Transform: How one charity was helped to innovate and improve to create change in the domestic and sexual abuse sector

The Lloyds Bank Foundation programme has revitalised us and given us the impetus to develop new partnerships, to accumulate experience, and to build for a future with even more potential

Romy Briant, chair of Reducing the Risk

Transform is a one-off grants programme which launched in 2016 that offered grants worth up to £100,000 over two years, aimed at stimulating innovation and improvements in the domestic and sexual abuse sector.

Romy Briant is chair of Reducing the Risk - one of the 16 charities funded and supported as part of our Transform programme. Below she writes how the programme helped to transform her charity and enabled them to influence policy and practice. 

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Our Transform experience

As we approach the end of the first stage of our ‘Transform journey’ and alongside the publication of the Transform programme evaluation, it’s a good time to look back and reflect. Have we been transformed or have we transformed others?

My first and overwhelming thought is that we have been energised through the Lloyds Bank Foundation’s faith in us and in local charities: that we are not only of value but worth investing in. As with so many in our sector, we have seen change, a contraction in local resources and the impact it had on those we support – and on ourselves. 

We have been tempted to keep our heads down, sustain what we can and weather the storm. Instead, we were accepted on the Transform programme. This gave us the opportunity to look beyond immediate issues and to focus on our potential for wider impact. We gained a renewed sense of purpose and possibility, a clearer picture of the challenges and resources to help surmount these.

 

What we do

Reducing the Risk is based in Oxfordshire. We have developed a simple approach to empowering frontline practitioners to work together in our region. Multi-agency ‘Domestic Abuse Champions’ are trained and linked together to form a local network of support around victims for their immediate safety and longer-term wellbeing.

We did this because a victim sees, on average, five different professionals before getting the help they need and seeking help can in-itself escalate the risk of harm. We wanted to ensure that wherever a victim sought help in Oxfordshire, they received responsive safe support and were easily linked with the resources they needed. In effect, we wanted to build a multi-agency early intervention service.

Serious case and domestic homicide reviews showed that the safety of those at risk depends on services working together. The complex vulnerability of many victims shows there is an advantage to specialist services sharing expertise and coordinating support.

Our Transform project was to support the development of local Domestic Abuse Champions Networks in other areas - and to do so in a sustainable way for them and for us.

We have been given:

  • A vital additional staff member with capacity to take the project forward and to bring qualities and experience to enrich the charity as a whole.
  • From our first Transform learning event, we developed a new framework to craft more effective communications and put greater emphasis on building credibility. This saw a shift in our perspective from a daunting to a creative challenge.
  • A new theory of change – which is a system that defines long-term goals and then maps out backwards the steps and conditions needed to make those changes – gave us a disciplined structure and shared action plan.
  • Precious funding for a small research study which has given us independent evidence of the impact of the network in significantly increasing early safe identification and multi-agency support for victims and their children, in transforming practice and the confidence of our staff, and also in influencing the priorities and policies of agencies.
  • Development, support and advice – from the Foundation staff and speakers at learning events, the programme’s learning partner, DMSS, and from the Lloyds Enhance programme which provided a range of tailored support.
  • New colleagues from across the Transform programme charities and what has felt like a generous amount of time and opportunity to ask questions and learn from each other – we were one of 16 grant holders and we had the opportunity to meet twice a year to network and share learning.

 

Where are we now

We have certainly been transformed. We have a new dynamic business plan, a revised staff structure, a new communication and marketing strategy, and a more ambitious approach to budgeting and capacity building.

We have an upcoming workshop on generating income and are planning a governance review so we are less reliant on specific trustees. This is all with a view to strengthening the charity to sustain a wider role in supporting the development of our work building networks across the region and potentially the country.  Not all this activity is directly related to the Transform programme but the energy and confidence to undertake it all undoubtedly is.

We have greater influence and are beginning to help realise the potential of multi-agency practice elsewhere – with independent evidence of the impact of our approach.

There are now 11 local authority areas with established Champion Networks across the Thames Valley and as far south as Torbay, linking and supporting over 2,500 frontline domestic abuse Champions. We are currently working with three more areas.

Police, Clinical Commissioning Groups and others are also approaching us to help strengthen their services for victims. We work closely with key strategic partners in each area, provide initial Champion training and then train local trainers for sustainability.

We link Champions through a database; regularly update them through an e-bulletin, how-to guides and a consultancy service; share learning and good practice across the networks; and develop new training modules for the Networks to use to meet emerging needs and extend their support in their areas – currently into schools and colleges.

We can’t yet claim to have transformed multi-agency practice across the UK – nor yet to have a fully-fledged entrepreneurial approach to expanding our work, but we have taken significant first steps.

We also now have a new post, a business manager, to challenge and focus us, and National Lottery funding for the next three years to help enhance and embed this work.

The Lloyds Bank Foundation programme has revitalised us and given us the impetus to develop new partnerships, to accumulate experience, and to build for a future with even more potential.

By looking beyond our own organisation and how we can increase our impact, we’ve been able to influence and improve the response to survivors across huge areas. Small charities really can influence change.