total dedication and commitment of all services to meet the very real and complex needs of women and children who experience Domestic Violence and access our services. Finally, we would like once again to acknowledge the support from Professor Cris Sullivan, Michigan State University, throughout the whole process. 2 Table of Contents Section 1: Introduction 7 Section 2: Methodology 11 Section 3: Getting Started 13 Section 4: Demographics 15 Section 5: Emerging Patterns of Refuge Use 19 Section 6: Women s Support Needs on Entering Refuge 25 Section 7: Meeting Women s Needs in Refuge 29 Section 8: Outcomes for Women 37 Section 9: Comparing Traveller and Settled Irish Women s Support Needs and Outcomes 43 Section 10: Relationships with Workers 49 Section 11: Women s Suggested Changes 53 Section 12: Future Focus for Refuge Provision 57 References 60 Appendices 61 3 List of Charts Chart No. 1: Age range of women 16 Chart No. 2: Ethnic origins of women Chart No. 3: Nationality of women Chart No. 4: How women heard about refuge Chart No. 5: What women would have done had they not accessed refuge Chart No. 6: Length of stay in refuge Chart No. 7: Women s safety needs: degree of support received Chart No. 8: Women s practical needs: degree of support received Chart No. 9: Women s emotional needs: degree of support received Chart No 10: Child related needs: degree of support received Chart No. 11: Safety outcomes for women who stayed in refuge Chart No 12: Emotional and practical outcomes for women Chart No. 13: Outcomes for women related to their children Chart No. 14: Comparison of women s needs accessing refuge (Traveller women and settled Irish women) Chart No. 15: Comparison between Traveller and settled Irish women s safety needs accessing refuge Chart No. 16: Comparison between degree of support Traveller and settled Irish women received in relation to protection for their children Chart No. 17: Relationship with workers List of Tables Table No. 1: Women s repeat use of refuge Table No. 2: Support needs identified by women entering refuge and Domestic Violence Service Provision in Ireland is the national representative body for women s frontline domestic violence services in Ireland. We have forty member organisations which provide a range of services and supports to women and their children experiencing or at risk from domestic violence. The majority of member organisations also lobby and advocate for societal change in relation to state and community responses to women at risk of violence. There are 19 dedicated refuges in Ireland that provide emergency accommodation for women or women and their children experiencing domestic violence. As well as safe, secure accommodation, refuges in Ireland also provide emotional and practical support to women, aftercare, support groups, court accompaniment and advocacy. The majority of refuges also provide dedicated child supports including childcare, art therapy, group support and one to one emotional supports. As with any specialised service, refuges in Ireland work closely with other key statutory and community organisations to ensure women and children s needs are met. Referrals are made where necessary and close partnership working exists between refuges and the many essential other key agencies. 5 Section One: Introduction In 2008, 1 undertook a National Refuges Outcome Evaluation Project. The aim of the project was to implement outcome evaluation measures in refuges in Ireland in order to gather concrete data on both women s support needs accessing refuge and their personal outcomes as a result of the support they received. This report outlines the context, findings, conclusions, practice issues and challenges arising from this innovative and worthwhile project. is the national representative organisation for frontline women s domestic violence services in Ireland. At the core of our work in is the generation of knowledge related to the experiences of women and children, member organisations and the society in which we live and work. One of our key commitments involves gathering this information, validating it and acting on it in order to progress our social change agenda. We currently have forty member organisations, who provide a range of services to women and their children experiencing domestic violence, including refuge, transitional accommodation, information, support and advocacy, court accompaniment and children s support services. Additionally, with our members we advocate for societal change to maximise protection for women and children. Why outcome evaluation? considers that outcome evaluation offers a practical, manageable and effective method for member organisations to understand and improve the impact of their services on women and children. Outcome evaluation is an assessment and evaluation tool that measures benefits, impacts or changes that occur as a direct result of interventions. In relation to domestic violence, outcome evaluation assesses service provision effectiveness by identifying changes in women s knowledge, attitudes, skills, behaviour, expectations, emotional status or life circumstances due to the service provided to them (Sullivan1998). Outcomes should be specific, measurable and directly tied to programme activities 2. This form of evaluation compares favourably with the more commonly used process evaluation approach. Process evaluation generally aims to describe and understand the characteristics of a programme or service; 1 Formally the National Network of Women s Refuges and Support Services 2 See: Sullivan (1998), Riger et al (2001) 7 Introduction usually documenting service delivery in terms of the kind of services provided, to whom and how often. Process evaluation documents programme activities, for example, who is receiving services, what specifically people are receiving and how much they are receiving. Process evaluation measures participants satisfaction ratings, which can be useful in assessing how well received supports were. However, while participants may rate a programme highly in terms of satisfaction, they may not actually experience any change as a result of the support or intervention 3. s Outcome Evaluation Journey 1. Social Service or Social Change: In our 2003 research document, Social Service or Social Change highlighted the importance for frontline domestic violence services of engaging in outcome evaluation. While the complexities and challenges of this form of evaluation were outlined, we suggested that outcome evaluation could provide a key means of assessing the degree to which women s needs were being met and the effectiveness of the support women were receiving. Following the research project we decided it was imperative to focus on developing and implementing outcome evaluation tools over the coming years. We were confident that adopting this approach would result in a true understanding of the impact of services currently being provided and the potential to improve services for women and children. 