A report by the Child and Women Abuse Studies Unit at London Metropolitan University on four years of work from the Ascent Advice and Counselling project and, more recently, the Ascent Advice Plus project has found that the pan-London partnership has supported more than 30,000 women and provided more than 52,000 one to one counselling sessions.
The report found that women feel that Ascent A&C’s support had had a significant impact on their life, with women often stating that it had “changed” or “saved” their life.
The partnership combines the skills and knowledge of 18 specialist counselling and advice services across London to provide a range of core services from one-to-one counselling to group work, legal advice, training and no recourse to public funds assistance.
During the pandemic, the complexity of women’s needs has increased, particularly in relation to mental health and meeting basic needs. Women are requiring more in-depth support to achieve safety, at the same time as service capacity has decreased.
‘The partnership has been such a success,’ says Jane Jutsum, Director, Solace, ‘Although the focus of the project is to support women and girls experiencing violence, the combination of organisations involved has allowed us to support women with complex issues and multiple disadvantages, because of the partners’ specific knowledge with issues such as housing, disability. It has also enabled us all to provide bespoke support for minoritised women.’
One of the key findings of the report was that having access to a women-only service where the workers were from a similar cultural background and/or spoke their mother tongue was important to women.
One Service User who was interviewed for the evaluation said:
‘I have built my confidence and have someone to look after me, as I do not family in this country. They come to my appointments with me; she came to court and to the police to further statements. I do not know the rules and problems with the language and this is a great help.’
The partnership model brings specialist services together, providing greater access and reach, and opportunities for knowledge sharing and learning.
A frontline worker interviewed as part of the evaluation said that
‘I see it as a large network of specialist workers who are working together to meet the needs and wishes of an incredibly vast and diverse city. I have endless admiration and respect for the women who work together to make this possible. I feel there is an ongoing effort to continuously build pathways with each other and share knowledge to create a comprehensive and intersectional support for survivors in London.’
Stakeholders appreciated Ascent A&C’s role in responding to VAWG, particularly the partner’s skills and specialisms, community languages and working with minoritised women. This isn’t offered on the same scale by any other projects in London.
Maxine Quintyne-Kolaru, Priority Manager at London Councils says ‘The Report is both insightful and a vital research document into support services available; to organisations and service users.’
Pam Saleem, the Operations Manager at Ashiana Network commented that ‘working within a pan-London partnership with so many specialisms and areas of expertise to support all women & girls that have experienced VAWG adds value to the work we do.’