These are particularly challenging times for vulnerable women in our society. Domestic violence will be experienced by one in four women and is linked to subsequent drug and alcohol abuse, as well as social isolation. While prosecutions for domestic violence are at an all-time high, austerity-led cuts to women’s services are leaving those in desperate need of help with nowhere to turn.
Women who come into contact with the criminal justice system are being forced to contend with an increasingly hostile set of circumstances on release; around 60% of women leave prison homeless and with little chance of accessing safe and stable accommodation. The number of women breaking their license conditions and returning to prison, often because they have nowhere to live, fear an abusive partner or have unmet mental health needs, has increased by 80% since 2014. A recent report by HM Inspectorate of Probation noted that dedicated funding for women’s services has now virtually disappeared.
Women are also being hit the hardest financially. They are 14% more likely than men to live in households with incomes that are 60% below the national average. Direct taxes and social security cuts are due to take £9.6bn a year from families, £7bn of which is from women. Among organisations which offer direct support to women, 95% have experienced cuts, rising to 100% for BAME women’s organisations.
Nacro recognises the need to set up services that respond to women’s particular needs and experiences.
We know that most homeless women have had very traumatic lives and are very vulnerable; they are often mothers, even if their children are not with them. More than half of girls and women in custody have a history of victimisation and abuse. We understand the impact of this trauma and our specially trained staff work holistically to address women’s unique and complex histories.
Our work with women
We have a number of services that work with women in different ways. Our housing services offer female-only units where women who may be fleeing domestic violence or have lost their homes are supported to get back on their feet in a safe environment. Nacro Homes Agency, which intervenes in the private rental sector, aims to ensure that women who are released from custody can be directly accommodated with their children, where appropriate.
Nacro works with vulnerable families in the community to help improve parenting skills and to strengthen their capacity to prevent young people from becoming involved in crime and antisocial behaviour. We also help young mums to prepare for parenthood, offering practical skills as well as advice and training from specialist health professionals.
Our community projects also provide comprehensive packages of support to vulnerable women who face a range of social, financial, educational, housing or health needs. We work with them to build confidence, self-esteem and to address issues such as social isolation, domestic violence and drug and alcohol abuse, and support them to get into education, training or work.
Shauna accessed our SWITCH project in Middlesbrough – to read her story, click here.
Our women’s services
Nacro Derby Osmaston Family Project offers early intervention family support services to troubled families centred on strengthening families and improving parenting skills.
Nacro Homes Agency – Teesside is an accommodation and support service for single women aged 18+, with or without children, with a housing and support need.
Nacro Peterborough Bumps to Babes helps teenage mums-to-be prepare for parenthood, equipping them with practical skills as well as advice and training.
Nacro SWITCH project supports vulnerable women aged 16+ who have a range of health, social, financial, educational or housing needs to regain positive control of their lives.
Nacro Wolverhampton SWITCH works to reduce the number of looked after children in Wolverhampton by supporting vulnerable women who are at risk of being separated from their children.
Longden House is a supported housing service in Manchester which works with women who are engaging in a chaotic lifestyle such as sex working, offending behaviour and/or substance misuse.