On the dreich Monday morning 5 days before the opening night of GUCFS IN BLOOM, I sat down with some of the staff of Glasgow Women’s Aid to discuss their work, the challenges facing the organisation and the collaboration with Glasgow University Charity Fashion Show.
Glasgow Women’s Aid started in one small flat in the Gorbals in an effort to create a safe space for women who had experienced domestic abuse. Their ethos from the start has been women supporting women. In every aspect of work at Glasgow Women’s Aid, this shines through, from the work done to continually support and inform women who use their drop-in services and phone lines, to the support the staff give each other.
A huge part of their mission is to educate, inform and raise awareness of the many types of domestic abuse, how they affect women and children, and how to seek help, whether for yourself or another. The charity provides information sessions for any organisation that requests it, from schools and banks to juvenile offender institutions. Many of these requests now stem from the social media activity of Glasgow Women’s Aid. According to their communications manager, the outreach with social media has likely led to the increased outreach from organisations. Social media poses a difficult problem for charities such as Glasgow Women’s Aid. Where other charities can advertise on the streets and via social media, they find that few people want to listen to the problems that they deal with on a daily basis, despite a staggering 1 in 4 women experiencing domestic abuse at one point in their lives.
This, then, is where we see the importance of initiatives like GUCFS coming into play. When I asked various managers at Glasgow Women’s Aid for an idea of what it was like to work alongside GUCFS, the response was overwhelmingly positive.
“We’ve never had anything to bring in so much money, so much consistent support.”
At a time when the service is handling a greater quantity of refuge and support requests than ever before, there is a real need for greater awareness and funding. This is what GUCFS has been providing for the last six months.
The number of contacts to Glasgow Women’s Aid has increased rapidly, to over 8,000 in 2018/19. One of the managers told me that for her personally, she measures this in the quantity of milk that she has to buy for the office. A couple of years ago, she could get away with buying milk once a week. These days she often has to buy milk 3 times a week, to keep pace with the number of women using the service.
There were 591 refuge requests made in 2018/19, and of these 105 moved into refuge. Not all women who requested refuge were suitable for the kind of refuge available, and other Women’s Aid organisations help where they can, but the reality is that there is not space for everyone who needs it. With this rising pressure, the staff believe that the situation is currently more complex and more difficult than ever
Whilst the principal costs are funded by the Scottish Government (especially the children’s services) and Glasgow City Council, many other costs must be covered by other sources. Outreach support, debt and financial advice, assistance with securing permanent accommodation, legal advice and assistance all come under this umbrella. There is also little funding for any of the activities that the charity would like to run, which can give women peer support from others who have experienced similar things, and help them begin to regain control over their lives once more. The cost of running one complete block of outreach support (12 weeks) is £936, and one week of refuge support, aside from the running costs covered by housing benefits, is £240. With £1000, a group workshop offering meditation, mindfulness and yoga for 10-12 women could be run for 10 weeks.
With the money raised through GUCFS 2020, plans are being laid to bring in a crisis support worker for a 12-month contract, to attend to the drop-in service and provide continuity to women seeking support. There are also plans to begin evening sessions.
One of the principal goals for Glasgow Women’s Aid is to try and secure match funding from another source for the following year when the money from GUCFS has been used to pioneer these initiatives.
In the meantime, Glasgow Women’s Aid provides 45 refuge spaces throughout Glasgow. Links to the Glasgow Women’s Aid website and helpline are below.
The Glasgow Charity Fashion Show will run this year on the 21st and 22nd of February. There are links to their website and social media below.
Glasgow Women’s Aid
Drop in 4th Floor, 30 Bell St, Candleriggs, Glasgow G1 1LG, Drop in opening hours Monday – Friday 0930 – 1630
website – https://www.gucfs.co.uk/
IN BLOOM event page – https://www.facebook.com/events/460777407882716/
~ Anya Brzeski