Introducing social worker, Caroline Rhodes – enhancing our response to family violence

Caroline Rhodes

The COVID pandemic brings with it an added level of risk for victim survivors of family violence. As Australians continue to follow advice to remain home where possible, there has been a spike in family violence incidents as victim survivors are quarantined and isolated with the alleged perpetrator. We only need to read about the increased incidents being reported to Victoria Police.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Social Work in the Allied Health and Patient Flow Program have continued to receive high volumes of referrals for patients who have presented with or disclosed family violence.

Throughout this period Senior Social Worker and Family Violence Lead within the Allied Health and Patient Flow Program, Caroline Rhodes, has provided a direct specialist Family Violence response for patients as well as secondary consultation for Social Workers and employees across Monash Health.

Caroline Rhodes says “it is important for all health professionals to understand and try to recognise potential family violence or people who are at risk of experiencing family violence. Victim survivors don’t always disclose family violence however they may present with signs and symptoms. As a result, health professionals may suspect that family violence has occurred and it is important that an appropriate response is made to ensure that victim survivors seek the support they need.”

“It is vital that we emphasise that ongoing support is available from health services, hospitals and specialist family violence services, during the current pandemic restrictions. We can also reassure clients that we can assist them to feel safe and that they are entitled to healthy and happy relationships.

“Family violence is never ok, no matter what the circumstances,” Caroline said.

“Respecting people’s choices and helping to empower them during this time is invaluable. They may not want to pursue support right now however they may contact later if they feel they have pre-existing rapport and awareness of available services.”

Caroline’s role includes advocating for, assisting and empowering victim survivors of family violence and elder abuse as well as vulnerable children who have been exposed to family violence. Caroline works in collaboration with the Social Work team, South East Centre Against Sexual Assault (SECASA), the Strengthening Hospital Responses to Family Violence Team and the Monash Health Elder Abuse Liaison Officer, to ensure best outcomes for our most vulnerable clients and their families.

Caroline is available to provide clinical assessment and support to patients and vulnerable children who are currently experiencing, at risk of experiencing, or who have experienced family violence in the past. Based in the Emergency Department at Casey Hospital, Caroline provides guidance for Monash Health clinicians to support best outcomes for our patients and their families.

Since COVID-19 restrictions were put into place, Caroline has provided secondary consultations across Monash Health sites, as well as many direct Social Work assessments in the Casey Hospital Emergency Department and the wards. Along with this she has also completed a ‘Family Violence Risk Assessment-Telephone based framework’ for Social Workers to enhance their practice in response to changes in the current environment.

There are a range of different resources and services available for Monash Health employees and our community to access information and support:

Approved by Katrina Nankervis,  Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, Executive Director Residential Care and Support Services


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