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Support, Encourage, Enable

Agenda #ThisIsMyStory

Wed 14th June 2017

Agenda is a growing alliance of more than 70 voluntary sector organisations. They campaign and carry out policy and research work with a focus on bringing about change. Agenda share learning and best practice across sectors and work to influence and shape systems and service delivery. They ensure that women with complex needs and the projects that work with them are at the heart of all our work. Definitively, they believe in enabling women who are marginalised and excluded from public debates to have a voice. 

Agenda has launched a new social media campaign to highlight women’s voices and share their stories in their own words.

The campaign, called #ThisIsMyStory, will focus on women and girls at risk – those with histories of abuse, living in poverty, at risk of homelessness, poor mental health and substance misuse – and the women who work with them.

By doing this, they hope to raise awareness of the issues women with multiple disadvantage face and bring them to a wider audience.

Hear from our team as they talk about their experience of supporting women experiencing multiple disadvantage.

Hear from our Women at Risk Programme Manager

"I have worked with people with multiple and complex needs for many years, the last seven of these have been working at Lancashire Women’s Centres.

We see a wide range of needs amongst the women we support through our Women at Risk Projects including drug and alcohol issues,  relationship issues, experiences of domestic abuse, removal of children, historic abuse,  learning difficulties and experience of sex working. Lack of appropriate accommodation is also a massive issue, as are financial worries and debt. 

It’s funny,  but I can pin point the day I became interested in working with women - and where I became enlightened to the fact that women are treated unfairly in the Criminal Justice System. 

Who knew that being a woman who committed a criminal act was also committing a crime against nature….I remember thinking "this can’t be true, surely people don’t hold these views anymore?"...  because women are often only seen from traditional viewpoints, as carers or mothers  for example, then it often appears more shocking when she commits a robbery, steals from a shop or assaults another person.   I also remembering thinking that this is also an insult to men, it seemed to me that it was almost an expectation for them to commit a crime and for it to be deemed ‘okay’. 

I know that there is a lot more to this and I will not bore you with all that, I just felt poignant that I can remember my thoughts from all those years ago.   In my previous job I worked with a mixture of men and women with multiple needs, but I can honestly say that I can remember every female case that was on my case load.  I still think back to those days and wonder what life is now like for them now, especially when the changes that they made in their life were so huge. 

I remember being hugged by one of the women and thinking 'why is she hugging me  - it is her who has turned a corner, what have I done?'

Well, on reflection I could see that what I did was believe in her and treat her like a human being, not a number or an offender.  I remember being thanked by the parents of another young woman, and which touched such a nerve I was close to tears (if you knew me then that that might shock you!). 

These are just a couple of women of the many who have touched my life in different ways. I really do not think that I could do my job properly if I didn’t remember the women I had worked with and their life stories.

I haven’t worked directly with women for quite some time now, but I see the hard work of our case workers, their dedication, their frustration and I see those light bulb moments they have when they remember why they are here and when they  reflect about the women they have seen and how their lives have changed for the better. 

That is now my reward for the work that I do, and I feel that I have quite privileged to work with people who have the passion and the drive to help women in a society that still to this day regards them as 'failures' if they are not the perfect mother, daughter or wife.  Yes, really that still happens!"

Hear from a caseworker

9am  - My day starts. I don’t tend to see clients before 10am so this hour is time for a brew and catch up on admin from the day before. My work mobile is turned on and any texts or calls from clients are followed up on. I reply to emails and write letters to clients.

10am - My first client arrives. I try to see this client weekly due to her complex needs. It’s a Monday so she has a lot to get off her chest from the weekend. I make her a coffee and we go to a private room. We call her bank to ask them to waive her overdraft charges as she has no money left. I call the Salvation Army and ask for a food parcel for her. We call the drug and alcohol service as she had forgotten her appointment with them last week and needed to rebook. She leaves calmer, and goes to collect her food parcel. I always get a sense of satisfaction with this client, as so much can be done to help.

11am - My second client arrives. We complete a sign up to one of our employment focused projects, as she wants to retrain to work in healthcare. This client doesn’t have an employment history as she has been a stay at home parent since she was 17. We discuss doing some voluntary work and book an appointment with one of our volunteer mentors to look at services in the area to apply to. I feel much more hopeful about this client than at previous sessions as I had previously struggled to get her to set goals.

12pm - Lunch time! I try to stay away from my desk for this half an hour but take a call from a Responsible Officer asking for an appointment for a client they’re with who has no address to send letters to. This can feel frustrating but needs to be dealt with there and then.

12.30pm - I call a client who is having trouble finding somewhere to live following her release from custody to remind her of the meeting I set up for her with a recovery home this afternoon. She has managed to reduce her methadone prescription to 30ml to meet their criteria. I feel proud and protective of this client, she has come so far.

1pm - I see a client for her initial assessment. She has been referred to us to complete a conditional caution from the police for shoplifting. The assessment enables us to write an action plan for a series of follow on appointments. She has rent arrears and is struggling to repay payday loans. I make her an appointment to see our Money and Debt caseworker. Assessments involve lots of thought and plans so this can feel overwhelming at times.

2pm - My client doesn’t attend her appointment. I try to call her but her phone number doesn’t connect. She has missed a couple of appointments so I send her responsible officer an email to ask for an update. I also send a letter with a next appointment on. This feels disheartening as I had done a lot of preparatory work for this appointment, and we were going to explore some work around anger management.

3pm - This client arrives for an final session, she completes her Community Order next week. We reviews some of the paperwork we completed at assessment and compare the two to look at how far she’s come. We talk for a while and ensure that all her needs are met, I signpost her to our other services that she can still access voluntarily and I feel hopeful that she will remain in service.  I feel a sense of  accomplishment when clients complete their orders successfully.

4pm- Time to catch up on the day's admin before heading home. This can be a stressful time of day, trying to fit everything in!

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For more information about Agenda click here.