Bristol’s work to support vulnerable women has been handed a significant boost after the city was granted £350,000 to pilot a 12-month trial offering safe accommodation with intensive support to victims of domestic abuse and violence.
The award, from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) announced on Monday, will allow Bristol City Council to work with partners to open a 12-bed ‘Respite Room’ project, to deliver several weeks of support for up to 100 women, with high support needs, including those sleeping rough, who have been in unsafe situations or with histories of domestic violence.
The 24 hours a day, seven days a week female-staffed programme, will include a wide range of input from city agencies, offering help with issues such as substance misuse, benefits and financial independence, immigration, sex working, mental health, forced marriage, sexual violence and provide ongoing community support.
The project, which follows a successful bid led by the council’s Public Health and Housing Options teams, is expected to get under way in October of this year, offering women short-term assistance to ensure they get the support they need, in advance of further guidance to help them towards longer-term solutions for their personal needs.
Among the partner organisations involved in setting up Bristol’s facility will be homelessness and domestic abuse support organisations St Mungo’s and Next Link.
Councillor Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor and Bristol City Council Cabinet Member for Equalities, Communities and Public Health, said: “This additional resource will increase much needed safe house provision for those with complex needs, particularly for those who need a need a greater level of support.
“The last year has led to not only an increase in the reporting of domestic abuse, but also an increase in the complexity of cases and, in some cases, they need more care and support than traditional services can offer.
“We wanted to take part in this programme because we believe it will enable us – and the dedicated partners who share our determination to tackle domestic and gender-based violence – to work closely with a number of these women, offering them a higher level of intensive support whilst being safely accommodated.
“This will complement the work of Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs) who have been funded by the Ministry of Justice and will be working around specific specialist areas such as drug and alcohol misuse, minorities and young people.’’
Helen Denyer, Regional Director at St Mungo’s, said: “We are proud to be working alongside partners in the city to deliver this important new pilot service in Bristol. At St Mungo’s we understand how important it is to deliver specialist and holistic homelessness services for women, ensuring that the right support is in place for survivors of domestic abuse and other associated trauma.
“We will use our extensive experience of delivering city-wide women’s homelessness services in Bristol to ensure that everyone accessing 'Respite Rooms' is given the right support to move away from homelessness and to build a safe and secure future.”
Sarah O’Leary, CEO at Missing Link, Next Link and Safe Link, said: “We are delighted that Bristol has been selected to deliver the Respite Rooms Trial Programme so we can work closely with our partners to provide a 24 hour safe accommodation service to vulnerable women in the city who are victims of domestic and sexual abuse.
“With over 22 years’ experience of successfully delivering safe house and community support to survivors, including women who face multiple disadvantage such as substance misuse, mental ill health, homelessness or immigration issues, we understand the devastating and life changing impact violence against women and girls has on many aspects of a person’s life. We also know from experience that with the right support women who face multiple disadvantage can go on to lead safe and fulfilling lives free from violence and abuse.”
The Respite Rooms Trial Programme was first announced by the Chancellor as part of the Budget earlier this year and will create a total of 140 bedspaces across England and support an estimated 1,100 people over a 12-month trial period.
Bristol is one of 12 areas across England to share £3.7 million, to provide safe housing and specialist support, following the government’s commitment to tackling domestic abuse and violence against women and girls.