2. The following year we participated in the DAPHNE-funded project, a comparative study on refuge provision, involving France, Denmark, Portugal, Scotland, Slovenia and Ireland. Findings highlighted that there were no national or regional structures in existence for evaluation, despite an awareness of its importance. Domestic Violence services highlighted two main barriers to implementing outcome evaluation measures; the absence of agreed and effective outcome evaluation tools and systems, and a lack of resources to develop the tools and implement them. Although outcome evaluation had not been an intended focus of the project, it emerged as an important unmet need across the six participating countries. None of the countries participating in the project were engaged in systematically evaluating the work of refuges, largely because of the lack of resources and available models. 3. Refuge Evaluation Modelling: As a step towards addressing this gap, further DAPHNE funding was secured for a follow-up project. With Scottish Women s Aid and CESIS, (an independent social research organisation in Portugal) we undertook a transnational project to create an outcome evaluation model for evaluating the effectiveness of women s refuges and to pilot this model in women s refuges across our three countries. The project, known as the Refuge Evaluation Modelling (REM) project benefited significantly from the support of Professor Cris Sullivan, Michigan State University, a highly experienced evaluator of domestic violence programmes in North America. The process and developments of this project are presented in its final report, (CESIS et al 2007), as well as in a peerreviewed research article (Sullivan et al, 2008). 4. From Pilot to National Implementation: In our assessment of the Refuge Evaluation Modelling (REM) project we identified positive benefits for member organisations. REM participants recommended a national refuge study for the following reasons: To ensure women using domestic violence services had an opportunity to feedback on their experience To provide potentially valuable information arising from the work To identify areas of service delivery, which might need more focus 3 See: Sullivan (1998), Riger et al (2001) 8 Introduction To identify national trends, issues and themes in women s feedback (acknowledging s unique position in implementing national evaluation programmes) Acknowledging that is well positioned to support member organisations to use outcome evaluation data to develop, change or improve their service provision. 5. Partnership with Michigan State University: Having agreed to undertake a National Refuges Outcome Evaluation Project we decided to carry it out in the context of existing research, theory and practice, particularly outcome evaluation work developed by Professor Cris Sullivan, Michigan State University in North America. During the previous REM project, developed a strong working relationship with Professor Sullivan, a leader in outcome evaluation development for violence against women services. As we considered the launch of our national outcome evaluation research project, Professor Sullivan was heading up similar measures across ten states in North America. We were fortunate to enter into a partnership agreement with her. She undertook to support our work, to assist in our analysis and to provide us with the opportunity to compare data between both countries. The National Refuges Outcome Evaluation Project was underpinned by s values, which are: Recognising the resilience of women experiencing domestic violence and their ability to seek support Believing that ensuring women s safety and the safety of their children is a key priority in addressing the impact of domestic violence Prioritising the development of a comprehensive picture of domestic violence service delivery and the needs of women and children Seeking to support and encourage the resilience of member organisations and to promote practice responses based clearly on the experiences and needs of women and children who access services Committing to working with member organisations to find strategies to reach women who do not currently access our services. From our previous work on the project and the REM pilot we were clear about our expectations for the project, including: To continue to centre-stage women s experience and ensure we design and implement outcome evaluation measures that would both help us understand women s experiences, needs and outcomes and also recognise women s resilience and strength To obtain national data on women s experiences of services which would identify trends and patterns in women s use of refuge provision and inform future service provision To up-skill workers and organisations in outcome evaluation so that ongoing evaluation would be a reasonable, viable and successful option in the future To obtain demographic information in relation to women accessing refuge in order to observe any identifiable trends in age range, ethnic origin or repeat use of refuge as well as women s needs and outcomes To have some clear indicators at the end of the project about future developments for service provision and practice development for workers To provide individual refuges with feedback on specific changes women recommended. 9 Introduction In the Limelight: During the lifetime of the national project we benefited from opportunities to present our outcome evaluation work internationally. During the development and implementation of this project we engaged in the following dissemination of our work: Published an article on the work of the REM project in the International Journal of Comparative and Applied Justice (Sullivan at al, Nov 2008) Supported the presentation of a plenary session on the REM project at the first World Shelters Conference in Ontario, Canada Presented a workshop on this project at the Scottish Women s Aid national conference, September 2008 Presented a keynote address at the World Shelters Conference on this project, September In considering the article outlining the REM project (Sullivan et al 2008) the journal editors noted it as a most promising methodological innovation and stated: Not since Fagan s (1980) research has someone produced outcome data that others can use to systematically judge the value of domestic violence shelters. Second, while other scholars have simultaneously administered surveys to measure the impact of an intervention in several cities within a single county, Sullivan and her colleagues are likely the first researchers to demonstrate that one can administer an identical survey to evaluate the impact of nearly the same intervention across several countries with variable contexts. If their approach is reproduced in other countries, as well as extended to other interventions, like prosecution and batterers treatment, then the field might indeed take a significant step towards producing valid, replicated treatment comparisons that could more fully inform policy makers across the globe. (Robinson and Maxwell, 2008) Given the positive feedback this work received from international practitioners, policy makers and academics, we in were optimistic that this project would contribute to our body of knowledge on service provision. We believe that this work will provide us with the foundation to develop significant key messages on service provision and enable us to continue working in effective partnerships, developing evaluation models useful for d
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