Lifeline: starting conversations about domestic abuse services

Councillor Phyll Smith (Lab) is a member of East Lindsey District Council

The delivery of domestic abuse services has always been a complex one.

The added complications of lockdown – in exacerbating and making inescapable dangerous, coercive and violent domestic situations, and with home working making interventions and support more difficult – have been sources of concern for councils, third sector providers and the public alike.  

Highlighting these concerns comes an extraordinary short film – Lifeline – which illustrates the problems faced by those delivering domestic abuse services from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The film avoids voyeuristic investigation of domestic abuse itself, concentrating instead on the impact of delivering domestic abuse services on council and third sector workers providing those services from their homes while working remotely. 

By taking the issues and traumas of their clients into their own homes and family spaces, those stresses and concerns have been communicated to workers’ own safe spaces at home.  

The film also offers some ameliorating support practices – though not quick solutions – that workers themselves have devised. Councils and support providers that have screened and engaged with the film have adapted these for their own use.  

Eylem Akatav and Karoline Pelikan, the directors of Lifeline, welcome the use of their film by councils and are happy to present it for councillors, officers and outsourcing organisations (I saw it at the University of East Anglia, where I am a postgraduate researcher, and then at a presentation to my local party).

Primarily, the film acts as a conversation starter – for councillors, policymakers, officers and staff – about the best ways in which to deliver these services, but particularly around how we might organise home and agile working to better support staff and mitigate the effects on their performance and mental health.  

This clearly has wider implications for home workers across the range of council services, particularly those of a traumatic or sensitive nature, and as we redesign working for a low-travel, hybrid workplace.

Email Professor Akatav at e.atakav@uea.ac.uk about screenings of Lifeline. 

National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 2000 247

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