Initial work began on establishing some women-centred provision in the Barrow and Furness area in 2012, resulting in the formal creation of Women’s Community Matters and the opening of our centre on 25 November 2013.
Initial impetus for the centre came from local Probation Service colleagues, particularly Caroline Green, who were responding to issues raised in the 2007 The Corston Report. The Corston Report was focussed on the experience of women with particular vulnerabilities in the criminal justice system which, in broad terms, concluded that there was a ‘need for a distinct, radically different, visibly-led, strategic, proportionate, holistic, woman-centred, integrated approach’.
Since our inception we have continued to work with women in the criminal justice system, both as victims and perpetrators of crime, and will continue to do so. The issues raised in The Corston Report 2007 are still current and many remain to be adequately addressed as highlighted in 2017 by Women in Prison.
Following this initial impetus around women and the criminal justice system we have become a ‘one-stop shop’ women’s centre providing holistic and wraparound services and activities for women in need of practical and emotional support. Working with women, and their families, experiencing a range of vulnerabilities (sometimes multiple) in areas such as, domestic abuse; financial poverty; mental and physical health; the criminal justice system; children and families services; worklessness and access to education and training. This reflects the recommendations in both The Corston Report and Women in Prison (2017). Our offer now includes working with young people aged 12-19.
Early on in our development we realised that it was important for our service design and delivery to be co-produced with the people who use the service, our staff team, volunteers, trustees and other key stakeholders. This continues to be a core principle of our organisational practice.
We are also led by our understanding of asset-based approaches and relational working. In this regard we believe that our service delivery should be informed by an asset-based approach. Recognising that ALL individuals have stories to share and skills which can be built upon and utilised. It is about using the power of local associations, with the support of local institutions, to draw upon the widest possible range of individual and collective community strengths.
There is an emphasis within in our model on recognising all individual’s skills and strengths. Inherent in this is the importance of good face to face relationship building between everyone involved, people looking for support, volunteers, professionals, funders and our wider community. The quality of inter-personal relationships makes an enormous difference to the quality and success of the
services we deliver.
Similarly, at an early stage in our development, we began to understand the need for ensuring we had a clear set of values and principles which drive the organisation and all our work. We describe our values and philosophy as working with love, care, compassion and kindness and this continues to influence every aspect of our work.