What is the advocacy service?

The advocacy service is a free service available across Northern Ireland, primarily for victims of domestic and sexual abuse crime who are engaging in the criminal justice system. It provides co-ordinated and tailored support responsive to an individual’s needs, in partnership with well established service providers.

The service will:

  • Assess individual need and risk;
  • Develop a safety support plan;
  • Provide general advocacy, practical support and information on domestic and sexual abuse;
  • Offer impartial support;
  • Help encourage and maintain your engagement within the criminal justice system;
  • Work with you to identify any additional support needs;
  • Adopt a trauma-informed approach that promotes your voice, participation and best interests and engages with you;
  • Work collaboratively with statutory and voluntary sector partners to ensure streamlined and effective service delivery; and
  • Refer you on to other statutory and non-statutory agencies for specialist support as appropriate.

The service is available to those who are victims of a domestic or sexual abuse crime, engaging with the criminal justice system; those who are engaging with the Rowan Sexual Assault Referral Centre (the Rowan) or where a Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference has agreed that there should be a referral to the service and you agree to this.

What is ASSIST NI?

ASSIST NI is a partnership between Belfast and Lisburn Women’s Aid, Foyle Family Justice Centre and Men’s Advisory Project. It brings together the expertise of these three organisations in supporting those who have been affected by domestic and sexual abuse.

Who can use the advocacy service/is a qualifying victim?

The advocacy service is available if you are a victim of a domestic and/or sexual abuse crime, after this has been reported to the police; where you are engaging with the Rowan; or where as a result of a Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference it is agreed that there should be a referral to the service and you have agreed to this.

How do I access the advocacy service?

The service is available to those who are victims of a domestic or sexual abuse crime, and whose details have been shared by the police with the service provider ASSIST NI. In those circumstances the advocacy service will contact you to see if you want to avail of the service.

It is also available to those engaging with the Rowan or where a Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference has agreed that there should be a referral to the service and you agree to this.  In those circumstances, where you indicate that you wish to avail of the service, the advocacy service will contact you.

Can I refer myself, or someone I am worried about, into the advocacy service?

Where you are a victim of crime, and are engaging in the criminal justice process, you can self refer into the service. While you cannot refer someone else to the service, you can encourage them to refer themselves by contacting us via email at info@assistni.org.uk.

Read more about self referrals here.

Can I change my mind about using the service?

Yes, at any point. Should you not take up the advocacy service, when first offered, you can avail of it at a later date. At any point when you are using the advocacy service you can also change your mind and decide that you no longer wish to have this service. This will in no way impact on how any criminal justice case is dealt with.

Why should I trust ASSIST NI?

ASSIST NI is a partnership between Belfast and Lisburn Women’s Aid, Foyle Family Justice Centre and Men’s Advisory Project who have a lengthy and wide range of expertise in the areas of domestic and sexual abuse. You will be listened to, believed and supported.

Are ASSIST NI advocates qualified?

The advocacy service is provided by three specialist organisations, with a lengthy and wide range of expertise in the areas of domestic and sexual abuse. All advocates have previous experience of providing support to those in crisis and with an understanding of the dynamics, impact and scale of domestic and sexual abuse. They will also undertake a lengthy training programme over a number of weeks.

Is the service free?

Yes. The advocacy service is free, funded by the Department of Justice and the Police Service of Northern Ireland. There are no charges associated with the services provided.

Will I keep the same advocate throughout?

As far as possible you should have the same advocate throughout your engagement with the advocacy service. Where this is not possible you will be advised of this.

How long will my advocate work with me?

Typically an advocate will contact you shortly after you have reported the crime to the police (or where you have been referred by the Rowan or Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference). The length of time spent with any person will depend on their individual needs and circumstances.

Will my advocate give me legal advice?

No. The advocacy service will provide information in relation to the criminal justice process and what you can expect as you progress through it. However, it is not the role of the advocacy service to provide legal advice or assist you with the progression of civil legal matters.

Will the advocate be male or female?

While the majority of advocates who applied, and were recruited to, the advocacy service are female, both male and female advocates are available. Should you prefer to deal with an advocate who is of a particular gender you should make this known at the outset. Where possible, this will be accommodated.

What if I’m not happy with the advocate I’ve been given?

Should you have any concerns about the service provided you should raise those with your advocate in the first instance.

If your concerns are not resolved to your satisfaction you can bring this to the attention of a lead advocate and subsequently the ASSIST NI Project Manager. Further details on how to do this can be found here.

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Please bear with us!
We are a new service and are welcoming new clients every day. We aim to have our service available to all qualifying victims as soon as ever possible.
Thank you for your patience.