We’re working with some of the best organisations across the VCSE sector in Northern Ireland through Techies in Residence. We asked each of them their views on why they got involved in the project, and what they want to get out of it.
Tell us a little about your organisation.
Women’s Aid is the lead voluntary organisation in Northern Ireland addressing domestic and sexual violence and providing services for women and children. Women’s Aid Federation NI is the regional umbrella body for Women’s Aid groups across the country, of which there are nine in total. We act as the regional voice for Women’s Aid in Northern Ireland, striving to ensure that the voices and needs of survivors are at the forefront of policy and decision-making. Our main areas of work include:
- Running the 24 Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline providing emotional support and information to women and men affected by domestic or sexual violence
- Delivering preventative education programmes that help children recognise abuse and stay safe
- Training front-line staff and professionals, from police to pharmacists, to understand domestic and sexual violence and how to support victims
- Raising public awareness about domestic and sexual violence and how we can tackle it
- Lobbying government to provide vital support, education, protection and justice to survivors of domestic & sexual violence
- Promoting the work of our local Women’s Aid groups, who provide vital refuge and outreach services to women and children.
What do you hope to achieve from the Techies in Residence Programme?
With the TIR programme we hope to develop an online tool that can help people learn about healthy relationships and domestic abuse. In particular, we want to raise awareness of those forms of non-physical abuse that people are less aware of, such as emotional, financial and sexual abuse, as well as a range of controlling behaviours that can constitute a form of abuse in themselves or can be warning signs of future abuse. We want to contribute to a cultural shift in how people think about and understand relationships. Many behaviours that are presented as ‘normal’ or ‘romantic’ in the media are actually abusive, or precursors to abuse, and we want to give people the tools to ‘re-educate’ themselves and recognise abuse as early on in a relationship as possible. Research shows that it takes 35 incidents of domestic abuse before a victim will seek help. We want people reaching out to us and other support services earlier than this so that they can get the help they need before domestic abuse has a chance to impact severely on their lives, self-esteem and/or mental health.
How much technology does your organisation currently use?
WAFNI and the Helpline each have their own Facebook page and Twitter account, which are very actively maintained with several new posts a day. We also have a website that is regularly updated to include news, events, job vacancies, etc. and we contribute content to third party websites as well, such as CommunityNI. The Helpline also uses a range of confidential online databases to log anonymous and non-identifying information about calls and to check refuge bed spaces across the country, among other things.
What’s the largest impact that Techies in Residence will have on your organisation?
The TIR programme will enable Women’s Aid NI to create and put in place a basic framework for development, both for our organisation and for all Women’s Aid groups across Northern Ireland.
All 10 Women’s Aid groups work independently, operating a range of different services and using varying degrees of technology to reach out to those who need help and support. What’s needed is a joined-up approach that enables people to quickly and easily find information about what services are available in their area and how they can access them. This is currently lacking across the Women’s Aid groups in Northern Ireland. This online portal will serve as a sort of ‘tech amalgamation’, bringing all the different Women’s Aid websites, social media, apps and other tech tools together in the one virtual place – a virtual one-stop shop. This will simplify the process of seeking information and getting help.
We envision that the online portal product coming out of the TIR programme will lay the foundation for the development of this joined-up approach and will be the starting point of a tool that we will continue to add resources to and apply for funding to improve in the future.