A BORDERS expert on domestic abuse has been named as this year’s winner of one of the region’s most prestigious awards.
Andrea Beavon, from Bowden, is the violence against women and domestic abuse co-ordinator at Scottish Borders Council (SBC) – and the winner of the Richard Hill Award 2011.
She was presented with the award at the launch of the Hear our Voice DVD at council headquarters. The award was initiated by Mr Hill, a previous director of technical services at the local authority, who wanted to reward an individual each year who had “gone the extra mile”.
Andrea works within the safer communities team based in Newtown St Boswells and team manager Kenny Simpson nominated her.
He praised his colleague for the way she had tackled the area of domestic abuse with drive and energy, identifying huge gaps in service provision and raising awareness in the public, private and voluntary sectors.
“She managed to get Violence Against Women (VAW) issues placed on all partners’ agendas and incorporated within the Single Outcome Agreement. She worked directly with Scottish Government and obtained funding to provide the Let’s BSafe service for survivors of domestic abuse,” added Mr Simpson.
“In 2010, she led the partnership in creating the first-ever Scottish Borders Rape Crisis Centre. Her knowledge as a board member on the Scottish Rape Crisis Board was instrumental in both securing funding, and for providing a service tailor-made to local needs.
“She has been the lead in the Pathway Project, a ground-breaking plan incorporating advocacy, community outreach and Children Experiencing Domestic Abuse Recovery groups (CEDAR) for the Scottish Borders which will be the first of its kind in the UK.
“Andrea has made a bid to the BIG Lottery and Scottish Government to fund this three-year project. With overall project costs of £1.3million, she has managed to get SBC, NHS Borders, Lothian and Borders Police and local housing providers to provide a growth investment of over £130,000 in times when budgets are being slashed.”
Mr Simpson described the recent production of the DVD, Hear Our Voice, a powerful documentary highlighting the real life experiences of four survivors, as an exceptional piece of work.
The film was funded by Scottish Borders Council and the Scottish Government. The Holyrood funding was provided from the gender-based violence and health programme at NHS Scotland and the DVD will be used in the ongoing training programmes across Scotland designed to improve the healthcare response to gender-based violence.
All of the women involved are now free of their abusive relationships, and their hopes for this DVD are that people understand that it is very difficult to leave everything behind and that they rely heavily on people responding appropriately.
The aim of the film is to raise awareness in training, across communities, in services, with staff teams and community groups. The DVD includes a resource pack to support its use as in training and information on support services.
Andrea also recently achieved an MSc degree in drug and alcohol studies and has started a five-year PhD in domestic abuse and substance misuse at West of Scotland University. She has also started her Future Leaders programme with SBC in the last few months.
And if all that were not enough, she somehow manages to find time to be secretary for Bowden village committee – a post she has held for 14 years.
Mr Simpson summed up Andrea’s achievements by saying: “It is remarkable how Andrea crams all of her work in. She is an absolute joy to have as a member of my team and someone who has massive potential, as the above shows. I think she is a very worthy winner of this award, which will recognise and reward the unstinting work that she provides to SBC and the whole community.”
Andrea said she is delighted to have been honoured with the award, though she said: “It is a bit embarrassing from the point of view I am just doing my job and trying to do it as best as I can. But as part of a partnership, to be acknowledged by your colleagues and management, is very humbling.
“The award also means it raises the profile of the work we do in the partnership and that, to me, is the most important thing,” she told TheSouthern.
Born, brought up and educated in the Borders, Andrea spent 10 years working in the drugs and alcohol abuse field, and then in training on a nationwide level before taking up the post, in 2007, of development officer in the Borders for domestic abuse services.
“I didn’t have a background in the domestic abuse field, but being born and brought up here, educated here, I knew I wanted to stay in this area at some point and this seemed like a good opportunity to make that happen.”
Asked how she manages to cram so much into her life – she is married to Neil and is also a keen gardener – Andrea says it is all about making time.
“If you believe in something, you make the time. To be honest, something like being on the village committee doesn’t take up much time with just one meeting a month. It might all sound a lot, but if you enjoy what you are doing, it makes it a lot easier.”
At this time of year, services for those suffering from domestic abuse experience an upsurge in demand. Andrea explained the reasons behind that.
“Nationally, December and January see an increase in demand for services. With a new year approaching many women think ‘this is the last year I’m putting up with this’ and decide to do something about domestic abuse.
“Christmas is also a poignant time when many people think differently about families and New Year is a time for resolutions.”
When it comes to domestic abuse and violence, not just towards women, but also to children and men, Andrea says it would be wrong for people to think it only happens in big cities.
“One issue we have is the low reporting of such incidents by victims. This is about communities and numbers of people. Since 2007 we have seen an increase in cases reported to the police of between 10 and 20 per cent,” she explained.
“That seems like things are getting worse, but more people are contacting the police.
“The police are being more effective in such cases and people’s trust in the police has increased. We have about 850 cases of domestic abuse a year, but we know that only one in three women report it.
“So this is not a rural versus urban situation – it happens where there are human beings. People look at the Borders and say it’s so scenic, such a lovely place, that such things couldn’t possibly happen here. But it does.”
Andrea and her partnership colleagues now have their fingers crossed that when the decision is announced in February on their bid for more than £1million of lottery cash, they will be successful.
“It would let us completely redesign domestic abuse services and get them up and running by September. It’s a big project.”
As for her ambitions for the services for 2012, Andrea says the bottom line is always about persuading people to come forward and seek support.
“There are presently very few services for male victims of domestic abuse and we also want to increase the number of services children can access.”
Asked how she managed to switch off outside of work and avoid feeling depressed by working in a field that deals in so much human misery, Andrea says she always aims to go home at the end of a day feeling she has done the best she can to help make a difference.
“I can switch off. I try to think ‘I’ve done what I can today’. I am proud to be a Borderer and I feel disappointed when I look at my home region and know what needs to still be done and what still needs to change.
“But it won’t change overnight – Rome wasn’t built in a day.”