- Brief description of the service
Within the meaning of the Victim Support Act, the women’s support centre service (hereinafter ‘the service’) is a compound service with the objective of helping women who have fallen victim to violence escape such violence and attain an independent ability to cope by providing a safe environment and counselling and, if necessary, temporary accommodation for both the woman and the children accompanying her. Violence against women is understood as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against women and means all acts of gender-based violence that result in, or are likely to result in, physical, sexual, psychological, or economic harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion, or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.
- Bases for the provision of the service
2.1 The service provider shall ensure that the measures taken for the purpose of assisting victims within the service shall:
- be free of charge for the victim;
- be based on a gendered understanding of violence against women and domestic violence and shall focus on the human rights and safety of the victim;
- be based on an integrated approach which takes into account the relationship between victims, perpetrators, children, and their wider social environment;
- aim at avoiding secondary victimisation;
- aim at the empowerment and economic independence of women victims of violence;
- allow, where appropriate, for a range of protection and support services to be located on the same premises;
- address the specific needs of vulnerable persons, including child victims, and the protection of the rights of the child.
2.2 In providing the service, the service provider shall be guided by:
- the Victim Support Act https://www.riigiteataja.ee/en/eli/504022019007/consolide;
- the Social Welfare Act https://www.riigiteataja.ee/en/eli/504042016001/consolide;
- Estonian Social Services Quality Guidelines
- General principles for the provision of the service
3.1 In providing the service, principal priority shall be given to the psychological and physical security of the victim (hereafter ‘the victim’ or ‘the customer’) and the children who have experienced violence together with her.
3.2 The service provider shall follow the principles of equal treatment and respect everyone’s human dignity. This means, among other things, that the service must be available to all victims, regardless of their age, religion, nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, health status, and social status.
3.3 The provision of service shall be based primarily on the needs of the victim, and preference shall be given to aid measures aimed at finding opportunities and empowering the victim to organise her life as independently as possible. The victim shall be involved in all stages of the provision of assistance.
3.4 If, in order to improve her ability to cope, the victim is in need of a multitude of aid measures, including the need to coordinate the cooperation of several organisations in providing assistance, the principle of case management shall be applied in assisting the victim. The provision of assistance includes, among other things, the preparation of a case plan and the coordination of a schedule of the interrelated activities of the parties, the appointment of a case coordinator, and an agreement on the procedure for the mutual exchange of information between the parties.
3.5 The service provider shall engage in active cooperation with state and local government authorities and relevant legal persons. A routine part of the work process is communicating and discussing customer cases with other service providers, national victim support workers, local governments, etc. and organising and participating in network meetings. The goal is to find the best solutions for each individual case based on the needs of the victim and her children.
3.6 The service provider must be either a local government or a legal person.
3.7 The service provider must be prepared, if necessary, to assist the victims and the children accompanying the victim, who contact the service provider directly or who are referred to the service from outside the county. Such a referral requires a common reasoned decision to be made by all parties (victim, referring service provider, receiving service provider, and, if necessary, other members of the network) that the service best suited for the victim can be provided in another county.
3.8 If necessary, the service provider must refer the customer to a service provider in another county. The consent or refusal of the victim and her delivery and receipt shall be recorded by both service providers.
3.9 If the victim so requests and service provider has assessed the need for the provision of such a service, the victim and the children accompanying her must be provided with a safe temporary accommodation service in the county of their actual residence.
3.10 A written agreement must be concluded between the service provider and the accommodation provider(s).
3.11 If the victim is referred to another county for safe temporary accommodation, the service provider must, if necessary, provide the victim and the children accompanying her with one-time transportation from their county of residence to the place of accommodation and back. Other activities and operations within the women’s support centre service shall still be provided and coordinated by either the service provider or, if so agreed between the service providers and with the consent of the victim, the service provider of the other county.
3.12 The victim and the children accompanying her must be ensured accessibility to the initial crisis counselling service around the clock.
