Andry Tofarides transitioned from homelessness officer to domestic abuse coordinator during lockdown. Her transition saw a difference in working hours, as they had to be adapted to ensure that the service was being made available to victim’s dependent on when they could speak or felt safe to do so.
Domestic violence can be a secret crime that is not always reported to the police. Therefore, only a partial image of the real extent of domestic violence encountered can be given by data held by the police. Physical, psychological, mental, sexual or financial violence may be domestic.
Assisting the victims and empowering them to make a change
Andry Tofarides did not consider a career change until the position became available. “After seeing the increase in domestic violence cases rise on the news and social media I decided I wanted to try and help and make a difference where I could,” she says.
The specialist Domestic Abuse Coordinator said she is most proud of assisting the victims and empowering them to make a change to their lives. Andry wants the victims to “get out of the situations which they feel stuck in.” Many victims feel that they cannot change their lives around. By Andry assisting them with the tools to make changes in their life and seeing the differences they can make, makes her feel proud. Crime Survey by the office for national statistics (ONS) in November 2020 for England and Wales showed an estimated 2.3 million adults aged 16 to 74 years experienced domestic abuse in the last year (1.6 million women and 757,000 men.)
COVID-19 Lockdown sees an increase in Domestic Violence
There were many problems with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but the challenges for victims of domestic abuse were of particular concern. Since the start of the coronavirus lockdown, statistics have revealed a rise in domestic violence. The UK’s largest domestic abuse charity, Refuge has recorded a 25 percent rise in calls and messages from victims of violence seeking support. Compared to the amount seen weeks before the COVID-19 restrictions came into place. The limitations on everyday life came into force on 23 March 2020.
Statistics from the ONS November 2020 show police-reported crime statistics. The results indicate a rise in offences flagged during the coronavirus pandemic as domestic abuse-related. It is not clear if this increase is specifically related to the coronavirus and the fact that people are forced to stay at home to help avoid the spread of Coronavirus.
Because of the alarming spike in cases of domestic violence rise £125 million have been allocated to councils to support domestic abuse victims and their children.
From homelessness officer to domestic abuse coordinator
What steps did you have to take to change your career and become a domestic abuse coordinator?
As I had previously worked within homelessness I decided that I would attempt to specialise in assisting domestic abuse victims as there was a pandemic and there was a large rise in cases and I wanted to use my experience and knowledge in the field to help as many people as possible.
What is your typical day like as a domestic abuse coordinator?
A typical day is dealing with victims, accepting homelessness duties and working towards a personal Housing plan of what actions they need to take as well as the council. Liaising with police and other third parties where needed to obtain more information on a case.
An experience was a victim who approached the council with children fleeing an ex-partner. She was provided with a safety plan and then moved into temporary accommodation whilst investigations began on her case. The victim was assisted with claiming benefits once she was safely in her temporary accommodation. Also, a referral was then made to an organisation that assist people faced with homelessness to get a job. This victim initially approached the service fleeing with nothing. Now she is receiving assistance through benefits and has since found a job and is looking for privately rented accommodation.
Don’t be afraid of change
Andry feels it’s always good to try and transfer your current skills into a new role and keep learning. In this way you don’t get stuck in a job you’re not 100% happy with. The specialist Domestic Abuse Coordinator feels that change is a good thing and believes never know what is around the corner and who else you can help along with your career.
Never be too scared to make that change in life, if you’re not happy with something try and find something that makes you happy. We spend too much time working so we need to be satisfied with what we are doing. A quote I saw which helped me was “Don’t be afraid of change. You may end up losing something good, but you will probably end up gaining something better.”
Life as a Homelessness officer
How did you become a Homelessness officer in the council?
When I finished university, I got a role in a housing association as a Housing Services Assistant. From there I worked myself up within the organisation. It was the first job I was offered after Uni so I took it. I was a housing services assistant at Asra Greater London housing for 2 years. I was based in London Bridge. As I had just finished university it was a new experience but with the help of ongoing training, I was able to pick the job up quickly. A typical day was being the first point of contact providing advice to tenants and stakeholders on a variety of tenancy matters, estate management and new lettings. I provided admin support to the rest of the housing team.
I worked myself up from Housing Services Assistant in 2005 to Group customer care coordinator. In 2016 I left when the council merged with another organisation and relocated to Leicester. After that, I took a small career break. In 2016 I started to work with a local council as an Assessments and Allocations Officer; Later I became Housing Options and Advice officer in a local council. This role involved dealing with preventing or relieving peoples homelessness. No one day was ever the same as each day there was a different circumstance you had to try and assist with. I left the Housing Options and Advice officer role when a position became available in domestic abuse during the pandemic.
Transferable skills, highlights and lowlights of a new career
What are the highlights and lowlights of a career as a domestic abuse coordinator?
Highlights of this role are helping transform the lives of victims regardless of gender and the lives of their children if they have any. It’s empowering them to claim benefits if they have never done so and making them work towards being more independent and even obtaining a job where possible.
What challenges did you have to overcome in this role?
The only challenges I had to face were the volume of cases that were coming in daily. I was able to adapt and prioritise my caseloads with management and excel spreadsheets which helped immensely.
What life or transferable skills have you learned from this job?
I have learnt to be more patient and empathetic. Also, with the continuous training given I am always willing to learn new skills which can assist different victims in different ways.
Childhood dreams, educational background and the future
What is your educational background?
BA Hons. Business studies joint marketing at North Middlesex university with 2:1.
Which job did you want to do when you were a child?
I always wanted to be a fashion designer.
Where do you see yourself in the future and what are you enjoying the most?
I haven’t thought that far yet. I will be going on Maternity leave soon. After that I’ll be coming back to my substantive role and see what the future has in store.
On 0808 2000 247, the 24-hour Refuge National Domestic Violence Helpline is open to call 24/7, free of charge. There is also an online chat and message facility at www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk/
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