STAGE Partnership: Access t...

STAGE Partnership: Access to Healthcare for women who experience sexual exploitation Webinar 2023

May 2023

3 Min Read

This week the STAGE partnership held the second webinar in a series focussing on the theme of Access to Healthcare. Laura McIntyre, Head of Women’s and Children’s Services, opened the event.

Last month we shared the STAGE Access to Justice findings, and today we are sharing our Access to Healthcare findings and key recommendations.

STAGE is a partnership project, where eight women’s organisations across the North-East and Yorkshire have come together as one, to raise the voices and experiences of women who have been groomed, exploited and targeted for sexual abuse.

Changing Lives, as the lead partner of STAGE, bring together the Angelou Centre in Newcastle, A Way Out in Stockton, Basis in Leeds, Together Women in South Yorkshire, Women’s Centre in Huddersfield, Ashiana in Sheffield and GROW in Rotherham.

The partnership was established in 2019 and is currently funded by the National Lottery, together we have supported over 500 women, and continue to meet the needs of more women every day.

Our model is split into two parts;

  • Practice - Meeting the needs of women, using assertive outreach and trauma-informed care. Each of our organisations employ a full-time specialist sexual exploitation caseworker.
  • Policy - The second part of our model is about informing policy change, where we employ a policy officer and data analyst, who pull all the practice work into policy briefings. Our policy work is informed by the women we work with and together we create national policy recommendations.

We have 5 policy areas:

  • Access to Justice
  • Access to Safe Housing
  • Access to Health Services
  • Understanding the needs for black and minoritized women who have been groomed for sexual abuse.
  • Transitional Ages

Our organisations have supported women facing multiple layers of stigma, disadvantage, and abuse for years and strive to ensure that all women have a voice in a system that is meant to serve everyone.

Access to good quality healthcare services is paramount for the women we support, where health organisations offer an inclusive service to ensure specific needs are met to help prevent poor health inequalities and premature deaths.

Premature deaths of the women we support is becoming more and more of a concern, where women are repeatedly being missed from systems due to outdated or traditional delivery models being ineffective.

In November 2022, Changing lives released a report called MAKE THE LINK, which highlighted that;

  • Since April 2019, 61 women who have accessed support from our services died. Over half had experienced abuse perpetrated by men.
  • During the pandemic, women who had experiences of abuse and exploitation were identified across our services as being three times more likely to die compared to the UK average of women with the same age profile, and continue to be two times as likely to die.
  • The majority of women identified in this research had multiple unmet needs, including experiences of abuse and exploitation and died under the age of 40.
  • Where known, the official cause of women’s deaths is often attributed to ‘natural causes’ or ‘substance misuse’, which fails to recognise their experiences of abuse and exploitation, and the complex realities of trauma.

The Women's Health Strategy: Call for Evidence was published during 2021, where STAGE contributed to this process. It was crucial that we gave women a voice in health, a voice often misunderstood and lost, or voices that have been understood as ‘complex’ or ‘chaotic’.

The Women's Health Strategy team received almost 100,000 responses from women across the country, and over 400 written submissions from organisations and experts in health and care.

The numbers above show us how important this process was for women; women clearly want their voices to be heard in a culture where the default is to offer a generic service that isn’t gender responsive.

This is a 10-year strategy that sets out a range of commitments (a very long list of ambitious commitments). STAGE continue to work closely with the Women and Equalities Committee to influence the direction and upkeep of the plan.

The 10-year plan sets out how the Government will look to improve the way in which the health and care system listens to women’s voices, and boost health outcomes for women and girls.

STAGE is also interested to see how the newly developed Integrated Care Partnerships (ICP) and Integrated Care Boards (ICB) develop over the next year and how Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) services and specifically women’s charities play a key role in;

  • Helping to influence the direction of trauma models (what trauma means for women and that the responses women need are really understood) and that this must be led by women.
  • Developing further exploration of how Adult Sexual Exploitation (ASE) services could be prioritised as part of local health commissioning plans.

We hope the presentations and incredible guest speakers today help create useful conversations and developments in a range of organisations where we can all be part of the bigger influencing picture for women's access to better healthcare - Ensuring Equity for women survivors of sexual exploitation.

Find out more about the STAGE project partnership here and look out for the next webinar held by the STAGE partnership on the Experiences of Black and Minoritized Women.