3.13 The victim and the children accompanying her must be ensured accessibility to the safe temporary accommodation service around the clock.
- General requirements for the service provider
4.1 The service provider shall ensure that the premises necessary for everyday life that comply with the requirements established in clause 7.1.1 are available for the provision of the safe temporary accommodation service to the victims.
4.2 The service provider shall establish internal procedure rules and is obliged to notify the victim thereof at the beginning of the provision of accommodation in a manner that is understandable for the victim.
4.3 The service provider shall ensure the availability of all components of the service on site in the victim’s county of residence, taking into account the specificities established in clauses 3.7–3.10 of the general principles for the provision of the service for the safe temporary accommodation service.
4.4 At the beginning of the provision of the service, the service provider shall, together with his or her case plan/individual action plan, take over those customers who were being provided the service immediately before in the same county and who give their consent to it.
4.5 At the end of the provision of the service, the service provider shall, together with his or her case plan/individual action plan, hand over those customers with whom activities must continue to the service provider who shall continue the provision of the national service in the same county.
- Requirements for the team members directly providing the service
5.1 Team members directly providing the service must have the necessary personal characteristics to work with victims of violence against women and their children.
5.2 No team member may have a criminal record.
5.3 No team member may be dependent on alcohol or narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances.
5.4 Team members directly providing the service must have completed a course addressing violence against women at a university or completed in-service training on the subject of violence against women referred to in subsection 67 (2) of the Victim Support Act (for the team members currently undergoing training at the moment of submission of tenders, the tenderer must provide proof of their participation) or have, as of 1 January 2017, completed at least 40 contact hours of training on violence against women.
5.5 The services of initial crisis counselling and case-based counselling shall be provided by support centre staff members who have at least secondary education and are preferably female. The same requirements apply to volunteers working with customers.
5.6 The service of legal counselling shall be provided by persons who have higher education in law and are prepared, if necessary, to represent the customer in court as a contractual representative, and are preferably female.
5.7 The service of psychological counselling shall be provided by psychologists who have higher education in psychology and are preferably female. Psychologists working with the victims’ children must have undergone training or have work experience in the respective field.
5.8 Psychotherapy shall be provided by persons who have completed training in psychotherapy and are preferably female.
5.9 Persons who voluntarily participate in the provision of the service and who provide the services of legal counselling, psychological counselling, or psychotherapy and who do not have higher education in law or psychology or who have not completed training in psychotherapy (i.e. students currently in the process of obtaining higher education or persons currently undergoing psychotherapy training) may provide the services only under the supervision of a person who complies with the requirements established in clauses 5.4 and 5.6 or 5.7.
5.10 Team members directly providing the service must be able to communicate with the victims, depending on the language skills of the particular victim, in at least Estonian or Russian. Communication with the victims must be understandable to them. Depending on the topic, the team members must be proficient in the specific vocabulary and nuances of counselling language in order to comprehend the psychological problems and emotional state of the customer.
5.11 The service provider’s team members may be involved in the performance of a procurement contract regardless of the nature of their legal relationship with the provider (employment contract, contract for services, authorisation agreement, voluntary work, etc.).
5.12 The abovementioned requirements do not apply to the personnel not directly providing the service.
- General requirements for the safety of the service environment
6.1 The location or locations of the support centre’s safe temporary accommodation service shall not be disclosed.
6.2 The service provider shall organise the provision of the service in a safe densely populated area which is well accessible by public transport (the public transport stop may not be located more than 1 km from the location where the service is provided).
6.3 In providing the service, the service provider shall ensure the confidentiality of the victim, the victim’s children, and relatives, and compliance with all requirements arising from the Personal Data Protection Act and the General Data Protection Regulation.
6.4 The service provider shall ensure that the victim has the right and opportunity to receive the necessary assistance related to the direct provision of the service from female persons.
