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Changing Lives’ Women’s Services reach out and support women and girls with at risk and who may experience a range of complex needs.  We understand that, as women, we have experiences which are different to men but many mainstream services do not recognise our distinct needs.  At Changing Lives we provide support around vulnerabilities which are directly affected by gender, often relating to experiences of childhood trauma and abuse – which can continue into adolescence and adulthood.

We provide services for women and girls: with experience of survival sex, sexual exploitation and sex work; who are homeless; use drugs and alcohol, often as a means to manage poor mental health.  We support women involved in the criminal justice system many of whom are disproportionately affected through harsher sentences and separation from their children.   Childhood abuse and domestic abuse are common features in the lives of the women we support which impacts on their health and wellbeing. Underpinning all our services is an in-depth understanding of trauma and a focus on recovery, resilience and community integration which is central to all that we do.

Our expertise

Changing Lives is the only national organisation reaching out to women with experience of sex work survival sex and/or sexual exploitation in the UK, with services across the North East, Doncaster and Wolverhampton.  We started our services within a ‘hidden market’ where there was no visible red light district, and have developed a unique model of peer research to highlight the needs of women with these experiences.  We now also support women in areas where there is a visible ‘red light district’.   This has given us a strong story to tell about the life experiences that lead to women into trading sex, including those adult victims of childhood sexual exploitation.  We deliver specialist training to a range of professionals, including Police, Social Services, Probation Services, CPS, Public Health and Primary Health Care practitioners.

Changing Lives was one of the first organisations to receive funding from Ministry of Justice following the Corston Report which brought the reality of treatment of women in the Criminal Justice System (CJS) to the forefront, in 2007.  We developed a model which brought about a significant reduction in reoffending (20% of women desisting altogether following our involvement).  We are now the largest provider of services for women in the CJS nationally, operating across the North and the Midlands both in local communities and in custodial settings.  We have contracts with community rehabilitation companies in Northumbria, South Yorkshire, and West Midlands.  We deliver NOMS European Social Fund contracts for women who are furthest from the labour market across the North East, Yorkshire and Humberside, and the East Midlands.  We support women in six out of the eight women’s prisons across England.

The prevalence and long term impacts of domestic abuse means it is a risk for all the women and girls who use our services.  Indeed, when we carried out a wide-scale consultation across our women’s services domestic abuse came out as the greatest barrier to leading fulfilled and flourishing lives.   Changing Lives has projects providing refuge, Independent Domestic Violence Advocacy (IDVA) and  Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVA).  Our particular specialism is to reach out to women with multiple and complex needs who may struggle to engage with the more mainstream support services.  We understand the common link between substance use, homelessness and mental health problems associated with domestic abuse and ensure that we reach out to women who may be more at risk because of  these inter-related vulnerabilities.

Partnerships within the Women’s Sector

Increasingly we are seeing contracts which cross-regions and therefore may exclude smaller specialist organisations who have been established for many years to support women and girls.  We believe that women’s services are often best delivered within local communities and all our projects are deeply embedded and led by those we support.  We are firmly committed to supporting and working in close partnership with smaller specialist organisations.  We play an active role in supporting a diverse choice and supporting specialist partners thrive within a challenging economic climate.   Our partnerships include (not exclusively): Open Clasp Theatre Company, Women’s Health in South Tyneside, Tyneside Women’s Health, A Way Out, Key Change, GROW, Anawim, Black Country Women’s Aid, WISH, Brighter Futures, Fry Housing, MIND Doncaster and many more.

Changing Lives women’s services are active members of a number of women’s organisations including One Small Thing, Women’s Breakout, Agenda, collaborate with Women’s Aid Federation, Safe Lives, Women in Prison, Prison Reform Trust, AVA, and are members of consortia of services to support women in the Criminal Justice System in West Midlands and South Yorkshire.

A Women-Centre Approach

Changing Lives’ Women’s Services adopt a women-centred approach in all the work we do.  This means:

  • Women only spaces
  • Safe and trusted environments
  • Trauma-Informed – based on empathy, consistency and boundaries and understanding of what has happened to women and girls.
  • Strengths based, fostering empowerment
  • Recovery focused – peer support and opportunities to share common experiences.
  • Holistic – so many services are in silos, we help people with anything they present with and according to their needs.
  • Part of a co-ordinated community response – everything we do is in partnership.

We have a holistic women’s centre and community hub in Doncaster, with a range of gender-specific services running from the same building and women-only space.   Likewise, we operate from a women’s centre in Knowsley.  Not every area where we support women has the benefit of a Centre and we work with a range of partners to deliver outreach and hub spaces from community spaces across a number of town and Cities.  It is our experience that so long as we maintain a consistent, empathic and safe service we can adapt to the needs of local places building on existing community resources.

 

 

We regularly develop new programmes based on the ideas and views of the women we work with, as well as input from specialist partners. If you’d like to discuss opportunities or find out more about our women’s services offer please contact:

Laura Seebohm, Director of Women’s Services
t: 0191 2738891
e: laura.seebohm@changing-lives.org.uk

Being a part of the projects at Changing Lives has enabled the women to increase their confidence and self esteem whilst developing an understanding and awareness of their own behaviours. The projects have helped the women learn about how it can impact positively or negatively on their well-being.

Lisa Boyack, Manager of Women Offenders Services North East

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