Today we were approached by the commissioner of a new ISVA Service, who asked for our view on the use of the job title ‘KIDSVA’, for those who are providing ISVA support to children and young people. We had a long discussion and it set us off thinking about whether or not job titles are important in this area of work.
So just what is in a job title? That’s quite an interesting question, particularly, as job titles seem to range from job to job and employer to employer. However, we came to the conclusion that generally a job title is usually be selected for 1 of 2 reasons. Firstly, and we think most commonly, a job title will be selected to define the person’s role or responsibilities. Secondly, job titles can be used to show where an individual sits in a hierarchy within an organisation. For example, a job that has ‘Manager’ in their job title will usually be somebody whose role it is to either manage people or manage a function.
So are job-titles important? Think about your job title for a moment. Are the words in it really important to you? If you were honest with yourself, we think you would probably say yes. We think we would all want a title that, if possible, identifies our knowledge, expertise and success. For example, we get jobs based on our previous titles and even pay rises because of our titles. People place us on a pedestal because of our job titles too. Colleagues trust us because of our job titles. The combination of words that appear on our business card or email signature can be quite powerful for us as we communicate with others professionally.
So where are we going with this? Following on from our discussions with the Commissioner this morning, we began to think about the professionalism that is communicated by a job title. We asked ourselves would the job-title ‘KIDSVA’ instill confidence in others and satisfy them that the person doing this role is a highly skilled professional? That they have expertise in providing support to people with often very complex needs? That they would be able to identify, assess and manage a whole range of risks? When we reflected, we felt that it may not and we started to become concerned for what the introduction of this job-title could mean for the ISVA workforce and their professional reputation amongst the other professionals who they work along side.
LimeCulture has spent the last four years trying to improve the professionalism of the ISVA workforce. We, along with many ISVAs themselves, have worked hard to try and raise the profile of ISVAs amongst other professionals so that they can see the value in the support they provide to victims of sexual violence. We think we are beginning to see a shift in recognition of ISVAs, as more and more professionals begin to realise the important roles that ISVAs play and the difficult circumstances within which they operate to provide frequently outstanding services. ISVA should not be undervalued nor undermined.
The other day, we had a discussion with a government official about the fact that many ISVAs were also called Advocates (as opposed to the more frequently used Advisor). He had no idea of this and thought Advocates were a completely different workforce. Once explained, he found this quite easy to grip- we think in part it was because the A in Advocate doesn’t actually change the acronym in ISVA! However, if we continue to change the acronym further, it think it might spell trouble for that individual who may not be so easily recognised as being part of a bigger professional network.
Now, to be clear, LimeCulture is not advocating the particular use of any job title for the professionals who work in this field. We don’t have a preference as to whether somebody is called an Advocate or an Advisor. Although, we do have some concern about professionals working with children and young people having the word ‘Independent’ in their job title (as they can never really be independent when it comes to safeguarding children), generally we don’t think it matters, as long as the job-title conveys a) the professionalism that they provide in their service, and b) that it identifies them as part of as wider professional workforce that has clearly defined roles and responsibilities. We believe that because of the work that has gone into raising the profile, and of course the excellent services that are provided by the majority of the workforce, the title of ISVA (regardless of what the A stands for) now does this.
However, we do also have to consider whether a job title has any impact on performance or the ability of the person to do their job well? We don’t think it does. If you don’t have a fancy job title are you less able to undertake the role? Highly unlikely. We don’t think there is any evidence to say that you are only as good as your job title. In fact, we have worked with some ‘KIDSVAs’, and we know that they are providing some excellent services to children and young people.
So then, why are we worried by the introduction of the title ‘KIDSVA’? In all honesty, we think it’s mainly to do with the perceptions of others about the level of professionalism associated with the role. We are particularly concerned that those working within the criminal justice system simply would not take the job title seriously or at least recognise the importance of the role ‘KIDSVAs’ are providing to some of the most vulnerable children in our society.
There are certain job titles that command respect, due to the level of professionalism that goes along with that role, and LimeCulture would like to see that level of respect extended to ISVAs, whether they are supporting children or adults. Would a doctor who decided instead to use the job title ‘Germ-Killer’ or a police officer who decided to use the job title ‘Crim-Catcher’ appear professional to others? Regardless of how well they do their job? We don’t think so and we think the principle is the same here.
At LimeCulture our concerns about the ISVA workforce have mainly been around inconsistency. We have campaigned tirelessly for the need for ISVA service provision to be more consistently delivered across the country. Why should victims face a postcode lottery when it comes to ISVAs support? They shouldn’t. That’s why we set up our training courses for ISVAs, and that is why we spend so much of our time working alongside ISVA services. Four years on and having now trained over 200 ISVAs, we have begun to see the ISVA role being more consistently interpreted and delivered. We have also seen an increase in the recognition by other professionals of the ISVA role and their willingness to consider the ISVA role as a professional one (although we acknowledge there is still some way to go). We are concerned that by introducing a title like ‘KIDSVA’, there could be a negative impact on the professionals doing that role, and worryingly an impact on the other members of the ISVA workforce. Now more than ever, we need to protect the role, and the professionalism of the workforce, not call it into question.
LimeCulture is the leading provider of ISVA Training. Our ISVA Development Programme has been successfully completed by over 160 ISVAs since the course was developed in 2011. The ISVA Development Programme is accredited professional ISVA training that is suitable for practitioner working with child and adult victims of sexual violence. The first of our CPD courses for ISVAs has been developed to over 40 ISVAs since 2014. We are in the process of developing CPD training specifically for ISVAs working with children and young people. It is expected this will be available (to those who have completed their professional ISVA training) later in the year.