6.5 Persons may not bring weapons, alcohol, narcotics, and other items dangerous to human life and health into the premises used for the provision of the service and may not behave in a manner that disturbs or endangers other persons. The service provider shall establish more specific safety requirements in its internal procedure rules.
- The women’s support centre compound service consists of the following components:
7.1 Provision of safe temporary accommodation to the victim and her children
7.1.1 The premises of the safe temporary accommodation service provided to the victim and the children accompanying her must be insured and must at least comply with the requirements established for dwellings (https://www.riigiteataja.ee/akt/103072015034), or be offered in an accommodation establishment that must comply with the general requirements established in the regulation ‘Requirements for accommodation establishments’ (https://www.riigiteataja.ee/akt/951667) and the requirements established for the corresponding type of accommodation establishment.
7.1.2 The safe temporary accommodation service shall be provided to victims who are unable to stay in their current residence for safety reasons and who have no other means of temporary accommodation. Accommodation shall be provided at least two hours within its necessity becoming evident, unless the case is of an exceptional nature or the accommodation is not located in another county.
7.1.3 Arrival to the safe temporary accommodation service shall be agreed in advance by appointment or by telephone. If the victim and the children accompanying her are in an emergency situation and no alternative transport options (i.e. police) are available, the transportation of the victim and the children accompanying her shall be organised by the service provider. New arrivals to the accommodation shall be received by a women’s support centre staff member (crisis counsellor or case manager or psychological counsellor or psychotherapist or legal counsellor) or by a volunteer who must comply with the requirements for the team members directly providing the service. If necessary, the initial crisis counselling service shall be provided upon arrival to accommodation.
7.1.4 For persons who, due to special needs, require customised dwellings or constant assistance, guidance, or supervision on a daily basis, the provision of the safe temporary accommodation service shall be organised in cooperation with the local government. In such a case, other components of the women’s support centre service shall be provided at the location where the victim receives the accommodation or at another safe location agreed with the latter.
7.1.5 A victim using the safe temporary accommodation service shall organise her daily life independently if she is mentally and physically capable of doing so and is obliged to comply with the internal procedure rules established by the service provider. If the victim is not mentally and physically capable of organising her daily life independently and the service provider is unable to support her to the required extent, the service provider shall, at the earliest opportunity, contact the local government of the victim’s place of residence, who shall assess the victim’s need for assistance and organise the provision of the respective assistance in accordance with the provisions of the Social Welfare Act.
7.1.6 Responsibility for the children accompanying a parent using the accommodation service shall be borne by the latter if she is mentally and physically capable of doing so. If the parent is not mentally and physically capable of bearing responsibility for the children accompanying her, the service provider shall, at the earliest opportunity, contact the local government of the victim’s place of residence, who shall assess the victim’s and her children’s’ need for assistance and organise the provision of the respective assistance in accordance with the provisions of the Social Welfare Act.
7.1.7 In providing the safe accommodation service, the service provider shall ensure the conditions necessary for the victim to be able to take care of her children.
7.1.8 The safe temporary accommodation service shall not be provided to persons who do not agree or are unable to comply with or violate the internal procedure rules established by the service provider and may therefore pose a threat to themself or others (i.e. persons exhibiting symptoms of alcohol or drug abuse, psychosis, or mental health issues which presuppose constant monitoring and/or medication administration), unless the receiving staff member decides otherwise. The refusal to provide the service must be justified in a manner that is understandable for the victim and the support centre staff member shall, if possible, help find other solutions for the victim. The refusal must be recorded together with the justification and notified to the contact person of the Social Insurance Board and the local government of the victim’s place of residence, who shall assess the victim’s need for assistance and organise the provision of the respective assistance in accordance with the provisions of the Social Welfare Act.
7.1.9 The door of the accommodation premises must be lockable (preferably with a safety lock). The accommodation premises must be provided with the means of making emergency calls in the form of either an alarm button or telephone.
