I was pleased to welcome service users and staff from One25 to City Hall yesterday. I sat down with Cllr Helen Godwin, cabinet lead for Women and Children, to hear two women share their experiences of how the charity helps them on their journey.
Launched in 1995, One25 is still the only organisation in Bristol and the city region specialising in supporting women in escaping street sex working and the resulting violence, poverty and addiction. These women are amongst our city’s poorest and most vulnerable individuals. Each year One25 help around 230 women; there are currently about 130 who are street sex-working. Last year, 37 women took tough choices to exit this type of work and to build safe, healthy lives. One25 continues to support 63 women who are moving away from sex work, violence, homelessness and addiction and they offer a ‘step away from the streets’: whether for a short respite on the night outreach van, an afternoon in the St Pauls drop-in centre or permanently with the help of their eight specialist caseworkers.
Most of the women the dedicated staff encounter on the streets are homeless, acutely malnourished and addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. Because of this their safety and health are neglected. The charity sees women who are deeply traumatised from childhood abuse/neglect and the violence of life on the streets. Each year their clients report around 150 violent attacks against them.
The women spoke about the impractical result the redesign of specialist drug and alcohol services has had on those committed to getting and staying clean by losing the services of a visiting prescribing nurse. Helen and Jacqui Jensen, my interim Executive Director of Care and Safeguarding will look further into our commissioning process to identify any avenues where this could be improved. I am also going to visit the offices in the next few months to see for myself the important work they do for women in the city.
We also heard from a young woman who has been involved in the Pause Bristol programme which launched in June 2017 to work with women in the city who have had two or more children removed from their care. The 18-month pilot programme is working with around 20 women using an innovative and proven model of care, which supports women to break the devastating cycle of having their children removed. Pause Bristol’s most recent internal report found that, between 2012 and 2017, there were at least 127 women in Bristol who had had a combined total of 414 children removed from their care. Pause Bristol is hosted by One25 in collaboration with Bristol City Council and the Pause support staff were able to report to us a positive response from partner agencies to the launch.
The work of One25 and their input helped shaped my manifesto pledge to target domestic violence and make changes to the priority housing system. We are now looking at other ways to help with the lettings process. They talked to me yesterday about the difficulty a lack of suitable housing has on their lives and their ability to build on the enormous changes they are making. This reminds us of the challenges my cabinet and I are working hard to tackle around housing to ensure that the city continues to benefit all citizens. Starting from a standstill with our housing stock to delivering 2,000 homes a year remains on track and later this same day I was pleased to see the announcement that a ground breaking partnership deal had been completed to deliver 161 mixed-tenure homes in Southmead.