Women in Somerset who are in, or at risk of becoming involved in, the criminal justice system will now have access to holistic, trauma-informed support. The Nelson Trust has successfully fundraised to purchase 14 Kings Square, Bridgwater, where they will open the new women’s centre.

John Trolan, CEO of The Nelson Trust said,

“We are so grateful to the community in Bridgwater and Somerset for supporting this project and getting behind us to help fulfill this ambition. Through our campaign #womenhelpingwomen we received tremendous support, thanks to some key supporters including Annie Maw, Sarah Mead, Lucy Nelson, Venetia Dearden and Catherine Butler. These individuals and other key funders such as the Ministry of Justice have been instrumental to getting this new Women’s Centre operational.”

The Centre will provide a safe, women-only space that delivers a one-stop-shop service to women with multiple and complex needs including accommodation, employment, behaviour, mental and physical health, and status with the criminal justice system.

Niki Gould Head of Women’s Services at The Nelson Trust

Niki Gould, Head of Women’s Services at The Nelson Trust said,

“Of the more than 80,000 individuals in prison only 4,000 are women. The prison system proves ineffective in rehabilitating women. Many women are low-risk prisoners who pose no threat to the public. Our community sentences are an effective alternative to short prison sentences, and allow women to maintain custody of their children and remain in accommodation,”

Community sentences also allow women to undergo a reflective period where they can assess with the help of a keyworker, how their past life experiences have effected their decision making. Women who offend are often struggling in one or more of the nine criminogenic pathways including accommodation; children, families, and relationships; physical and mental health; attitudes, thinking, and behaviour; finance, benefits, and debt; support for those raped, abused, or victims of domestic violence; and skills and employment.

Ms Gould went on to say,

“Most of the women we work with have experienced abuse, trauma, and sexual exploitation prior to entering adulthood. As adults, these women continue to face significant disadvantage. They may participate in transactional sex in order to feed drug abuse, access accommodation, or be a victim of partner violence. All the women we work with are at risk of abuse, homelessness, separation from children and family, and high instances of suicidal ideation.”

In 2018 more than 950 women and their families accessed The Nelson Trust’s Women’s Community Services. They accessed services that helped them with accommodation, relationships and child attachment, education and employment, debts and money management, and surviving sexual abuse and partner violence. Through individualised, holistic support, women are able to respond to their life experiences and make informed choices for the future. This in turn benefits their families and the wider community.

In 2017-18 women who accessed The Nelson Trusts’ community services identified complex needs in relation to offending or being at risk of offending. These needs included:

82% Family dysfunction and support needs
57% Problems with finances, benefits, and debt
55% Issues with accommodation
53% Improve skills and have employment needs
40% Identify physical and mental health issues
18% are survivors of sexual abuse

Ms Gould said,

“Our sector knowledge and research helps us to understand that there is a tangible link between women offenders and experience of violence and sexual abuse. Our team will have the skills to deliver a trauma informed service that addresses issues relating to both the offending behaviour and their history of experiencing violence and domestic abuse.”

Outreach services will also operate to maximise engagement with the service.  Support will include specialist referrals, signposting and access to external and in-house interventions delivered through one-to-ones, group-work and specialist drop-in services:

  • Housing support
  • Debt advice
  • Mental health services
  • Education, Training and Employment advice
  • Emotional Wellbeing Interventions
  • Family support
  • Domestic abuse support
  • Substance misuse interventions

All women accessing the service will have access to a free crèche.

The Nelson Trust’s approach is trauma-informed, relational and oriented in lifelong change and recovery. In addition to Women’s Community Services they provide Residential Drug and Alcohol Treatment, education, training and employment services; resettlement housing, and community-based Enterprises. In the community, they provide a wide range of services across Gloucestershire, Swindon & Wiltshire, and Avon & Somerset.

Through their Women’s Community Centres, they work with justice-involved women, women with mental health issues, survivors of violence and abuse; and women who experience complex disadvantage including sex working women.

The Nelson Trust offers a holistic, whole-system approach to recovery where each individual is respected as an individual. For their efforts in offering support for multiple needs, The Nelson Trust has received several awards from the Centre for Social Justice and The Howard League for Penal Reform, among others.

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