Can you help Aurora New Dawn enhance our DVA cars and helpline services?

Woman helping the DVA car helpline service
Posted February 2, 2023 by

If you have any experience using Aurora New Dawn’s DVA cars service or calling our helpline, you can share your thoughts and feedback in our anonymous survey. Find out more and take part in the survey here.

Aurora New Dawn has commissioned an independent study and evaluation of its helpline and DVA cars service. The evaluation will be the third of its kind for the charity, led by Dr Andy Williams – a principal lecturer in criminology and criminal justice at the University of Portsmouth and an independent researcher and consultant for charities and police organisations.

The aim of the evaluation is to find ways to improve the service we provide to women, led by victim voices so that we can make changes that are genuinely needed and will have a real impact on the women we support.

Here we share more about the nature of the survey, what it means for our victims and what has changed since Mr Williams started working on this current evaluation in 2021.

Why are independent evaluations important for charities?

Evaluations are crucial for charities like Aurora New Dawn because they allow us to continuously improve and serve the people we support, in the best way possible. Every woman’s experience is individual to them, so we need to review and adjust our service to make sure we can deliver support in the most effective way possible every single time. In making this an independent evaluation led by a qualified and experienced researcher, we can also ensure it is a rigorous and robust review process that is driven by academic and ethical research design and methodology. With the data we get at the end of the evaluation, we can also prove to our funders that the work we do is not only needed, but critical.

“As part of our funding for DVA cars, we are formally required to run regular evaluations and deliver reports. I met Andy while I was studying for my Doctorate at Portsmouth and knew that as an independent consultant he had already run similar evaluations. His own academic research also specialised in violent and sexual offenders, so it made perfect sense to approach him for help with this project,” said Aurora Chief Executive Officer Dr Shonagh Dillon.

The 2023 evaluation – which consists of a victim survey and separate victim and police focus groups – is the third iteration of these evaluations for Aurora. Each one consists of a critical evaluation of processes (in a variety of ways) followed by a detailed review and report of key findings and recommendations to move forward.

“I like to see myself as a critical friend. It isn’t about highlighting faults, but rather coming into the situations and experiencing all perspectives for a positive, progressive outcome,” said Dr Williams.

“It’s my job to find out what the charity is doing, how it does it, what works well, what could be improved and gather the inside information needed to prove that the service is making a major difference within the community.”

How does the 2023 evaluation differ from previous years?

This is the third evaluation that has been done in this way for the charity, with every evaluation having a different focus and methodology – a conscious choice from Dr Williams who wanted to build on his findings and the charity’s developments each time.

The first evaluation centred predominantly on the DVA car processes. Dr Williams spoke directly to advocates and the police working alongside them through interviews and focus groups, as well as going out on shift in the DVA cars.

“It was incredible to see the advocates and the team out in action – what they do at the point of crisis is truly wonderful. It meant that I could experience and learn first-hand about the service.”

Following the first evaluation, the service grew exponentially. What used to initially cover a handful of areas has now expanded across the whole of Hampshire. The helpline has also been put in place and police buy-in is high.

The second evaluation took an unexpected turn; all thanks to a little something called COVID.

“It was tough running the evaluation during COVID because the charity had to shut the cars down. This is when the helpline was put into place – an amazing example of Aurora reacting and innovating during a challenging time. The helpline was so well received that it is now a core part of their offering. So, out of a bad situation came something positive. This just shows their flexibility and fluidity,” said Dr Williams.

He ran Zoom interviews with various individuals from the Aurora team and police officers, charting any differences between year one and two as well as any enhancements that had been made: one of which being that the advocates now have access to the police database so that they can input victim information immediately. Prior to the evaluations, they would have to fill in a paper form, share it with the police and then have them manually add it into the system.

This time around, the focus is on the victims and their voices.

What do we hope to achieve with the latest evaluation?

The Aurora DVA Cars and Helpline Victim Survey has been designed to put the victim voice front and centre. This survey will be backed by victim focus groups and additional police focus groups.

“We want to get the victim’s point of view – to give them an opportunity to share their views on the helpline and DVA cars. One of the key things that we want to find out is; whether or not the combination of the two is a required service,” said Dr Williams.

The hope is that not only will the survey and focus groups provide the charity with critical evidence and feedback so that they can identify improvements to their services, but it will also empower victims to share their voice.

“We’re already seeing this in the feedback on the survey so far. There’s a mixture of tick box questions and then additional space to share your further thoughts if you wish, and the responses showing up here have been enormously helpful and illuminating. It felt important to give victims the space to really express what they think.”

While the victim focus groups will be directed by Dr Williams, there will be a member of the Aurora team there to introduce the group and share the space throughout, this ensures that if any victim becomes distressed or wants to seek support afterwards we are able to do this in a trauma informed way.

“I am very aware that I am a male coming in and leading these groups. I want the victims to feel safe to express their opinion and to put their minds at ease. I am trying to be a conduit for their voices.”

Finally, we wanted to ask Dr Williams why he felt so compelled to work with Aurora New Dawn in the first place.

“The team is absolutely fantastic at Aurora – as an outsider going on shifts, looking at the comments on the survey, being in the room with victims, it’s impossible to deny quite how needed their service is. My research specialism is violent and sexual offenders, so I know the harm that these offenders cause to the victims and their loved ones. To have people there, who are not the police, supporting the victims – who really understand and hear them – is amazing. It’s what they need. It means a lot to me to help Aurora enhance this more and more and more.”

If you have experience with our DVA cars or helpline, we would be very grateful to hear your thoughts. It will take between 15 – 20 minutes and your answers will be completely anonymous. You can find out more and take part here.

If you would like to support the Aurora New Dawn charity and you are able to donate you can do so here:

If you would like to support our female only group work and you are able to donate you can do so here:

Aurora’s helpline – 6pm to 9am Monday to Friday and 24hrs over the weekend 02394 216 816

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About the author

Writer in Residence

Sarah Cheverton is Aurora New Dawn's Writer in Residence and a freelance writer and researcher. As well as writing the copy for the Aurora website, Sarah works with the Aurora team on consultation responses, communications and service evaluations. She also works as a Co-Editor for feminist news site Women's Views on News.

See all of Writer in Residence's articles — 91 total

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