7.1.10 If necessary, the service provider shall provide the victim arriving at the accommodation premises and the children accompanying her with essential hygiene supplies, food products, and other necessary means.
7.2 Initial crisis counselling of the victim and her children
Initial crisis counselling shall be provided around the clock by the women’s support centre staff members and volunteers. If the victim so requests, she may remain anonymous in initial crisis counselling.
7.2.1. Based on the victim’s needs, initial crisis counselling includes the following activities:
188.8.131.52 hearing out the victim and her children and providing them emotional support;
184.108.40.206 assessing the primary security risks of the victim and her children and preparing an action plan to mitigate the primary risks;
220.127.116.11 providing information to the victim about her rights and further assistance available to her;
18.104.22.168 agreeing on the following activities and further appointments;
22.214.171.124 providing information and support to the victim’s other relatives, if necessary.
7.2.2 Initial crisis counselling may also be provided remotely via electronic means of communication, but the support centre must ensure the availability of direct face-to-face counselling if necessary. If the caller’s situation is judged to be critical and the life and health of the victim may be at risk, the Emergency Response Centre 112 must be contacted.
7.2.3 The service provider must ensure the availability of initial crisis counselling to all victims and the children accompanying them who have contacted the women’s support centre in that county directly or have been referred there.
7.3 Case-based counselling of the victim and her children
The purpose of case-based counselling is to help the victim understand their situation and the opportunities available to them and to help make a decision for breaking the cycle of violence, to acknowledge the necessary steps, and to begin their gradual implementation.
7.3.1 Based on the victim’s needs and the preparedness and willingness of the victim and her children, case-based counselling includes the following activities:
126.96.36.199 providing emotional support to the victim and her children;
188.8.131.52 assessing the security risks of the victim and her children and, if necessary, preparing a security plan;
184.108.40.206 identifying the individual needs of the victim, analysing problems with her, and finding solutions;
220.127.116.11 providing information to the victim and her children about their rights and obligations;
18.104.22.168 providing more specific information about the services provided by the women’s support centre, as well as the assistance available outside the women’s support centre;
22.214.171.124 after identifying their need for assistance, referring the victim and her children to the appropriate services;
126.96.36.199 if necessary, motivating the victim to cooperate with a child protection official, agreeing on appropriate measures with the child protection officer, and, if necessary, finding services from outside the women’s support centre;
188.8.131.52 assisting the victim in communicating with the state and government authorities and/or, if necessary, communicating on behalf of the customer or her children with the local government and different authorities (incl. schools and pre-school establishments) and initiating or participating in roundtables;
184.108.40.206 assisting the victim in preparing and submitting petitions and applications;
220.127.116.11 accompanying and supporting the victim in high-stress meetings or proceedings;
18.104.22.168 preparing an action plan together with the victim and motivating the victim to implement it;
22.214.171.124 after assessing risks, preparing a written case plan and individual action plan for persons who require more than initial crisis counselling (psychological or legal counselling or psychotherapy, accommodation services, or case-based counselling lasting more than 2 weeks) and who are ready for face-to-face counselling.
126.96.36.199 explaining data protection rules to the victim and obtaining the victim’s written consent for processing personal data and, if necessary, performing other activities;
188.8.131.52 if necessary, teaching different coping skills to the victim.
7.3.2 In exceptional cases, the victim may remain anonymous in case-based counselling, but in this case the services shall be provided to a limited extent, as decided by the service provider.
7.3.3 The times of the meetings and other activities shall be agreed in advance. Counselling shall be provided in a private space, preferably in a separate counselling room. Case-based counselling shall be provided by the women’s support centre staff members and volunteers.
It is advisable to conduct case-based counselling on site with the victim in a counselling room, but if the customer so requests, it can also be done remotely via electronic means of communication.
