I have been working in Social Care as a Family Support Worker for over ten years. I spent most of those ten years in the London Borough of Haringey, which is notorious for its diversity, social challenges, and difficult child protection history. I fell into the world of family support accidentally because my degree was in Media and Cultural Studies, and I had every intention of becoming an Investigative Journalist. But I became pregnant just as I was about to finish university, and the birth of my daughter forced me to re-evaluate my career options. My mum had worked as a Support Worker in Tower Hamlets, supporting Bengali women suffering from abuse and mental health. The two always intertwined. I remember going on day trips with her to the beach and talking to the women. So, when I began looking for a job, I was drawn to the role of Family Support Worker advertised in the local paper. I liked the idea of helping people and making a difference, and I thought it would be a fun easy-going job.
However, almost immediately I was thrown into a world that I was not ready for. Within my first week I was allocated a case containing a family who were fleeing domestic violence, and I would be expected to attend a Child Protection conference give my professional opinion on the family’s needs and situation. Suddenly I was in the midst of all of this chaos; and I had an important role. I supporting vulnerable families by teaching them strategies to manage their difficult circumstances. I put in place a professional network, held Team Around the Family meetings, attended CP conferences, completed parenting assessments, risk assessments and support plans. I deliver parenting programmes, learnt to do direct work with children so that I could capture their voice and learnt about housing, benefits, domestic violence, mental health, and disability (to name some).Six months into my role I attended a domestic violence training called The Freedom programme. It opened my eyes and made me look at abuse in a different way. Like most people who had never experienced physical abuse, I had always wondered why people being beaten in relationships didn’t just leave. The programme taught me the different ways people could be abused, manipulated and how it changed them. I realised that physical violence was a very small part of domestic abuse, and usually a person had been emotionally obliterated before any violence had even taken place. I began to understand how complex domestic abuse was, and what it was.
The first time I delivered the programme to a client I was 22 and so was she. We began discussing a chapter called ‘The Sexual Controller’ and the subject of rape. I explained to her what rape was as she didn’t seem to realise that you could be raped by your husband. I told her that rape was when someone forces themselves onto you after you say no. She looked me in the eyes and told me that is that was the case then she had lost count of the amount of times she had been raped. She cried for an hour while I looked after her two children and comforted her. I then went back to the office and also cried. I felt numb, helpless and angry. She needed psychological support, as what she had endured was more than just physical scars. I realised why people that had experienced domestic abuse were called survivors.
I developed a passion for domestic abuse and specialised in the area. I helped clients into refuges, explained the behaviour in children due to the abuse they had gone through and delivered group and one on one programmes. I found myself touched by stories, and moved by their courage. I also began to understand how culture, politics, economy and history has impacted the way that domestic violence was viewed and how the norm and expectations placed on women had contributed to a lot of the misery that these women had undergone. However, no matter how much I did I realised that a lot of these women were suffering from depression, anxiety and trauma and without psychological support they were stuck in their emotions and mind. But a recurring theme was long waiting lists or unavailability of services, and therefore these survivors were unable to move forward with their journey of change and heal.
I created the I.C.E Programme in order to meet their needs both practically and emotionally so that they can make changes to better their life chances and choices.