Social worker there to hear stories

By Ilona Hanne

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White Ribbon Day is on November 25. The Stratford Press will run a series of articles highlighting the work being done in our area to address family violence. Photo: File
White Ribbon Day is on November 25. The Stratford Press will run a series of articles highlighting the work being done in our area to address family violence. Photo: File

"It's a privilege to be allowed into people's lives and to hear their stories. To be part of their journey simply by being there when they need."

Social worker Sinead Thomas is based at Tutaki Youth Inc, working closely with the police family violence preventions team to improve outcomes and break the cycle for individuals and families across the Central Taranaki policing area.

Sinead says working at Tutaki Youth Inc is inspiring, as she works alongside a team of people all equally dedicated to playing their part in the battle against domestic violence and its long-lasting effects on the community.

"It's important to me that we work with all parties involved. We are here to help, and that means running programmes aimed at helping someone charged with a domestic violence crime to understand the impact of their actions and how to make a change, just as much as it means working with young people who have grown up in a home where violence happens, or a person who has experienced violence."

This collaborative approach means the team at Tutaki Youth Inc works alongside a family for a long time, says Sinead.

"Children who have witnessed family violence will need support in a variety of ways, as will their parents or caregivers. We aren't here to insist people make a particular choice, but rather to help them find their own way and to not only make their own choices but to be happy with them as well."

Whether it is working with young people who are before the courts, working with people who have experienced domestic violence from their partner, working with people who have been charged with a domestic violence offence or working with children on ways to deal with bullying at school, Sinead says there is no one part of her job that is the most rewarding.

"Rather it is a case of every day knowing you have been involved in something which is quite literally changing lives. You are helping people in a really practical way and equipping them with skills they will use in the future as well."

While she has a desk and office at the Tutaki Youth Inc premises on Juliet Street in Stratford, Sinead's job means she is often out and about in the community.

"At the start of the day I check my emails to see if the police have logged any family violence callouts overnight, or over the weekend. If they have the first thing I will do is visit those addresses to have a chat and leave my card."

Sometimes, she says, people don't want to talk or see her turn up.

"But that is okay, it is about consistently being there. Welcome or not, they know we will show up, we will be ready to listen, to help and to support and while they may not want that now, one day they might, so it is important they know they can rely on the fact we will be there."

People can presume she is there to tell them to leave a violent partner, says Sinead.

"And that absolutely isn't the case. It isn't my job to say what someone must do, but it is my job to make sure they know what their options are, as well as knowing what help is available, including help for people to learn how to control anger and how to resolve conflict in a non-violent way. The only result I want to see is one where everyone in that situation feels happy and able to move forward, violence free."

After completing her visits for the day, Sinead can be involved in a wide range of activities and programmes, both at Tutaki Youth Inc and out in the community.

"No two days are the same, but they are all equally rewarding."

- Stratford Press

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