Probation Supporting Victims of Domestic Abuse

The Probation Board for Northern Ireland (PBNI) provides a number of interventions to domestic abuse perpetrators to challenge and change their behaviour and help tackle this devastating crime.  As part of these interventions, Probation also provides a dedicated Integrated Support Service for the partners or ex partners of these men. This service is essential in order to reduce the risk to victims of crime.

The Partner Support Worker (PSW) role directly supports victims of domestic abuse in a number of ways. 

Donna Kelly and Fiona Devlin are the PSWs for PBNI’s Intensive Supervision Unit (ISU) Programmes and deliver this essential service to victims of domestic abuse. They are committed to this role and ensure the ISU Programmes team keep victims at the centre of Probation’s interventions to ensure accountability to victims, the wider public and the judiciary/courts.

Explaining more about the role Donna Kelly said: “PSWs assist with safety planning, crucial at key times or occasions, provide information about the content of the Programme and the participant’s progress on it (within agreed parameters). We provide support with coping mechanisms, promoting positive mental health and signposting the partner to other agencies if useful. We will also communicate with partnership agencies such as PSNI, social services, Women’s Aid and provide support and guidance with both legal remedies and resources.”

Fiona Devlin continued: “As the link to the partner/ex-partner, we develop a close professional, non-judgemental relationship with the victim to develop trust. This empowers the victim to share vital information about the participant’s behaviour and risk. In turn this enables facilitators in partnership with treatment managers to address these behaviours in a strength based therapeutic manner to encourage reflection and openness regarding ongoing dysfunctional thinking or behaviour.”

To ensure effective communication between PSWs, facilitators, Probation Officers and Treatment Managers, ISU Programmes developed the Domestic Abuse Practitioner Forum. This enables effective information sharing, management and accountability of any identified risks or concerns for victims or children. Collectively, all individuals can develop a strategy in response to any issues raised. PSWs also have a central role in reviewing referrals for an identified intervention. If they have concerns about the assessed pathway, they identify this with the Treatment Manager/Area Manager for Domestic Abuse to review and ensure accuracy of the assessment. Therefore, information exchange between the Treatment Managers and PSWs is essential to identify any issues in the programme pathway.

PSWs also contribute to training sessions, inductions, Core Skills, and Domestic Abuse work. In addition, they regularly support Probation Officers with queries regarding domestic abuse assessment tools.

For more information contact about our Partner Support Workers contact PBNI Head of Communications Gail McGreevy on 078 2589 7955 or Lisa Maginnis on 079 7975 8011

  1. The PSW role in is line with Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) guidelines