Student combines postgraduate studies with vital charity role and community volunteering

Lisinayte Lopes

An outreach support worker at a key Wrexham charity has been working to support victims of domestic violence during the coronavirus pandemic.

Lisinayte Lopes, who lives in Wrexham, is a qualified social worker who is combining her role at the charity BAWSO, where she supports victims of domestic violence, with her studies for a MA in Criminology and Criminal Justice at Wrexham Glyndwr University.

She said: “My role involves supporting victims, providing emotional and practical support, advice and information. This also includes BME men who experience domestic abuse from partners and family members.

“I work with victims to enable them to progress towards re-establishing their lives and move forward to better life opportunities. Some victims I support are able to access a refuge, a safe breathing space where decisions can be made free from pressure and fear.

“As an outreach worker I stand against domestic violence.”

Despite having to make adaptations to the way they work, BAWSO are still receiving police referrals and still working alongside other agencies. With the effects of lockdown exacerbating issues such as domestic violence, Lisinayte says she has found their work more important than ever.

She said: “Self isolation while living with an abuser may increase the risk of harm. Survivors may be at home with perpetrators and unable to escape from the abuse. Perpetrators may have more free time now and less barriers prohibiting them abusing survivors, leading  to an increase in the frequency or severity of the abuse. Our response during this time is even more important. I am doing my best to offer safe responses to victims.

“With the victims I support I have needed to adapt the safety planning aspects of the work. Most support takes place over the phone and special consideration needs to be made at all  times to ensure safe and clear communication.

“It is a challenging time and it is important to adapt to the new circumstances. The most important thing is to make sure victims are getting the right support. I always speak with my manager to create plans of actions in cases of urgency.

“The work is still mostly the same with the same measures. A particular issue is that all workers need to be more vigilant for the safety of the victims. Our response and partnership working with all other agency partners needs to be effective in order to save lives.”

Lisinayte, who is originally from Sao Tome and Principe, is a first-language Portuguese speaker and is adding her Glyndwr Masters studies to a degree in Social Work she gained in Portugal.  

In the past few months, she has also been juggling her work and studies alongside helping people from the Portuguese community.

She added: " It has been challenging working from home, dealing with my personal life and studies. In the current lockdown my work goes beyond my normal role.  

“Some people, due to language barriers,  have got in touch asking for some support – such as ordering repeat prescriptions from the surgery and collecting medication from the pharmacy.

“For some people with ongoing health conditions I was able to book ambulances to take them to hospital for appointments and emergencies. Sometimes people have needed support with shopping or topping up gas and electricity.

“I have been helping  as much I can - taking into consideration all the safety measures regarding coronavirus. I strongly believe it is everyone’s responsibility to assist and help the most vulnerable people in the community.”

And despite having to change her original research plans, Lisinayte is still carrying out a dissertation looking at human trafficking in the region.

She added: “The research aims to examine the issue of human trafficking in North Wales and offer a broad picture of current practices used to support victims - and gain a better understanding of the perceptions of both the victims and the front line staff working with them.

“My intention was to use semi -structured interviews with support workers in Bawso who work directly with victims and the North Wales Police Crime Commissioner.

“Due to Covid-19, I have had to change those plans. I am mindful of the incredible pressure front line staff are under at the moment. Therefore, I am doing an extended literature review, which will provide a comprehensive and critical discussion on the topic instead.”

Lisinayte has credited the support she has received at Glyndwr – as well as the ability to carry out much of her study online - for helping to continue with both her volunteering and with her role at BAWSO.

She added: “I strongly believe that education is the most empowering force in the “world. It has opened doors for me. With my current studies I am able to gain more knowledge and confidence and it helps me to break down barriers.

“I like studying at Glyndwr University, I have excellent lecturers and my tutor is always there for me when I need. I am a part time student and most of my work is online - the university keep the processes simple and effective.”

Wrexham Glyndwr University Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Criminal Justice, Dr Karen Washington-Dyer said “Seeing how Lisinayte has kept on going throughout the pandemic - working, studying, and helping her community - is really inspirational.

“It’s great to see just how our students can combine professional roles like hers with their studies on the degree - and the team here at Glyndwr are always on hand to lend help, support and guidance when it’s needed. We have a diverse group of students who are combining their studies with a wide variety of professional roles and it’s great to hear stories like Lisinayte’s which show just how valuable those roles can be in times like these.”

*Complete University Guide 2020