Mapping the Margins: Navigating the Ecologies of Domestic Violence Service Provision
According to research by the Office of National Statistics, an estimated 2.0 million adults (1.3 million women, 695,000 men) aged 16 to 59 experienced domestic violence in the UK in 2018.
Cuts to local authorities across the UK after the 2008 Financial Crisis, particularly in areas such as the North East, have left many domestic violence services stretched. Many local authorities have placed further reliance on the third-sector to fill the void of once state, now local service provision.
Work addressing the negative impacts of domestic violence on victim-survivors and service providers has slowly been contributing to the HCI discourse. However, heavily-politicised specialisms with conflicting values and practices – such as domestic violence service delivery – can be especially difficult to navigate.
In this paper, we report on a mixed methods study consisting of interviews, a design dialogue and an ideation workshop with domestic violence service providers to explore the potential of an online service directory to support their work.
Through this three-stage research process, we were able to characterise this unique service delivery landscape and identify tensions in services’ access, understandings of technologies and working practices.
We report on our participation in an innovation activity that aimed to design and develop a digital directory in the North of England.
We highlighted the service providers’ varying level of technical competence, strained relationships with other organisations, and their anxiety at being potentially exposed to either criticism or oversubscribed through the use of a digital directory.
Our findings contribute to a nuanced reality of designing a colloborative digital system with service providers of domestic violence against the backdrop of UK austerity.
MAPPING AS A SURFACING ISSUES
Ready access to services for victim-survivors, perpetrators, families and those affected by violence is a core concern for providers.
However, the providers had significant anxieties about being scrutinized and overwhelmed by referrals. Our participants expressed at each stage of the process, despite their desire to reach people who may need assistance, they are mindful of not jeopardising existing services.
We identified that the act of making a directory, in and of itself was perceived as posing a risk to existing services, that could negatively impact their already strained provision.
WORKING WITHIN THE HYPERLOCAL
Our participants were aware of the difficulties of ‘working towards the same goal’ in such politically-sensitive settings, which could frame the service providers as competitors.
There are many areas to consider such as the potential to undermine the trust of hidden services, such as members of the community – doctors, teachers etc – who could refer someone to the service.
By attempting to externalise the point of entry for the services, we may fail to recognise the true scope of their provision and could undermine the careful practises and tactical knowledge of local communities.
MUTUALLY SENSITISING TO ‘THE BIGGER PICTURE
The three-stage process we designed allowed us to gradually reveal the deeper and nuanced complexities and tensions that can exist in the relationships between service providers, and between collaborators and the researcher. This allowed us to slow-down the sensitive design process and allow for more space for reflection.
Honourable Mention at CHI.
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