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What works to support women facing multiple disadvantage?

In recent years the spotlight has focused on those experiencing so-called multiple disadvantage ie those who are homeless, have drug and alcohol problems and who commit crime and are deemed to place the greatest burden on the public purse.

Significant investment has been made in the development of innovative approaches to engage with this very marginalised group of people to enable them to make positive change in their lives. Women do not, however, feature heavily in this programme of work.  This is not because they experience fewer problems in their lives, but rather the difficulties they struggle with are different. These stem from lives punctuated by violence, abuse and trauma resulting in severe mental ill-health, problematic substance use, involvement with children’s services, hidden homelessness and offending behaviour. Support for women affected by such complex and interlinked problems is hard to find.

Agenda, an alliance of more than 70 organisations campaigning for women and girls at risk, and AVA (Against Violence and Abuse) are working together to map what service provision there is for women facing multiple disadvantage across the country.

The predominant message is that regardless of the type of service, it’s how support is delivered that is key to engaging with this vulnerable group of women.

Key findings from the report include;

  • The quality of relationships between women working in and using services is often what women value most.
  • The importance of having an understanding of women’s lives, particularly to what extent experiences of trauma and abuse are commonplace.
  • The importance of working from a strengths-based empowerment model.
  • The need to provide a physically and emotionally safe space, which can only be achieved in a women-only environment.
  • The need for holistic provision that reflects women’s individual needs and how they are often interlinked.
  • The importance of specialist support for some groups such as Black and Minority Ethnic (BaME) women.

Read the Full report or Executive summary