Inspirational Women – Michelle Whelan


Michelle Whelan is the Chief Executive of Calan DVS who provide domestic abuse support to men and women in Wales. Calan DVS are one of our 3SC Members. Michelle has spear-headed the professionalisation and diversification of the Calan DVS portfolio throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Calan has one of the largest domestic abuse support footprints in Wales and provides core domestic violence services for female and male victims as well as support for children and young people.


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What’s your current role or situation?


Chief Executive of Calan DVS, a Patron of Cancer Research Wales and a trustee for a charity who support individuals who are economically inactive and socially excluded.


Tell us a bit about your background and how you got to where you are?


I was never really sure what my path would be once I left college, I knew University wasn’t for me, so I moved straight into the world of work. I started out working on a placement through JHP and then moved to work for St. John Ambulance. I then took time out to travel to Australia and when I was 28, I joined Working Links. Working Links was an organisation who worked with individuals in some of the most deprived areas across Wales. I absolutely loved working on the frontline and supporting the local community residents to gain the confidence to go into the world of work. I was with Working Links for 9 years and progressed during my time there, working for such a brilliant organisation really shaped me and instilled some core values which I still align with today.


My passion has always been about striving for equality and working with individuals and communities to overcome the many challenges and personal traumas individuals may face. Around 7 years ago, I was successful in securing a post with Welsh Women’s Aid, a national charity working towards ending domestic abuse and all forms of violence against women. This resonated with me and I was amazed by the work and passion of the team within Welsh Women’s Aid and that of the specialist agencies all across Wales. In December 2017 I became a trustee for Calan DVS, one of the largest domestic abuse charities in Wales, after a period of time, I then stepped down as a trustee and following a successful interview became the Deputy Chief Executive, which has led me to becoming the Chief Executive.


The team within Calan are some of the most passionate and inspiring individuals I have ever worked with and this has been demonstrated more so through the COVID-19 pandemic where, even faced with their own personal challenges they have continued to provide exceptional services to all those who access them.


The Theme of this year’s IWD is ‘Choose to challenge’ – what challenges you and how do you deal with any challenges?


We must continue to challenge the inequalities and gender bias women face daily.

We must continue to call out perpetrators of domestic violence and abuse and campaign for stronger sentences. We must challenge violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence. We must raise awareness of domestic violence and abuse and say no more!


Talking about challenges, what are some of the key lessons you have taken from the COVID-19 crisis and lockdown?


COVID-19 has been a challenge for many people for so many different reasons. For those working within the domestic abuse sector, it has proved extremely challenging. For some individuals, the restrictions imposed as a result of COVID-19 has created much higher risk situations for them as their time spent with the abuser in an isolated space has increased. There were initial concerns as to how we could effectively reach out to victims of domestic abuse as a result of the lockdown restrictions, however, the teams adapted the ways in which they worked and provided remote support, online support, 1-2-1 support socially distanced and carried out welfare checks with all those survivors who access our services.


One of the key lessons learned through lockdown is how resilient people can be and how we can adapt our approach to support some of the most vulnerable people in society. Our team are innovative and passionate and that has been demonstrated throughout these unprecedented times.


You’ve been nominated as inspirational. What are your top tips for work and life in general?


Always stay true to your own personal values.


If you are presented with an opportunity and feel that you don’t have the skills or experience, still go for it, you were presented with that opportunity for a reason. If I had listened to my continuous self-doubt throughout my career, I wouldn’t have been able to apply for this role, a role I am so passionate about.


Never doubt your own ability.


Stay true to you and know and recognise your own worth.


Never let anyone tell you, you can’t!


Can you tell us a little more about Calan DVS?


Calan DVS is one of the largest domestic abuse charities in Wales and we are committed to working in partnership to end domestic violence and abuse. Our staff are passionate about what they do and deliver much needed services to support some of the most vulnerable people in society.


We cover a large and varied geographical area, providing services across Bridgend, Neath Port Talbot, South Powys and Ammanford (Carmarthenshire).


Our service model ranges from core domestic violence services, including refuge, support in the community, crisis drop-in services, support for children and young people exposed to domestic violence and abuse, recovery and programmes and whole family trauma informed programmes.


If you or someone you know if experiencing abuse, you can contact our specialist teams within Calan DVS on any of the below numbers or you can contact the Live Fear Free Helpline on 0808 80 10 800


Ammanford: 01269 597474
Brecon: 01874 625146
Bridgend: 01656 766139
Neath Port Talbot: 01639 633 580
Radnor: 01597 824655


Gareth Snaith, Contract Performance Manager, 3SC