Independent Sexual Violence Advisers (ISVAs)  in England, Wales and Northern Ireland  – A study of impacts, effects, coping mechanisms and effective support systems for people working as ISVAs and ISVA Managers (May 2021)

Miranda A. H. Horvath, Hannah Rose, Thistle Dalton and Kristina Massey with Ioana M. Crivatu and Kasandra Matthews

LimeCulture have championed the role of ISVAs for a decade and as a national organisation, have worked hard to raise awareness of the vital support that ISVA services provided to victims/survivors of sexual violence.

To date, there has been limited research on the work of ISVAs, and LimeCulture has been delighted to support this important research, which focuses entirely on the work of ISVAs.

The research findings are extremely useful and we hope that the recommendations are taken forward nationally by MoJ, and locally by commissioners and services managers to continue to support ISVAs to carry out their important roles.

The research has been conducted by Canterbury Christ Church University and Middlesex University London, with support from LimeCulture.

The study is the first of its kind and its findings recommend improvements that need to be made to support ISVAs in this challenging role. The report will be launched today at an event hosted by Limeculture where the findings will be discussed.

Since 2005, Independent Sexual Violence Advisers (ISVAs) have been working in local areas across England, Wales and Northern Ireland to provide continuous support, advice and help for victims and survivors of sexual violence.

121 ISVAs and ISVA Managers completed an online survey designed by Kristina Massey, Senior Lecturer in the School of Law, Policing and Social Sciences at Canterbury Christ Church University, and Dr Miranda Horvath, Reader and Associate Professor in Forensic Psychology at Middlesex University.

The report focuses on the impacts, effects, coping mechanisms and effective support systems for people working as ISVAs and ISVA Managers in supporting victim-survivors of sexual violence across England, Wales and Northeårn Ireland.

Three key recommendations include:

  • An urgent need for a national standard for training the first year in the role and the training should be accredited, role-specific and high quality.
  • Routine monitoring of impacts and wellbeing.
  • National standards for maximum caseloads. Caseloads were a key factor predicting psychological distress and vicarious trauma. Respondents had caseloads varying from less than 10 to over 100. A national recognised maximum number of clients per ISVA and national standards for caseloads would reduce the number of overwhelmed ISVAs and improve the level, quality, and amount of care they can offer their clients.

Download the main and summary reports here

Research Launch Event 12th May 2021

The findings were launched at an event on the 12th of May 2021, hosted by LimeCulture CIC , Chief Executive Stephanie Reardon. Resources from the event are available below

Spreading Excellence’ is a Home Office funded project that was established by LimeCulture with the aim of improving the capacity and capability of the sexual violence sector to ensure high-quality and effective services are available for all. The project seeks to achieve this through the influence and engagement of service users, service providers, commissioners and policy leads working together collaboratively.

The project is overseen by a National Working Group.  The first project had a specific focus on improving knowledge around the commissioninåg process relating to sexual violence support services.  Our guidance document developed from the 2018/19 project is available free HERE.

This year we were asked by the Home Office to focus will be on support services for children and young people who have experienced child sexual abuse (CSA), to align with the Home Office Tackling CSA Strategy.

National Working Group

The project was overseen by a National Working Group. Membership is drawn from a range of professionals working in child sexual abuse (CSA) including includes policy leads, academics, service providers and commissioners.


The project included a series of workshops that examined commissioning and providing services and multi-agency working, to meet the needs of children and young people who have experienced child sexual abuse (CSA).

With expert speakers addressing each workshop, participants worked together to identify the main challenges within these key areas, and sought to identify solutions and/or best practice.


The report of findings from the project, alongside a series of related recommendations to policy makers, commissioners and providers were presented at an  online symposium on the 30th March 2021.

The report of findings can be downloaded here Spreading Excellence Report of Findings 2021 

Presentation from the Symposium Spreading Excellence Symposium Presentation

Risk and need identification and management are an essential element of the ISVA role. Effective support from an ISVA will include an awareness of their client’s overall needs as well as an awareness of the degree of risk that they may face or present to themselves and/or others.

In Autumn 2016 LimeCulture CIC was awarded funding from the Home Office Support for Victims and Survivors of Sexual Abuse (SVSSA) Fund to develop a Risk and Needs Assessment Tool for use by all ISVAs working across England and Wales to support victims and survivors of sexual violence.

