Public sector bodies, agencies and voluntary organisations in local areas need to work together better to help improve the lives of the most disadvantaged women, according to new research published today.
Making Places Work for Women, authored by the Point People for the women’s charity Agenda, warns that the system aimed at helping vulnerable women is instead failing them.
Poor data collection, unrealistic commissioning practices, siloed working, funding cuts and cultural barriers are highlighted as some of the obstacles to women being given the help they need.
The paper argues that currently the systems and services designed to support the most disadvantaged are chiefly geared around men’s needs.
It suggests that not only do councils, the health service, police, charities and other bodies need to take gender into account, but they must also work together in a more ‘open and inclusive’ way to make a positive difference to women’s lives.
It says ‘place-based systems change’ – a deliberate effort by organisations in a specific area to work in a more joined-up way to support people – could help women if implemented in the right way, with gender taken into account.
“The system and the way services are designed and delivered do not work for the most disadvantaged women and too many fall through gaps in support,” says Jemima Olchawski, Chief Executive of Agenda.
“This means their needs go unmet but also that they can be trapped in abusive relationships or in other insecure of precarious situations.
“They are left to spiral from crisis to crisis, with huge resulting costs to them, their families and society as a whole. There needs to be a better way.
“By being more open and inclusive, making better use of limited resources and focusing on social as well as economic value, place-based systems change can open up the possibility of local areas finding better ways of supporting women,” adds Ms Olchawski.
The discussion paper, funded by Lankelly Chase, sets out recommendations specifically for councils, central government and funders.
As well as calling for action on a local level, it urges central government to ensure that they provide the leadership and funding to support place-based systems change in local areas.
Around one million women in England face poverty and high levels of violence and abuse. They are much more likely to have poor mental health, be addicted to alcohol and been homeless than women without those experiences.
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Notes to editors
Read the full report here
Agenda, the alliance for women and girls at risk, works to ensure that women and girls facing abuse, poverty, poor mental health, addiction and homelessness get the support and protection they need. We campaign for systems and services to be transformed; to raise awareness across sectors; and to promote public and political understanding of the lives of women and girls facing multiple disadvantage. www.weareagenda.org
The Point People is a collective of designers, social innovators, artists, entrepreneurs, technologists, writers and researchers committed to driving systemic change for a more equitable society. www.thepointpeople.com
 McManus, S., Scott, S. & Sosenko, F. (2016), Joining the Dots: The combined burden of violence, abuse and poverty in the lives of women. Agenda, London. Available here: http://weareagenda.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Agenda_Joining_The_Dots_Report_VFinal_d-contents-linked.pdf