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A woman talks on a phone while sitting on an outdoor bench. A dog sits next to her.

Victim-services clients get support during pandemic

Marnie Neal, an RCMP case worker in Surrey, B.C., and her accredited facility dog Cambria, have changed how they work to ensure physical distancing. Credit: RCMP


RCMP employees who normally help victims of crime or people at risk using face-to-face meetings say they are now supporting clients from home during the COVID-19 crisis.

"People who get into this line of work thrive on human contact. Now that's gone with the people we help," says Jana Stocker, a program co-ordinator with the RCMP Restorative Justice Program in Surrey, B.C. "But there seems to be an understanding from our clients that we're all doing what we can to help people while also making sure people stay healthy."

In mid-March, RCMP Victim Services in Surrey began to limit contact between employees and clients by first implementing a work-at-the-office approach and then a work-at-home policy.

"We began to ask ourselves, 'Are we putting our staff and clients at risk by going out?'" says Amanda Peters, Intervention Programs Manager at Surrey RCMP. "So we decided to stop that and ask staff to reach out with emails and calls."

Case workers often find themselves in stressful circumstances that can range from handling online harassment files, supporting witnesses at domestic abuse scenes, and responding to assaults and even sudden deaths.

Now employees talk to police officers and managers over the phone and email to discuss cases and later connect with clients and victims.

Stocker is involved in helping young people from 12 to 17 who fall under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, as well as those 18 to 25, and sometimes even older individuals.

She helps offenders understand the impact of their crimes and, with the support and approval of the victim and a parent or guardian, police and others, help them make amends.

In mid-April she found herself providing a teenage offender with reading material to help him understand the impact of his crime, the damage it caused the victim and what message an apology letter should send.

"It's taking longer, but the outcome will hopefully be the same: avoid a criminal record and help the teen get on a better path." she says.

Marnie Neal, a case worker with RCMP Victim Services, says even though working from home is challenging, she and her colleagues still want to ensure victims and other clients get all of the supports they're entitled to.

She says resources such as bereavement and trauma guides can also help people through critical incidents.

"No matter what occurred, we still want to be involved from the beginning," says Neal. "Being a victim means a loss of control. There's still a lot of resources at our disposal to get them that control back while we work from home."

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