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Women’s Aid, the national domestic abuse charity in England, in partnership with Welsh Women’s Aid, is launching a new pilot scheme from Wednesday 15th June to change approaches to domestic abuse. The ‘Ask Me’ pilot scheme will be implemented by the charity to widen opportunities for survivors of domestic abuse to access the help they need from their communities. The scheme will launch initially as a pilot in three areas across the England and Wales, with the aim to extend nationally.

Survivors frequently report to Women’s Aid that opportunities to help them were missed in the local community. Women’s Aid therefore advocates for better and earlier identification of victims and proper signposting to support. ‘Ask Me’ aims to create communities in which survivors can disclose abuse early, and access support quickly. The scheme will create safe spaces in local business and community settings where women experiencing coercive control and other forms of domestic abuse can talk to someone and get help they need quickly.

From Wednesday 15th June, Women’s Aid will launch an appeal, calling for residents that work in jobs that interact frequently with local communities – such as hairdressers and shop assistants – to become an ‘Ask Me Ambassador’. This will be taking place in the pilot areas of Brighton & Hove & East Sussex, Tri-borough (Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster, and Hammersmith and Fulham) and Powys. Fifty community ambassadors will be selected in each area and will undergo two days of training. This will help them understand domestic abuse, including coercive control, and know how to spot the signs and where to signpost women for additional help and support. The Ambassadors are asked to stay alert to warning signs of domestic abuse, and provide information on local services available if they speak to someone they believe is in danger.

The ‘Ask Me’ pilot has been funded through the Tampon Tax and Comic Relief as part of increasing efforts to identify women experiencing domestic abuse at a much earlier point.

Polly Neate, the Chief Executive of Women’s Aid in England, said:

“We are delighted to be able to launch this scheme. Early intervention and community support are vital tools in working to end domestic abuse.

“Many women live with abuse for years without telling anyone and often have contact with several agencies or people in their local community before they get help. These women have few opportunities to disclose their abuse because their space for action is extremely limited.  Therefore, when an opportunity occurs, it is vital they receive the right support. Most people are not open to hearing that abuse is happening, or do not know how to respond appropriately. Our ‘Ask Me’ initiative will equip individuals in local communities with the basic skills, knowledge and tools to have a supportive conversation and provide an appropriate response.”

Eleri Butler, the Chief Executive of Welsh Women’s Aid, said:

“Women in Wales have told us how important it is for local communities to understand domestic abuse and the help available. Living with abuse in rural areas means survivors are further isolated and it’s vitally important they have effective routes to safety and support. So we are pleased to be working in partnership with Women’s Aid in England, to pilot how local community ambassadors in Wales can help increase understanding of domestic abuse and signpost to support provided by the Wales Live Fear Helpline and specialist services.

“Developing early intervention that meets survivors’ needs and prevents further abuse is a priority for public services in Wales since the enactment of the Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act. It’s equally important that community services and groups are well-equipped to identify domestic abuse and respond appropriately. We will be working with survivors and local services to ensure the tools and resources developed are relevant for communities in Wales, that safety is maximised and survivors’ needs remain central to strengthening community responses to domestic abuse.”

ENDS

Registrations for ‘Ask Me’ pilot in the three areas open from 15th June and training commences in September. To get involved please go to https://www.womensaid.org.uk/askme

For more information on ‘Ask Me’ or Women’s Aid, please contact PHA Media: [email protected] / 0207 0251 350

Notes to editors:

The ‘Ask Me’ schemed is aimed at professionals within communities such as hairdressers, shop assistants, local community and voluntary sector workers, local community champions, job centre personnel, community centres, food banks, youth centres, criminal justice agencies, court personnel, children’s centre staff, health professionals, education professionals, housing offices and drug and alcohol services.

Women’s Aid in England is the national charity in England working to end domestic abuse against women and children.  Over the past 40 years, Women’s Aid has been at the forefront of shaping and coordinating responses to domestic violence and abuse through practice. We empower survivors by keeping their voices at the heart of our work, working with and for women and children by listening to them and responding to their needs. We are a federation of over 220 organisations who provide more than 300 local lifesaving services to women and children across the country. We provide expert training, qualifications and consultancy to a range of agencies and professionals working with survivors or commissioning domestic abuse services, and award a National Quality Mark for services which meet our quality standards. Our campaigns achieve change in policy, practice and awareness, encouraging healthy relationships and helping to build a future where domestic abuse is no longer tolerated. The 24 Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247 (run in partnership with Refuge) and our range of online services, which include the Survivors’ Forum, help hundreds of thousands of women and children every year

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Welsh Women’s Aid is the national charity in Wales working to end domestic abuse and all forms of violence against women. We are a federation of specialist organisations in Wales (working as part of a UK network of services) that provide lifesaving services to survivors of violence and abuse – women, men, children, families – and deliver a range of innovative preventative services in local communities. We have been at the forefront of shaping coordinated community responses and practice in Wales since we were established in 1978. We do this by campaigning for change and providing advice, consultancy, support and training to deliver policy and service improvements for survivors, families and communities.

We also deliver services including the Welsh Government funded Live Fear Free Helpline (0808 8010800), a National Training Service providing accredited training and qualifications for professionals in Wales, refuge support and advocacy services in Colwyn Bay and Wrexham, and the national Children Matter preventative project supporting children and young people in every local authority in Wales. Our success is founded on making sure the experiences and needs of survivors are central to all we do.

© 2015 Women's Aid Federation of England – Women’s Aid is a company limited by guarantee registered in England No: 3171880.

Women’s Aid is a registered charity in England No. 1054154

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