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Women First Partnership Launch!

21 May 2018

Partnership launched to protect vital women & girls services from austerity measures

Showing solidarity in the face of adversity, organisations from across the North East have joined forces to co-ordinate and expand support services for women and girls. Today sees the launch of Women First, a partnership of twenty-one community based women’s organisations who reach out to women and girls facing multiple barriers arising from issues such as discrimination, domestic violence, poverty and poor health.

Women First’s purpose is for its women’s organisations to become more resilient through collaboration, innovation and enterprise and to respond more effectively to funding opportunities. It has emerged as a collective response to a crisis affecting the most isolated and vulnerable women and girls. A spokeswoman for the newly formed Partnership told our reporter:

"Women and girls with complex needs respond to holistic services that support their recovery over a long period of time. Yet, austerity measures have led to increased demand from women, alongside swingeing cuts in funding year upon year. Many of our organisations are in a position of providing more with less.

By joining together we believe we can reverse this trend and develop better more effective services and pathways for women and girls who for one reason or another tend to face barriers to accessing other services."

Women First’s vision is of thriving local, independent and holistic women led services and empowered women and girls who are able to make changes in their lives and have their voice heard. Member organisations provide safe spaces where women and girls can share experience, build mutual support and develop personal skills, knowledge and confidence to change their circumstances.

A recent snapshot survey of around 400 service users from 10 women’s organisations evidenced that: 9 out of 10 women accessing their services had more confidence, 8 out of 10 felt less isolated, and the same proportion felt healthier. One in seven women were better able to manage their physical and/or mental health. In 2016, Women’s Health Equality Consortium estimated the cost savings accrued to the public purse from just one of Women First’s member organisations was over 2

£1.3 million. This suggests that the economic value of Women First could be approaching £30M per year.

Dr Sue Robson, from the Women’s Commissioning Support Unit which has supported the development of Women First, had this to say today:

"A holistic approach is not just about responding to the complex and varied needs of individual women and girls, but about identifying and linking women’s issues to wider systems of inequality and discrimination. There is international recognition of the impact of women’s organisations on effective policy development, for example, the effective prevention of issues such as Violence against Women and Girls."

Wide recognition of the value and effectiveness of local, independent, holistic women focused services is the driving force for its founder members and they formed Women First as a vehicle for achieving this. The launch of Women First Partnership has been much welcomed by commissioners. Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria, Dame Vera Baird QC made the following comment in response to today’s launch:

"Austerity has hit us hard and has severely impacted upon resources for victims and support organisations. Through collaboration and innovation we can look to better cope with that and create and deliver highly effective support to those who need it most. It is only through working together in partnership that we can truly attempt to tackle issues facing women and young girls."

Members of Women First are already engaged in some NHS project work being led by the Northern England Clinical Networks. A representative of the Mental Health and Dementia Network team coordinating the work said:

"The Network sees co-production as a valuable way of developing sustainable change into its programmes of work, driving improvements to services in equal and reciprocal partnerships between professionals, people using services, their families and communities. Women First will provide a vital means of empowering some of the most vulnerable groups in our society to have their voices heard and valued when it comes to developing future service provision."

ENDS

For further information about Women First Partnership contact:

Dr Sue Robson, Development Officer, Women’s Commissioning Support Unit - sue@wrc.org.uk or 07813 109 215

Twitter @WomenFirstPart1

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/WomenFirstPart1/

Notes for editors

The Women’s Commissioning Support Unit is Women’s Resource Centre’s three-year pilot project to develop the strategic and delivery capacity of the women’s voluntary sector. The project is funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

Women’s Resource Centre is a national umbrella organisation for the women’s sector, working towards linking all aspects of the women’s movement and supporting its members to be more 3

effective and sustainable. https://thewomensresourcecentre.org.uk/womens-commissioning-support-unit/

The Northern England Clinical Networks is a part of NHS England which works in partnership with those who use, provide and commission health services to make improvements in outcomes and reduce variation across the North East and North Cumbria.

Women’s Health Equality Consortium (2016), Value of the Women’s Voluntary and Community Sector Delivering Health Services - https://www.whec.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Value-report-final.pdf

NEWomen’s Network and Women’s Resource Centre (2013), The impact of austerity measures upon women: A case study of the North East of England - https://thewomensresourcecentre.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/NEWN-impact-of-austerity-measures-case-study-June-2013-.pdf