Women’s Services are under attack.
The organisation I work for in Bristol, Missing Link, has launched a campaign to protect women only housing support services which are currently under threat as part of Bristol City Council’s commissioning plan for medium level homelessness services. The option currently favoured by Bristol City Council is to reduce the number of dedicated women only accommodation from 34 units to 10 units.
Bristol City Council has published their draft commissioning plan of medium level support accommodation units for consultation. In the plan it lists 4 options, none of which maintain dedicated medium support level women only units. Currently there are 35 dedicated units for women in the city. This is a vital, specialist service that supports vulnerable women to rebuild their lives and overcome trauma.
It is well documented that women only services are essential for women with complex mental health needs. Women who use the services consistently feedback the positive outcomes they have achieved and the value of having a women only space.
Women with mental health issues and other support needs may feel intimidated or powerless and struggle to assert their needs in a mixed shared environment. Many of the current service users are young women, many having experienced early sexual trauma or abusive relationships. Housing them with men is very likely to make them more vulnerable and increase their risks. Men using the generic services have chaotic life styles and are also vulnerable with support needs which can mean they fail to recognise or understand women’s boundaries.
The impact of these changes on women would mean choices for vulnerable women are severely restricted as they would have to either live with vulnerable men or ‘exclude’ themselves from services. Some BME women will risk rejection from their families and culture if they are not housed in a women only service.
Missing Link is the current provider of this support service. It is a women’s led organisation, with 30 years’ experience of providing services for women in Bristol. This history, reputation, knowledge and their sister domestic and sexual violence services add value to the holistic support that vulnerable women need.
We have started a petition to raise awareness of the campaign and to urge Bristol City Council to rethink its proposal and make a commitment to protecting women only services.
Follow @MissingLink1983 and help save vital resources for women, tweet #savewomenonlyservices.