We are pleased to announce that we are now funding women’s refuges directly to run bespoke versions of our Trips Programme – beginning with pilots at Reigate & Banstead Women’s Aid and Hestia, London’s largest provider of domestic abuse refuges.
Since incorporating in 2012, Apples & Pears has advocated a ‘build with’ approach with our project partners and grant beneficiaries – allowing them to use the funds we award to shape their group trips in a way that best suits the needs of the community they work with.
Along with tailored projects to help migrants settle into London or to improve access to the arts, a number of our partner primary schools have used Apples & Pears funds over the last few years to run weekend trips for women and children who have experienced domestic abuse. This has included helping build confidence with using public transport or regaining comfort in outside spaces like parks.
Our experience of this issue at a grassroots level is compounded by the broader macro reality that domestic violence levels in England and Wales are high – the Office of National Statistics estimates that 1.9 million people suffered domestic abuse between April 2016 and March 2017. Despite this context, spending by local authorities on domestic violence refuges has been cut by almost 25% since 2010.
Research carried out by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism illustrates the impact of austerity on refuges and ultimately women and children who use these vital services – with many refuges indicating that the cuts are severe enough that they may have to close their doors if they haven’t done so already.
Along with general services which should be open to all experiencing these cuts, specialist services aimed at black, ethnic and minority (BME) and migrant women or those without recourse to public funds have been put under particular pressure – Women’s Aid found that 17% of such refuges were forced to close between 2010 and 2014. In London, where Apples & Pears carries out most of its work – BME women’s refuges lost between 45% and 52% of their annual council funding between 2009 and 2016.
The impact on women and children (Solace Women’s Aid states that 70% of the refuge population in the UK is made up of children under 14) using these services is huge, with many being turned away despite referrals.
Given this context, we feel Apples & Pears can play a part in supporting refuges to deliver services that are in line with our aim of using group trips to create forums for families to spend time, learn and explore together.
Charlotte Kneer, Chief Executive of Reigate & Bansted Women’s Aid (RBWA) said: “The ethos of our organisation ties in perfectly with Apples & Pears and what they’re trying to achieve. This partnership is built on a shared commitment to help vulnerable families and give them the opportunity they deserve to do the everyday activities that most families take for granted.
We have chosen to work with Apples & Pears because we trust that they understand the issues which our families are facing and we believe that they can be part of the bigger solution. While we focus on providing safety and a physical home, our partnership with Apples & Pears means that we can also start to rebuild families’ confidence in exploring and having fun together.”
New initiative in action
We’re delighted to report that RBWA have already got going with their first trip! 28 women and children used the funding to visit a farm and community centre. Along with building the women’s confidence in taking their children out and about, it was also an opportunity for the families in the refuge to form friendships among themselves. By the end of the trip, families who had never had the confidence to speak to each other before were chatting and enjoying shared experiences.
The social and fun element to the trip was very important for the families – children who have been exposed to domestic violence are often quiet and withdrawn but their faces lit up when they saw the animals. Some of the children explained that they were very excited to stroke the sheep and pet the donkeys because they had only ever seen farm animals in books before. It was also a much needed opportunity for the women to bond with their children having been through such traumatic experiences.
The trip was carefully planned by the RBWA team to ensure that this seemingly small step would enable the women to take bigger steps in the future – like venturing further afield and possibly even planning their own activities.
We hope that this trip will be the first of many that play a small role in the healing process as the women and children our refuge partners work with move forward in recreating a positive family environment.
RBWA will be continuing their work with us with a further trip already being planned for Spring 2018 and Hestia will be using their initial funding to support their Summer Play Schemes for mothers and children living in refuges across London. The scheme operates throughout the summer holidays to deliver a range of activities chosen by families.
How can you help?
Along with our work with nurseries, primary schools and art centres, women’s refuges are now going to have their own focused Apples & Pears funding stream so we can work with as many refuges that need support as we can.
As with all of our projects, we are eager to work with our supporters to improve and increase the impact of this initiative – please do feel free to get in touch should you wish to find out more but here are two immediate ways we are looking for help:
Introduce a refuge that might be interested in working with Apples & Pears
- We’re delighted to be working with RBWA and Hestia and are also keen to hear from other refuges in the London area – particularly those providing specialist services and supporting women and children with no recourse to public funds.
- If you are a refuge or know of one that might be interested in running our Trips Programme, please see our Apply For Funds guidance.
Support our fundraising campaign so we can support more refuges
- We’re hoping to raise £5,000 for our 2018/19 funding year so we can fund one trip a quarter at a minimum of 5 refuges. This is based on approximately 30 people taking part every trip.
- If you’d like to support, our campaign link is here. We also have 10k running and cycling events coming up – if you’re interested in a spot and would like to direct your fundraising for our refuges project then please get in touch with Anna!
- As with all of our campaigns, 100% of funds raised will go to the projects (with any administration costs covered privately).
Thank you as ever for your support!