Since we were established in 2008, we have provided critical help to over 3000 women from Luton and Central Bedfordshire. Many of these women have been at imminent risk of harm or have survived abusive relationships but are left with trauma and need practical help to get their lives back on track.
Our purpose is to equip women who have suffered abuse or are vulnerable due to substance misuse, with the skills, hope and resources they need to make positive life changes. Below are some real (anonymised) examples of the help our team has provided.
Yvonne was referred to Stepping Stones after she failed to send her children to school. She was given 100 hours unpaid work and 10 RAR days. Her husband had died a couple of years earlier and after finding it hard to cope, she had unknowingly fallen into housing arrears and was struggling to pay her utility bills. She had been placed into temporary accommodation.
She was living in a two-bedroom flat with her two children (aged 9 and 15 years) within a block of flats. In one to one sessions with her Stepping Stones’ practitioner, she gradually spoke of her poor living conditions – there were bare wires, the boiler didn’t work and there had been a series of assaults and robberies in the flats. She eventually disclosed that her daughter had been sexually assaulted.
With her consent and help, our Practitioner contacted the local authority to raise these concerns of which they were unaware – as she was £500 in arrears they said there was little they could do. However, we continued to press for better accommodation. Simultaneously, we referred the case to the MASH team. This pushed the process along and with additional supporting evidence from us, a move was instigated. We also liaised directly with British Gas to explain the situation and re-establish her gas supply.
Living in a safe, secure and well-maintained property, Yvonne is now more positive and able to focus on her future. She is starting a college course and supporting her children to attend school.
Freya was referred to our service in June 2019, after being given a Community Sentence for carrying a bladed article in public. Her sentence included Unpaid Work, a fine and 10 RAR days.
She was a university student suffering from anxiety, stress and a history of self-harm. She also smoked cannabis. She was in a relationship with a violent gang member and her family wanted her to have an arranged marriage against her wishes. She was struggling to complete her degree and her conviction made her feel hopeless about finding future work.
Following an initial assessment, our Support Practitioner drew up a support plan and through this, has provided weekly one-to-one support to increase Freya’s confidence and self-esteem.
She attended our art therapy and we worked flexibly to deliver personalised sessions of our Anger programme as she found it difficult to engage in a group. Her Practitioner worked through techniques to better manage her emotions and mental health. Through our encouragement, she completed her degree, and we helped her see that employment was possible. She cut her ties with her boyfriend.
Very recently, we identified a job opportunity ideally suited to her degree and where the employer understood and accepted her criminal disclosure. We coached and supported her through the application and interview process and she was successful! Freya has a new optimism and the support of her family. We continue to offer ad-hoc support to help her through the first challenging weeks so that she sustains the job.
Jenny self-referred to Stepping Stones in 2019. She was on medication for bi-polar disorder and receiving help from Charter House (local mental health service). She wanted parenting support as she was finding it difficult raising her son alone after leaving an abusive relationship with his father. Her self-esteem and self-worth were low and she had little confidence in dealing with the father.
Jenny was assigned a Keyworker who she met weekly to discuss her emotional state as well as seeking support to manage her relationship with her ex-partner. We helped her to compose emails to him and put her in touch with local solicitors to formalise contact with her son. This gave helped her to become more assertive and instigate formal mediation. In one-to-one sessions our Keyworker covered themes such as “Good Times”, “Personal Characteristics” and “Things I am good at” to help build her self-esteem and self-worth. She also undertook Cognitive Behavioural Therapy which helped address her insecurities and negative feelings towards herself.
She also participated in our parenting “Nurture” group as well as Stay and Play sessions with our childcare team. She also used childcare to attend appointments with mental health professionals – the first time she had felt confident to leave her son.
At the end of her time, she had learnt how to take control and had belief in herself to manage her relationship with her ex-partner for the benefit of herself and her son. Her Charter House support had reduced substantially due to her positive wellbeing.
Cara was referred to us by Luton social services in July 2020. She was experiencing domestic abuse; coercive control and emotional abuse from her husband. They have 4 children; all on Child Protection Plans. She came to the UK from Pakistan in 2017. Our Practitioner quickly recognised that she was suffering from depression and mental health issues primarily stemming from her abusive relationship and because she had no financial independence despite having a part time job – all aspects of her life were controlled by her husband.
Cara reached breaking point and we helped her to flee with her children, firstly into emergency hotel accommodation and then into temporary council accommodation out of area where we have continued to help Cara set-up a new life. Through establishing her immigration status, we discovered she was entitled to claim housing benefit and Universal Credit. We helped her to make the applications and secured her a free tablet through a Lloyds Bank initiative that helped speed up the applications. We help her sustain her independence, we worked with her to develop a realistic budget plan based on her income versus outgoings.
We also put her in touch with another women’s charity and have liaised with them to find furniture as well as help her to find local schools for her children. She feels empowered and independent and, although cut off from her family, feels she has made the right decision. This has had a positive effect on her mental health and confidence.