7.3.4 The service provider must ensure the availability of case-based counselling on site in the county to all victims and the children accompanying them who have contacted the women’s support centre in that county directly or have been referred there and for whom the respective need for assistance has been assessed.
7.4 Psychological counselling and psychotherapy of the victim
7.4.1 The purposes of psychological counselling are to improve the victim’s emotional well-being, alleviate tensions, resolve crises and problems, as well as to promote independence in problem solving, support the victim’s ability to cope in order to achieve adequate self-esteem, greater self-confidence, skills and self-efficacy in making choices and decisions and achieving goals set for oneself, and to teach a better understanding of oneself, one’s abilities, and situations. It includes the following activities:
184.108.40.206 assessing the psychological state of the victim;
220.127.116.11 addressing the problematic situation and finding alternative solutions and options together with the victim, taking into account her personality, needs, and environment.
7.4.2 Psychotherapy is a thorough, goal-oriented and systematic treatment or therapeutic intervention with the purpose of alleviating or eliminating established psychological symptoms, altering dysfunctional behavioural and mental patterns, fostering the patient’s/customer’s maturity, development, mental health, and well-being, and alleviating emotional and psychological discomfort. It includes the following activities:
18.104.22.168 psychotherapeutic assessment of the victim (identifying her problems, assessing her state);
22.214.171.124 planning psychotherapeutic work (setting goals for mitigating the disorder, achieving emotional balance, or personal development, based on the needs of the victim) and preparing a therapy plan;
126.96.36.199 conducting psychotherapeutic work using evidence-based psychotherapy techniques, based on the purpose of therapy and the assessment results.
7.4.3 The victim shall be referred to the service by the women’s support centre manager or a person authorised by the latter who, before referral, shall ascertain that the victim is not receiving compensation for the costs of psychological assistance to avoid violating the requirement arising from the subsection 61 (21) of the Victim Support Act.
7.4.4 Counselling shall be provided face-to-face in a counselling room where full privacy is guaranteed.
7.4.5 The service provider must ensure the availability of psychological counselling and/or psychotherapy on site in the county to all victims and the children accompanying them who have contacted the women’s support centre in that county directly or have been referred there and for whom the respective need for assistance has been assessed.
7.5 Legal counselling of the victim
7.5.1. The victim’s legal counselling includes one or more of the following activities:
188.8.131.52 legal counselling of the victim, which includes at least explaining to the victim her rights and obligations, planning solutions to legal problems and guiding the victim, assisting the victim in making petitions and applications, and providing other necessary primary legal assistance to the victim;
184.108.40.206 if necessary, acting as the victim’s representative in pre-trial proceedings and in communication with judicial and administrative authorities, investigative bodies, bailiffs, and third parties, incl. preparing the necessary documents and, if necessary, collecting evidence in the interest of the victim;
220.127.116.11 preparing other legal documents and performing other legal acts, if necessary.
7.5.2 Legal counselling must be timely and professional, based on knowledge of the facts, evidence, case law, and legal theory, as well as the specificities and mechanisms of violence against women, and must take into account the relevant international and national legal theory and practice at each stage of counselling. Counselling must ensure the lawfulness of the victim’s activities and the best possible protection of her rights and interests.
7.5.3 The victim shall be referred to the service by the women’s support centre manager or a person authorised by the latter.
7.5.4 Counselling shall be provided preferably in a counselling room where full privacy is guaranteed. In case of a justified need and with the consent of the customer, counselling may also be provided remotely via telephone or other electronic means of communication.
7.5.5 The service provider must ensure the availability of legal counselling on site in the county to all victims and the children accompanying them who have contacted the women’s support centre in that county directly or have been referred there and for whom the respective need for assistance has been assessed.
7.6 Assessing the primary need for assistance of the children accompanying the victim and providing assistance to them
7.6.1 The principles of treatment of children in need of assistance or in danger are established in chapters 6 and 7 of the Child Protection Act.
