The country’s most vulnerable women are being trapped in a cycle of disadvantage because of huge gaps in support, according to new research.
A report by AVA (Against Violence and Abuse) and Agenda, the alliance for women and girls at risk, found there was not enough help across the board for women facing substance misuse, poor mental health, homelessness and at risk of offending.
Services were extremely patchy across England and Wales – with some areas having a range of services for women, while others had very few or no services at all.
Many women the researchers spoke to – who had histories of abuse and a range of complex, overlapping needs – were passed around different services, each dealing only with one specific issue, leaving them unable to get the help they need.
Funding cuts have added to the problem with a growing number of organisations forced to reduce services. Some have disappeared altogether.
AVA and Agenda are calling on the government to take action to ensure women and girls at risk are able to get the support they need.
Donna Covey, Director of AVA, says: “Many of these women have experienced violence and abuse and their whole lives are affected by the trauma this causes. They need and deserve support that recognises and responds to this.
“To be effective, services needs to be trauma-informed and women specific. Central Government needs to take the lead in making sure that these women get the support they need to rebuild their lives. ”
Katharine Sacks-Jones, Director of Agenda, says: “The most marginalised women in our society are being trapped in a cycle of disadvantage by a confusing and fragmented system that is failing to address their needs.
“Our research shows that women value feeling safe in caring women-only environments where they are heard and understood.
“The absence of well-resourced and accessible services like these leaves women in crisis and unsure of the future. This has consequences not only for them, but also for their families and society as a whole.”
The report was launched at seminars in London, Manchester and Bristol with key note speakers including Greater Manchester’s Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime Beverley Hughes and Thangam Debbonaire, MP for Bristol West.
Ms Hughes said: “This excellent report demonstrates how vital it is that services for women with complex and multiple needs are joined up and delivered in ways that enable women to access them more easily.
“This means being mindful that many women want gender specific services built around their needs. We in Greater Manchester with our whole system approach are aiming to do that.”
Notes to editors
About Mapping the Maze:
Mapping the Maze is a collaboration between AVA (Against Violence and Abuse) and Agenda, the alliance for women and girls at risk. The project aims to map service provision specifically for women facing homelessness, substance misuse, poor mental health, offending and complex needs generally in England and Wales. Mapping the Maze was funded by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, an independent charitable foundation committed to bringing about socially just change. The website with interactive maps will be live on September 22nd. Report available here.