Family Support Worker, Laura Rigney, talks about her work

There are many parts to my role as Family Support Worker including direct work, outreach and practical support and I most regularly deal with issues of housing, mental health, domestic violence, welfare and child protection. One part making up much of my day to day work involves providing active support for the families I work with.

Most commonly this type of active support would be in relation to housing- specifically around substandard accommodation on sites; including lack of basic facilities and anti-social behaviour affecting the lives of people on the site. People often feel they are not being heard by staff in their local council and may already have attempted to report such issues but have not gotten the response they had hoped for.

I am regularly in contact with town and county councils around Ireland, liaising with social work, housing and Traveller specific departments. Reasons could vary and may be to do with housing applications, active tenancies and any issues which may arise including- rent, repairs, transfer requests, medical issues and any anti social issues occurring in the area.

In relation to clients living in private rented accommodation I make contact with community welfare, landlords and housing support and advocacy organisations such as Threshold and the Private Rented Tenancy Board in order to pursue any concerns or action. Often people are unaware of their rights when they are in a private tenancy and they gain greater confidence and sense of security when they know not only their obligations when renting, but also their entitlements should they encounter the need.

I regularly liaise with solicitors and assist families who together are working on a case, helping to ensure paperwork is in order and there is sufficient information gathered for the court date. I offer support when I accompany clients to the family law courts where I provide information and may assist them in fulfilling their access, custody and maintenance applications/orders. Often times around access there may be several appearances in court which can cause prolonged stress to a family over the period of time.  

I also attend the courts to help people apply for barring or safety orders where there is a domestic violence situation and this may also involve court appearances at a later date. This is very important as many clients have told me that they have left the family law office before they get a protection order because they are intimidated by the procedure- there may be long queues, paperwork to be filled out and meeting with staff in relation to discuss personal incidences. This is especially daunting if you cannot read or write and you may be asked about other paperwork and details necessary to make the application. Support along this particular part of the process is key to ensure that the person has the assistance to fulfil the application and thereby still have the choice to work towards better securing their personal safety.

This is just a snapshot of just a few of the many issues we encounter on a daily basis that may require active support and one side of the work that we do as family support worker in Exchange House.

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