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A first of its kind study in England, Wales and Northern Ireland was carried out to learn about the impact of working as Independent Sexual Violence Advisers (ISVAs) or ISVA Managers. The ISVA role is relatively new, and as such, little is known about this difficult and emotionally charged work. Some 121 ISVAs and ISVA Managers completed an online survey designed by Kristina Massey at Canterbury Christ Church University, and Dr Miranda Horvath at Middlesex University.
The researchers called for a national standard for training the first year in the role and that training should be accredited, role-specific and high quality; routine monitoring of impacts and well-being of ISVAs; and national standards for maximum caseloads. Caseloads were a key factor predicting psychological distress and vicarious trauma, the researchers found. Respondents had caseloads varying from less than ten to over 100. A national recognised maximum number of clients per ISVA and national standards for caseloads would reduce the number of overwhelmed ISVAs and improve the level, quality, and amount of care they can offer their clients, the researchers suggested.
Kristina Massey, Senior Lecturer in the School of Law, Policing, and Social Sciences said: “There have been longstanding concerns about the delays victims of sexual violence experience when engaging with the criminal justice system. These have been exacerbated by the pandemic meaning that, more than ever before, victims of sexual violence need high quality support from ISVAs.
“It is our hope that managers, commissioners and funders take on board the recommendations in this report to ensure that victims get what they need and ISVAs are able to provide a service without detriment to themselves. Work related training, case load caps and high-quality supervision are key to this.”
Dr Miranda Horvath, Reader and Associate Professor in Forensic Psychology at Middlesex, said that as ISVAs were introduced in 2005 there is much to learn. She said: “This is first report of its kind and provides an invaluable insight into what it means to be an independent sexual violence adviser. While there is no doubt that the current situation is an improvement on what was previously available to victims of sexual violence it is clear that the toll on the wellbeing of the ISVAs is being ignored and needs to be addressed.
“We hope that the Ministry of Justice will work with us and take on board our recommendations. This is in the interest of both survivors of sexual violence and the staff who are committed to supporting them. Standardised training for advisers, guidance for supervision and national standards for maximum caseload are three key areas that we strongly urge policy makers to focus on.”
To download the report visit the Middlesex University online research repository.