The Safety and Support (SAS) Assessment has been developed specifically for use by Independent Sexual Violence Advisers (ISVAs)

The benefits of using the SAS Assessment will be wide-ranging for clients, individual ISVAs, ISVA Managers, ISVA Services (at an organisational level) and Commissioners

Safety and Support (SAS) Assessment

The SAS Assessment is a domain-based assessment that allows the ISVA to identify their client’s individual risks and needs (without prescribing a form of words or imposing a checklist).

It allows ISVAs to more robustly identify, monitor and manage the individual risks and/needs of their clients over time

There are 14 domains included in the SAS Assessment (including personal and individual requirements, harm from others, health and medical, employment & education, risk to services & professionals and professional judgement)

Given the fluidity of risk, it recommended that the SAS Assessment is used by the ISVA at every contact with the client. A full SAS Assessment is suggested at the initial meeting, then reviewed at each contact with the client (with a focus on the domains where risk and/or need is identified). It should be reviewed in full at scheduled intervals throughout the journey of support provided by the ISVA.

The SAS Assessment allows the ISVA to draw up an individual and tailored Safety and Support (SAS) Plan to meet all of the client’s risks and needs, and provides clarity about the nature of support the ISVA will provide.

Implementation of the Safety and Support (SAS) Assessment

The SAS Assessment and Support Plan templates and accompanying toolkit can be downloaded at no cost using the links below. The templates can be customised and amended to include service specification, commissioning or management requirements.

Inclusion on IT systems 

  • DPMS – Rape Crisis England and Wales 
  • Oasis – Oasis 
  • Paloma – Modus Soteria 

As the SAS templates are free source they can be added to any IT or paper systems without fee or licence .

ISVA services operate across such a range of services , organisations and systems that unfortunately we are not able to provide a list of all IT system able to collect the SAS. 

However, if you use another system and would like us to liaise with your system provider please do let us know.

For more information about the Safety and Support Assessment please email

Mapping ISVA Services in England and Wales

In August 2015, LimeCulture was commissioned by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse to undertake an ISVA Services mapping exercise. The mapping exercise took place between September and November 2015 and enabled LimeCulture to compile a database based on a snap-shot of the ISVA services that were operating during that time.

This was the first time that ISVA services across England and Wales have been mapped in this way and therefore the outcome of the Mapping exercise is that it provides the most up-to-date information about ISVA services that is currently available.

The ISVA Service Mapping exercise also enabled the identification of individual ISVAs who operate within the ISVA Services across England and Wales for the first time.  Although this does not amount to a central register of ISVAs, it does provide the most comprehensive list of individual ISVAs currently available, as well as providing information about their accredited training.

The main aim of the Mapping exercise was to underpin the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse’s knowledge around ISVA services, should they be required by individuals engaging with the Inquiry who are in need of local support.

An Audit of Independent Sexual Violence Advisers (ISVA)

During August and September 2014, King’s College London and LimeCulture jointly conducted ‘An Audit of Independent Sexual Violence Advisers (ISVAs)’. The research was published in February 2015 and yielded new information about the role of the ISVA, including a profile of ISVAs and their clients, as well as a description of the way in which the role is being undertaken, the nature of caseloads and working practices, ISVA training and supervision, and ISVAs’ perceptions on the role and its future. The findings have implications for policy and practice; these are framed in ten key recommendations.

To view the report please click here

LimeCulture is committed to ensuring that all of the information that we provide, or use as part of our work, is as up to date as possible. We pride ourselves on being at the forefront of developments in the field of sexual violence and this includes being aware of current professional thinking, new and emerging trends and the direction of policy and practice.  Often research forms a part of a project that we are asked to deliver, with the information underpinning any reports, standards, recommendations or service improvements that we may make. 

However you look at it, research plays a big part in development, and here at LimeCulture we recognise the value in learning from others (including from other parts of the world), monitoring changes and capturing the details that make progress a reality as they occurs. And of course, research enables us to share the learning of our challenges and our successes.

We have been involved in a few interesting research projects recently, some of which are described below.  However, over the coming years, LimeCulture intends to expand the research aspect of our work.  If you think we may able to support you with research you are currently doing, or thinking of commissioning, please email for more information.