7.6.2 The service provider assesses the current situation of the children accompanying the victim and their primary need for assistance, evaluating their state and the need to support the development of the parental skills of the victim receiving the service, and organises the initial counselling of the children.
7.6.3 The service provider is obliged to notify the local government of a child in need of assistance no later than on the first working day after the referral. The service provider is obliged to notify of a child in danger immediately via the emergency number 112. A child arriving to the accommodation service is automatically considered a child in need of assistance.
7.6.4 The service provider shall participate in a roundtable organised by the local government for assessing the need for assistance, and, if necessary, other network-based case discussions and roundtables.
7.6.5. In order to assist a child in need of assistance or in danger, the service provider may also contact the Social Insurance Board’s Child Protection Department, if necessary, or call the 24/7 Child Helpline Service number 116 111.
7.6.6 The service provider shall support the victim in taking care of her children and provide advice if necessary.
7.6.7 The service provider may provide the children with a variety of age-appropriate activities, such as hands-on and creative activities, games, help with school and homework, finding suitable recreational activities, etc.
- Availability and volume of the service
8.1 The women’s support centre service does not require referral and any victim of violence against women may contact the women’s support centre directly for help.
8.2 Services shall be provided regardless of the victim’s place of residence in the population register.
8.3 The volume of the initial crisis counselling and case-based counselling of the victims and their children has no limit.
8.4 The volume of the victim’s psychological counselling, psychotherapy, and legal counselling depends on both the victim’s needs as well as the capabilities of the service provider. Thus, psychological counselling, psychotherapy, and/or legal counselling shall be provided in cases where the victim’s needs have been identified through assessment and the need for the provision of the respective service has been identified. The service provider shall provide the aforementioned services to an extent based primarily on the needs of the victim. If the service provider is not financially capable of providing the services of psychological and legal counselling to the extent fully corresponding to the victim’s every need, then in order to ensure the best possible solutions for the victim, the service provider shall cooperate with state and local government authorities and other relevant legal persons. The agreed solutions shall be recorded in the case plan. If providing services to the victim in the extent fully corresponding to the victim’s every need is not possible even in cooperation with other authorities, the service provider shall notify the Social Insurance Board thereof at the earliest opportunity.
8.5 The safe temporary accommodation service shall be provided to the victim for up to 6 consecutive months during which the victim is obliged to perform the tasks agreed in the case plan and receive other assistance offered to her. The need for the provision of the services and their volume is assessed by the support centre staff in cooperation with the victim of violence against women. If the victim needs accommodation for a longer period of time, the service provider shall notify the contractor thereof before the end of the 6-month period and shall proceed in accordance with the contractor’s instructions.
8.6 In order to provide individual and comprehensive assistance to the victim, the service provider must, with the involvement of the victim, prepare an individual action plan as part of the case plan, which identifies, among other things, the operations and activities performed within the framework of the service, that are based on the needs the particular victim, and the primary purpose of which is to ensure the victim’s safety and independent ability to cope after leaving the service.
8.7 If the victim is referred to the service by another service provider or local government, the service provider shall also take into account the information provided by the referring party regarding the identified need for assistance and the goals established.
8.8 Refusal to provide a service must be recorded and the service provider must give notice of the person or family in need of social services to the local government of their place of residence.
- Gathering feedback and settling complaints
9.1 The service provider shall adopt and make publicly available the procedure for submitting and settling complaints.
9.2 Supervision over the service provider shall be exercised by the Social Insurance Board.
Depending on the availability of additional resources, the service provider may provide to the victim other additional activities, operations, or services in addition to the women’s support centre service, such as assistance in organising transport (i.e. for delivery to a court hearing or a doctor’s appointment), relocation, support groups for women who have experienced violence, experience counselling services, debt counselling services, etc. Similarly, if respectively trained specialists and additional financial resources are available, the women’s support centre may also provide psychological counselling or psychotherapy to children.