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What is Women Centred Working?

Women Centred Working is an initiative to encourage design and delivery of more effective services for women facing multiple disadvantages.

What we have come to call the ‘women centred’ approach can get to the root causes of complex problems by tailoring and integrating services around women’s specific needs. This initiative has been set up to share good practice, change thinking and promote women centred ways of working on a wider national basis. For further information see our booklet Defining an Approach.

What are the aims of Women Centred Working?

Women Centred Working wants to spread the word about the value of women centred solutions. By defining the approach, showcasing it in action and demonstrating its impact, the initiative aims to inspire new ways of thinking. We will also provide practical tools and guidance for commissioners and services providers on ways in which women centred solutions can help meet demands on them.

Why do we need women centred working?

Current policy and practice is not working as well as it could for vulnerable women. Women who are in trouble with the police or dealing with domestic violence, physical and mental illness, substance misuse, unemployment, poverty or homelessness tend to have multiple and complex needs.

Ways of working that are centred around the specific challenges women face are necessary because females are more likely to experience childhood and domestic abuse and trauma, which can have profound effects later in life. They are also more likely to be carers for children, which means their role as mothers must be taken into account.

While most public and voluntary services are provided in a generic way at present, evidence shows gendered approaches have better outcomes. The complex and fragmented way in which services are provided can be difficult for women to negotiate at vulnerable points in their lives. This is why accessing ‘one stop shop’ support in a safe environment is important.
For further information see our booklet Showcasing Women Centred Solutions

What’s the relationship between Women Centred Working and WomenCentre Calderdale and Kirklees?

WomenCentre Calderdale and Kirklees has been supporting vulnerable women for almost 30 years. It is one of the largest women’s centres in the UK. It has been at the forefront of innovation and is recognised as a national exemplar.

For example, the Corston Report on women in the prison system commended its one stop shop services and its Evolve project has seen outstanding success as a result of holistic approach to preventing reoffending.

Over the years, WomenCentre has advised numerous policy-makers and professionals on its model and it is now keen to share this knowledge on a more systematic basis.

The Women Centred Working initiative has been set up to showcase innovative grass roots projects at WomenCentre and in communities elsewhere to inspire commissioners and practitioners across the UK to find new ways of addressing old problems.

What is the relationship between WomenCentre Calderdale and Kirklees and other women’s centres around the UK?

The WomenCentre Calderdale and Kirklees is one of some 50 women’s centres across the UK, which were founded on similar principles and provide services for vulnerable women. As a larger women’s centre in the country and one of the first to offer ‘one stop shop’ wrap-around support, WomenCentre has pioneered innovative ways of working with demonstrable results and has shared its expertise nationally.

What are the cost benefits?

Fiscal austerity has increased demands upon services while also reducing resources available and raising eligibility thresholds, making the need for cost effective use of funds greater than ever. Women Centred Working has evidence to show that the women centred model is relatively low cost and can help make best use of limited resources.

Women Centred Working provides value for money because it can integrate different strands of funding, avoid duplication and deliver multiple outcomes, for example addressing addiction and domestic abuse issues simultaneously. Its preventative approach helps break negative cycles for individuals and reduce the impact of parental disadvantage on future generations, which gives children a better start in life and can save billions of pounds of public money in the longer term.

For further information see our booklet Showcasing Women Centred Solutions.

How is Women Centred Working funded and managed?

The Women Centred Working initiative has been funded by Lankelly Chase Foundation to run for three years as part of its aim to ‘bring about change that will transform the quality of life of people who face severe and multiple disadvantage’.

The initiative is headed up by Clare Jones, CBE. Clare was joint chief executive of the WomenCentre Calderdale and Kirklees and is now its National Lead for Women Centred Working. She maintains a close relationship with the WomenCentre and remains involved in several of its programmes.

What are the principles of women centred working?

Women Centred Working is based on well-documented knowledge that those engaging with services are the most qualified people to find solutions to their own problems. The female focused ethos supports women to take control and build resilience to help themselves, their families and communities.

It also recognises that women with complex problems may have experienced trauma and offers a way of working that addresses underlying issues and enables troubled lives to be rebuilt. This means designing gendered services, delivered in a safe environment by staff and volunteers who share the women centred ethos. It means respecting each woman in a way that empowers her to find confidence to work towards facing her own issues in a more effective way.

Women centred working is:
* Safe *Supportive * Community based *Accessible *Professional * Gendered * Tailored * Holistic
* Integrated *Flexible * Preventative * Effective * Evidence based * Value for money * Innovative

For further information see our booklet Showcasing Women Centred Solutions

What does it mean in practice?

Women centred working is a culture rather than a process. It is based on understanding what is going on in each woman’s life in a holistic way. It means ‘one stop shop’ access to information and tailoring integrated, multi-agency, wrap-around support packages from a range of service. It means multi-skilled professionals can build a bond of trust that enables women to unlock problems.

For further information see our booklet Showcasing Women Centred Solutions

Is the model flexible and transferable?

The women centred way of working has evolved from effective practice at grass roots level into a well-defined model that can be readily transferred into different situations where women are experiencing multiple disadvantage or have severe and complex needs. It is a flexible model, which can be adapted to suit specific local circumstances and cultural, ethic or other considerations as required.

How can Women Centred Working help me?

Women Centred Working presents an approach that is tried and tested – with leaders, commissioners, providers, workers and volunteers and most importantly with women and girls themselves. Through this initiative, we hope to inspire you to do things better for women and families struggling to cope with multiple disadvantage. Further tools to support Women Centred Working will be available shortly.

For more information or support in the development of women centred strategies and practice, please contact Clare Jones, National Lead for Women Centred Working.

Email: clare.jones@womencentre.org.uk

Who can I contact?

Please get in touch with Clare Jones, National Lead for Women Centred Working to discuss ways in which Women Centred Working can help you, your organisation and people who use services and require support.

Email: clare.jones@womencentre.org.uk

Women Centred Working is a project of WomenCentre, registered charity no 1118366, company number 6084795