Northern Health Foundation has partnered with Betty Cares Foundation with the aim to provide clothing packs to vulnerable women who present for treatment to our hospital. The data shows that 88% of people who experience domestic violence had a hospital admission during their journey.
Juan Alhucema, Northern Health Social Worker, said a new team member and social worker, Lorri Chandler, knew about these packs and brought the idea to Northern Hospital.
“There are around 16 hospitals who give out the packs, and it is the right time for us to join. Lorri has set it all up and we’ve received the first batch of packs to give out,” he said.
As far as the stats go, family violence has one of the highest number of incidents in the northern area.
“We want to be as supportive and encouraging as we can be to women presenting to the emergency department (ED) having experienced family violence. One of the things we try to support them with is clothing. Some of these women leave their house with the bare minimum,” he said.
Juan explained that some family violence patients who come to the ED need to have their clothes cut to be able to receive treatment, or they come in with their clothing already damaged. Clothing impacts the patient’s sense of dignity and it’s important for women to feel safe and dignified in a such a delicate time.
“The Betty Cares packs have a t-shirt, pants, cardigan and a backpack, all made of really nice cotton material. It’s all brand new, extremely good quality and women can get the pack in the appropriate size,” he explained.
Juan says that starting a new life journey in new clothes is very symbolic for these women. Due to the lack of precise coding across the state when it comes to family violence patients, our social work team can’t exactly capture the number of patients they see.
“If I had to give an approximate number, I would say we see about 6-10 incidents a week. That’s a lot,” Juan added.
Most family violence incidents happen overnight – there is evidence that shows that Friday and Saturday nights are especially risky, as well as special events like birthdays, parties, Christmas, New Year, and Easter. The social work team is available to patients 9 am to 5 pm Monday to Friday, which means that often patients who come to the ED during weekends or public holidays don’t get a chance to see a social worker.
“I think there is only one hospital in Victoria that funds a social worker in the ED overnight, with a family violence prevention focus,” Juan explained.
The national data shows that on average it takes a woman seven times to pack her bags and leave the house with the intention of never coming back before she actually abandons the violent partner.
“We have to keep in mind that seven is the average number – that means for every woman who leaves the situation for the first time, comes a woman who has left for the 14th time. And some never leave,” Juan explained.
Erin Campbell from Betty Cares said the company started donating clothes to Royal Children’s Hospital first and after seeing the impact the clothing has made, they decided to spread the initiative throughout Australia and New Zealand.
“As a fashion brand that has been dressing women for almost 20 years, we know the positive impact that comfortable and well-made clothing can have on women. Our Betty Basics Essentials Range is one of our most popular collections and the clothes are comfortable, loose-fitting and look great – perfect for women who are in hospital recovering,” she said.
The company have started to donate 5% of all wholesale sales of the Essentials range to the Foundation to fund the creation of Betty Cares packs. In September this year, they are launching a scarf where 100% of sales will fund the Betty Cares Foundation.
The Social Work team at Northern Health sees a significant number of requests for clothing and already has a small informal clothing storage. With the Betty Cares packs, the team will now be able to met the demand and help vulnerable women of the north.