The No Woman Turned Away (NWTA) referral pathway is here to help 

If you feel you can’t support a survivor, it doesn’t have to be the end of her story. 

You can still help her escape abuse and access safety. 

In this blog, Sue — who is a Domestic Violence and Abuse Specialist Practitioner for NWTA — shares how the project helps services to support women who would otherwise not find the safe accommodation they desperately need. 

Over 25 years ago I started as a volunteer for what was called the Women’s Aid National Domestic Violence Helpline. I have also worked for a local refuge, both in the refuge itself and on its helpline. Currently, I work on the NWTA project, which has been funded by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to specifically support women and children who face additional barriers to accessing refuge accommodation. 

Nina* had fled her husband’s house with her newborn baby and moved in with family but her husband knew who she was with and continued to harass her and her family. The situation wasn’t sustainable because of the risk posed by her ex-partner and the lack of space for her and her child. But Nina didn’t know how to navigate what services might be able to support her because of the language barrier and her comfort level with English. On top of this, her local service hadn’t been able to help because she’d been turned down for recourse to public funds. After being told that she wasn’t entitled to any support or housing, the whole family was distraught. 

When Nina was referred to the No Woman Turned Away project, one of the specialist practitioners looked through her eligibility for recourse to public funds as someone who isn’t a UK national. She had previously been turned down as it was the incorrect route for application but she was eligible so the team found the best way for her to re-apply. She was accepted and as soon as she became eligible for public funds, she was assisted to successfully apply for benefits and then signposted to a refuge with available spaces. The specialist practitioner working on her case provided information on housing and other local services for when Nina was ready for her next steps, as well as advice on how to talk to the police, what the injunction process what might look like, and support with the ongoing harassment. This made all the difference for Nina, from allowing her to access benefits to finding a space where she would be safe away from abuse.  

When there are additional barriers like not speaking English, the No Woman Turned Away project can be vital for accessing support and navigating the barriers in place as they have access to qualified interpretation services like Language Line. Despite wanting to, frontline services don’t always have the resources and capacity to support women and children who face additional barriers, such as no recourse to public funds, a lack of accessible space, or no space for their children. This project can take your referral, and provide a specialist case worker to help survivors receive the support they need. 

Barriers may include having additional support needs around mental health, substance abuse, disability or language. Women may have no recourse to public funds, with no access to other support because of their insecure immigration status, they may have large families, or families with boys over 14. Or there may be other barriers – e.g, not having credit to make the phone call to a refuge, or high anxiety levels that mean they are unable to make calls themselves. 

A total of 337 referrals (307 individual women; i.e. there were 30 repeat referrals) were made to the NWTA specialist practitioners between the 1st January 2021 and the 31st December 2021. 184 women engaged and finished their support between the 1st January 2021 and the 31st December 2021. 

Of the 184 women, over a fifth (21.7%) sofa-surfed while they waited for a refuge space. Others stayed in emergency accommodation (28.3%) or paid to stay in a B&B or hotel (4.3%). Six women (3.3%) slept rough whilst waiting for a refuge place. This included on the streets and in a bus station. 

*All names have been changed for the safety of survivors and identifying details have been removed or altered.

It’s easy to make a referral

If you would like to know more about this project, please click here. 

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

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