The Women Centred Working initiative is project led by Clare Jones, CBE.
Clare’s role as National Lead for Women Centred Working has grown out of her experience as joint chief executive of WomenCentre Calderdale and Kirklees.
Working in the joint leadership role at WomenCentre alongside Angela Everson meant they could each develop complementary areas of expertise. Having championed innovation and multi-agency partnerships and chaired the Women’s Centres Forum, the Women Centred Working initiative is now enabling Clare to focus on influencing policy and practice nationally. Angela maintains organisational leadership and is taking forward the sustainability, quality and development of WomenCentre.
Clare’s commitment to social justice is rooted in her parents’ work as professional foster carers. “Growing up I gained real insight into the difference professionalism coupled with care makes to people’s lives and this has shaped the values I have carried into all of my work,” she explains.
After graduating with a degree in sociology and psychology from Bristol University, she gained experience in residential social work with teenagers, child protection, family therapy and work with disabled adults and travellers. But realising the limitations of existing institutional environments led her to work in and to develop centres for ex-offenders and former drug users, which were ground-breaking in the 1980s. “It was then that I realised the importance of designing therapeutic environments where people can have a chance to reassess their lives with intensive professional support.”
Having gained confidence personally from the support of other women during her time as a mother at a difficult time in her life , she went on to help set up a co-operative for homeless women.
Clare’s involvement with WomenCentre in West Yorkshire dates back almost twenty years, during which time she has worked in domestic violence services, facilitated group work, trained volunteers and established legal services, which were quality marked for meeting women’s needs . She also was part of the team that pioneered the country’s first ‘one stop shop’ for vulnerable women there in 2003. “Our work during this time encapsulated the ethos of ‘women centred working’ we have taken forward since”, she says.
WomenCentre’s national profile expanded as a result of the Corston Report’s recommendations for female offenders and policy-makers’ recognition of its solutions to complex problems affecting vulnerable women – particularly in terms of mental health, safeguarding and piloting joint commissioning. Ministerial visits and inclusion on several national boards further endorsed women centred ways of working. “This gave us confidence to start looking, in a conscious way, at what makes the women centred approach work. Now the Women Centred Working initiative is a chance to take this effective, gendered way of doing things forward on a wider scale.”
Clare was awarded a CBE in 2012 for work impacting on vulnerable women at local and national level. “My three daughters came with me to collect the award and it’s a great honour. This sort of recognition is a reflection of the whole organisation, its committed staff and volunteers and most importantly the women who have used it to help rebuild difficult lives.”