How RASASC embraced a blended service model using tech
An inspiring case study from our report Response to change: how small voluntary organisations are using tech
RASASC is a support centre for victims of rape and sexual abuse. The charity offers specialist therapy, counselling and support to people who have experienced sexual abuse. The organisation has been running for over 35 years, with its main office based in Bangor and counselling outreach centres located across the whole of North Wales.
Before Covid-19, RASASC started piloting an online counselling service. North Wales is a large area with limited transport connectivity, so providing an online option helped RASASC reach more people. When Covid-19 restrictions were put in place, they continued developing their service, which included email support and online counselling. Although referral rates dropped at the beginning, it offered another access point for service users and limited possible ‘disruptions to the therapeutic process’. RASASC sourced additional training and supervision for staff members to ensure that services could continue safely online.
Some of RASASC’s service users were initially reluctant to go online: ‘A lot of our clients deferred and wanted to wait for face-to-face again. Those who wanted to go online did and data suggests that they still experienced therapeutic benefits as those who accessed therapy face-to-face. Clients also reported that they benefitted therapeutically from our online therapeutic intervention. We then contacted those that had deferred after two months and most came back as they realised they wouldn’t be able to continue with face-to-face for some time – they also reported the positive benefits of RASASC online therapeutic intervention.’
At the same time, RASASC was aware of the limitations of online services. Not everyone in the region has the necessary computers and webcams at home, and some lack broadband and Wi-Fi access. There were also safeguarding issues to consider: ‘We had to stop our children’s work as it wasn’t ethical to continue working online with young children. We had to source funding to reconfigure our centre so we could continue face-to-face services with children and high-risk clients in a safe manner’.
RASASC plans to continue to offer both, with face-to-face delivery in the future: ‘We’ll be offering choice to clients moving forward, acknowledging the fact that both online and face-to-face delivery of services is of benefit for the organisation and, most importantly, our clients’. They are also challenging themselves to improve their services further by exploring online group therapy. In addition, they are looking at how they can use social media and online services to reach the hard-to-reach and marginalised survivors, such as male, LGBT and disabled clients.
Overall, RASASC has realised that digital has to go hand-in-hand with face-to-face service delivery: ‘They have to coexist together’.