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CEO Visits the Frontline

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The New Year means new resolutions and for 2013 mine is to take on board what I recently learnt when I spent the day 'walking in the shoes' of my frontline staff.

As Chief Executive of the national charity Victim Support my job is very much about strategy, management and decision making. Although rewarding, it is quite different from the excellent work my team of 1,500 staff members and 6000 volunteers do every day helping victims and witnesses of crime.

So I decided it was about time I spent a day finding out what their typical day is like.

The result was interesting. I was powerfully reminded that no matter how well senior leaders think they understand what their staff do on the frontline, they always need to learn more.

I shadowed a Victim Support service delivery manager in our Harrow and Brent office. We visited a number of victims including a burglary victim who had been burgled twice in one month. He was traumatised and urgently needed emotional support and practical information on home security and local safer neighbourhood teams. It helped me see firsthand the real impact of crime and what victims need to help them cope and recover in the aftermath.

Back at the office, I assigned home visits for victims to our volunteers and telephoned the victims we have supported to ask them questions about the quality of the help they had received from us. One victim broke down in tears as the trauma came back but she felt better after talking about it.

The day helped me appreciate the skills required in dealing with sensitive case information and the pressure to make sure you get things right the first time. My staff can't afford to make mistakes as this is real life and they are dealing with people who are already emotionally or physically bruised when they come to us.

I was incredibly proud to see how much victims valued the hard work of my staff - and many did not even know that we were a charity. It was very humbling.

As part of the 'back to the floor' programme, I was also shadowed by a staff member for the day so the insight achieved was mutual. In fact I would recommend this as a valuable tool to other organisations who want to ensure that their management team stays in touch with frontline staff.

People - agencies, families, anyone - can underestimate just how upsetting the aftermath of crime is. Going out there really brought this home. We need healthy, supportive communities to help victims of crime cope, recover and move on.

If unfortunately you have been a victim or witness of crime I know first hand that my staff can do an excellent job of helping you through this tough time. You can call our Supportline on 0845 30 30 900 or go to our website www.victimsupport.org.uk.