02 August 2021
"Covid demanded a lot from the organisation as we sought to provide continuity of support to the women and young people who have come to rely on the trusted relationships they experience through engaging with our services. The pared-back provision of services from local authorities, health & criminal justice amongst others, saw an increased demand on our services - seeing an 300% increase in need from women who use our Doorway service. The national message during lockdown of ‘stay home, save lives’ is not always true for women who experience domestic and sexual violence; in fact home is one of the most dangerous places women and children can find themselves, with one in every 20 women experiencing extensive physical or sexual violence and abuse in their life time. Women facing multiple disadvantage and sexual exploitation, violence and/or sex work have to navigate systemic barriers to access the support they need, as they face stigma, prejudice and are deemed too ‘high risk’ for some support whilst not meeting thresholds for statutory support. Homeless women who face multiple disadvantage are at a disproportionate risk of violence and abuse and we have strongly advocated around women’s experiences of homelessness over the years and have been pleased to be invited to become a partner in the Pathways Consortium as a specialist women’s service, offering trauma- and gendered support to rough-sleeping and ‘hidden homeless’ women. Data on child sexual exploitation during lockdown is not yet clear; however, nationally,the police recorded over 10,000 online child sex crimes in a year for the first time. This is reflected locally at the increased demand for referrals to our Rose Project. A key concern of ours remains the ‘cliff edge’ for continued protection from exploitation from perpetrators when someone reaches the age of 18 where lack of support and protection through robust safeguarding falls away and all too often results in a pathway to criminalisation. We were pleased to highlight our considerable work in this area where we were able to share our experience of developing a transitional service for young women aged 16 – 25 years, through the National Working Group, as a model of best practice. The existing demand on services has always been high, and as demand for support intensified as a result of Covid, we were incredibly stretched. The short-term Covid financial help supported the huge surge in demand but, moving forward, resource allocation for small specialist women’s voluntary sector organisations remains troublesome. Despite our best efforts, disappointingly we have never received sustainable investment from statutory or government monies, hence our huge appreciation of grants from funders who not only seek to understand the complex issues, but also provide vital money for us to carry out our services.
Covid has further entrenched social and economic inequality for our clients and this will continue to have a long-term impact, after the pandemic has passed The notion of ‘home’ has been equally challenging for staff who have had to continue to work in the field of supporting women and girls experiencing complex trauma, from their own living spaces, complicating and compromising their personal boundaries, which previously offered some degree of distance and sanctuary. On behalf of the trustees, I would like to offer our thanks and praise for the quality of service delivered by our staff during this challenging time."
Suzi Heybourne, June 2021.
(You can read the return in full : About Us/Vision & Values.)