Transforming Services: Expe...

Transforming Services: Expert Panellists

August 2023

4 Min Read

Purple background with lighter purple pill pattern, which says "Agenda Alliance in partnership with Changing Lives" and "Funded by Smallwood trust" describing the Transforming Services for Women's Futures project.

Our Transforming Services for Women's Futures project highlights that, now more than ever, public services must be revitalised to ensure they are meeting the needs of women in the most deprived areas.

During our final report launch event, our panel discussion explored how public services can be transformed to address regional and gendered inequalities. Our expert panel included policy professionals, regional authorities, and those leading frontline organisations:

  • Nicole Jacobs – Domestic Abuse Commissioner for England and Wales
  • Jasmine Mohammed – Director, Safety4Sisters
  • Jessica Studdert – Deputy Chief Executive, New Local
  • Pavan Dhaliwal – Chief Executive, Revolving Doors
  • Hannah Davies – Executive Director, Health Equity North
  • Fabienne Thompson – Head of Prevention, Serious Violence Duty and Prevention Lead, NHS England

In the second blog in our Transforming Services series, we invite a few of these expert panellists to share their views on the changes needed to improve service provision for women facing multiple unmet needs.

Systemic racism and the "hostile environment":

Our report found that because most services are designed around a 'generic' service user, Black, Asian, minoritised, and migratised women experience particular disadvantage when accessing services and often fail to have their needs met as a result of systemic racism embedded within the policies and practices of services.

"Having worked in a by and for service in Newcastle for several years, I saw how Black and minoritised women, including migrant women, faced discrimination across their lives and were further disadvantaged and put at risk because of this disparity.

But for so long, solutions rooted in an understanding of gendered violence have not been considered nationally or even been part of the national agenda. It is brilliant to see that the report is bringing light to this incredibly important issue and illustrates the human cost of regional disparity, and how it compounds intersecting oppression.

Crucially, the research is rooted in the lived experience of survivors and makes recommendations that, if implemented, would make a real impact on the lives of women in the North East, and it’s incredibly timely considering the cost-of-living crisis and the long-term impact we know it will have in the North East."


The importance of community power:

Our report highlights the opportunity provided by the government’s 'levelling up' agenda to transform the lives of the most at-risk women, emphasising the need to devolve decision-making to local areas in order to reform public services.

"Community power recognises that people, as individuals and as groups who collectively use services, have deep insight into their own situation. If this insight was recognised by practitioners on a one-to-one level and by service designers on a more strategic level, interventions would be more relevant and effective. Expertise rests with communities, not just professionals.

In traditional service lexicon, women with multiple unmet needs would be labelled “hard to reach” but really it is that services can be “hard to access” if they are not deeply informed by the experience and expertise of those they are supposed to be supporting. Likewise, some more vulnerable groups with complex, overlapping needs that don’t easily fit into a service silo can be said to “fall through the cracks” of the system. Yet this is not a passive outcome – those cracks are designed into our services.

To support women better, we need more than just a “tick box” approach to narrow co-production – we need deep listening, peer-led approaches whereby budgets are handed over and survivors play an active role in shaping support using their insight and expertise."


A lack of holistic support:

Our research shows that too many women "fall through the cracks" as public services fail to provide gender-, trauma-, and culturally responsive support that meets the scale of women's needs, and calls attention to the urgent economic and social imperative to invest in more holistic approaches to ensure public services can respond more effectively and efficiently.

"The findings of this report illuminate a distressing reality that demands our attention and action.

The systematic failures in supporting women at the sharpest edge of inequality have been allowed to continue for too long. The complex interplay of poverty, trauma, abuse, and discrimination compounds the challenges faced by women, leaving them to navigate a labyrinthine system without the necessary comprehensive person-centred support that is needed.

The Transforming Services for Women's Futures project provides a crucial platform for voices that have long been overlooked. The call to reform local, regional, and national systems and services resonates strongly – it's imperative that these services evolve to provide the holistic, gender-sensitive, trauma-informed care that women in the North East need and deserve.

No woman should be left to fall through the cracks of a broken system, facing devastating consequences. As we collectively navigate the aftermath of various crises, this report underscores the urgency of comprehensive systems-change, ensuring that public services are not just a safety net, but a source of empowerment for the most vulnerable women in our communities."


An opportunity for change:

Our project considers how local, regional, and national systems can become more responsive to the challenges facing women with multiple unmet needs and makes clear recommendations on how the current public service landscape can be positively transformed for the most at-risk women.

"The Dismantling Disadvantage report demonstrates once more that those in the poorest parts of the country are facing insurmountable challenges in their ability to live long and healthy lives.

When considered through the lens of gender, the inequalities and multiple and overlapping challenges experienced by women become undeniable. The contributions by the women involved in this project demonstrate clearly how universal service provision does not ‘bridge the gap’ of inequality. Rather, empowering individuals and communities is central to improving service provision and removing inequity.

The report comes at the perfect time, offering an opportunity to enact change across a landscape that has developed significantly in recent years. From a health perspective alone, significant progress has been made, including for instance, the introduction of the Health and Care Act 2022 and establishment of the Domestic and Sexual Violence Programme, providing support for survivors of domestic and sexual abuse.

While there is still further to go, none of the recommendations within this report are unachievable and notably each tie to existing government commitments, which should allow us to continue to drive forward much needed activity and investment."


In our final blog in this series, we will share the recommendations from our final report and how we envision systems change.