Guests at an event on 14 May will hear from award-winning BBC journalist Victoria Derbyshire as part of a celebration of our work with women. At Inspiring Women, Inspiring Change, at the Old Bailey, they will also hear from women who have been supported by St Giles Trust and are supporting others alongside women who are using their position to inspire and campaign for positive change for other women.
Two Inspiring Women awards will be presented at the event – one to a St Giles Trust staff member or peer advisor and one to an external female who has inspired positive change in others.
Each year, the number of women helped by St Giles Trust has been steadily growing. Since 2010, we have offered specialist support services for vulnerable women experiencing issues such as homelessness, gang exploitation, domestic abuse and involvement in the criminal justice system. It uses our peer-led approach through training former service users who have overcome the same challenges faced by their clients. This work is trauma informed, helping the most vulnerable and excluded women who are often overlooked, ignored and unable to access other support services. Our staff help them to develop confidence and self-esteem so they can fulfil their potential.
“Many of the women we help have experienced very extreme situations which have left them traumatised,” said Nicky Park, Head of Prisons and Women’s Services Lead. “The fact they have been able to survive these situations makes them strong women. If they are then able to use these experiences to help others then they become a catalyst of change for both themselves and other women. We want to celebrate their achievements and show that they stand shoulder to shoulder with other inspiring women with totally different life experiences.”
Alongside trauma, many women we help also experience stigma and isolation which can be compounded by housing, health and financial hurdles, as the following story highlights:
23-year old Cara came into contact with us on her release from prison for a first offence. Despite having a local connection to London, Cara had to live away from her borough for her own safety due to the risk of gang reprisals. She was given temporary accommodation in the Home Counties where she did not know anyone. Alongside this, Cara’s medication for her depression and anxiety was running out. We had difficulty getting her registered with a GP due to patient caps in the area but eventually managed to secure two weeks of medication for her at a walk-in GP alongside antibiotics for a chest infection she was suffering from.
Cara’s caseworker raised her case with NHS England, arguing the need for urgent action, and she was then registered at the GP she had seen. We also provided Cara with travel funds, emergency food, toiletries and other essentials as Cara’s benefits had not come through and she had no money at all. Her caseworker made regular trips to Surrey to ensure Cara attended and was supported at all the appointments she needed to keep around probation, health and housing.
As a result, Cara successfully settled into the community after her release from prison. However, she says she would not have coped had she not had the support of St Giles Trust and would have been completely stuck if we had not been there to help.