In recent years a spotlight has fallen on people experiencing so-called multiple disadvantage – those who are homeless, have drug and alcohol problems and who commit crime – and as such are deemed to place the greatest burden on the public purse.
Significant investment has funded the development of innovative approaches to engage with this very marginalised group of people and enable them to make positive change in their lives.
Women do not, however, feature heavily in this programme of work.
This is not because they experience fewer problems in their lives, but rather the difficulties they struggle with are different. These stem from lives punctuated by violence, abuse and trauma and result in severe mental ill-health, problematic substance use, involvement with children’s services, hidden homelessness and offending behaviour.
Support for women affected by such complex and interlinked problems is hard to find.
Agenda, an alliance of more than 70 organisations campaigning for women and girls at risk, and AVA (Against Violence and Abuse) are working together to map what service provision there is for women across the country.
In the first stage of the project, we have reviewed the evidence on what works to support women facing multiple disadvantage.
The predominant message, that regardless of the type of service, it is how support is delivered that is key to engaging with this vulnerable group of women. Key elements include:
- The quality of relationships between women working in and using services is often what women value most.
- Having an understanding of women’s lives, particularly how experiences of trauma and abuse are commonplace.
- Working from a strengths-based empowerment model.
- Providing a physically and emotionally safe space, which can only be achieved in a women-only environment.
- Holistic provision that reflects women’s individual needs and how they are often interlinked.
- Specialist support for some groups such as Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) women.
The full project report and interactive map of services will be available later in the year.