Creating change for women facing homelessness

    Photo fo Cat Glew, Women's Strategy Manager for St Mungo's
    Cat Glew, Women’s Strategy Manager

    St Mungo’s has published a new three year ‘Women’s Strategy’ setting out how we plan to improve our services for women and influence policy on women’s homelessness. Our Women’s Strategy Manager Cat Glew introduces our approach.

    Five years ago St Mungo’s published our ground-breaking Rebuilding Shattered Lives research into women’s homelessness. We found that homelessness services are often designed with men in mind, and were often failing to support women effectively.

    Sadly, it remains the case that women facing homelessness are still at a disproportionate risk of harm from those they love and trust, alongside the existing dangers of homelessness. Since 2014 a growing body of evidence has highlighted the connections between women’s experiences of violence and abuse, poor physical and mental health, substance use and homelessness.

    According to the latest figures, 642 women sleep rough on any one night in England, up from 509 in 2016. Many more women are likely to be experiencing hidden homelessness – seeking shelter with abusive partners, squatting or sofa surfing with friends and family – so may be missing from the statistics.

    Women’s homelessness often occurs after prolonged experiences of trauma, including physical, sexual and emotional abuse by those closest to them. Violence and abuse are both a cause and consequence of women’s homelessness, with women experiencing further abuse, exploitation and violence while homeless.

    Women-only spaces are a matter of safety for many women. Despite this, just 7% of homelessness services in England offer women-only provision, according to data from Homeless Link.

    Our greatest challenge and our most important aim is to create an environment of physical and psychological safety for women in homelessness services. We’ll be working hard to make sure that each of our female clients has a safe place to live and has every reason to feel safe in our services.

    We know that funding for women-specific work is falling, but we also understand that our female clients cannot wait for the Government to prioritise women’s homelessness.

    As a homelessness charity, it is our responsibility to make sure that we are achieving the best possible outcomes with women, as well as men. We have made the decision to make women’s safety and women’s recovery a priority. Our new Women’s Strategy sets out some ambitious aims that will help us improve our practice and influence government policy.

    Our ambitions for the next three years include:

    • Offering women-only services and spaces as an option for all female clients, at every stage of their recovery
    • Supporting and equipping St Mungo’s staff to better recognise and respond to violence and abuse
    • Improving rough sleeping services so that they are even safer and more effective for women
    • Working with specialist agencies to offer individual support to women around domestic and sexual abuse

    There’s plenty to do, but I’m really looking forward to working with all our clients, staff and partners to make our ideas a reality. Listening to the ideas and experiences of St Mungo’s women is an amazing privilege and the very best part of my job. I hope that partners, politicians and the public will read our strategy and join us as we create change with women facing homelessness.

    Read our brand new women’s strategy here

    The value of apprentices at St Mungo’s

    In this blog to mark the end of National Apprenticeship Week, our Head of Volunteering, Apprenticeships and Placements, Iver Morgan, reflects on the value and skills that apprentices bring to St Mungo’s and a new Social Work Apprenticeship launching later this year.

    More than 200 people have successfully completed St Mungo’s award winning Apprenticeship Scheme, since it began more than a decade ago. With National Apprenticeship Week drawing to a close, I have been reflecting on the last ten years and thinking ahead to the launch of a new Apprenticeship later this year.

    Our Apprenticeship Scheme is for people who have lived experience of using support services. This could be that you have slept rough or have lived in a hostel, or you might have suffered from mental health issues or spent time in custody.

    Our Apprenticeships are 15 months long, where you work in placements across the organisation for five days a week. While 20% of your time will be geared towards learning, giving you time to train and study for qualifications. Our Apprenticeships are currently in either adult social care or business administration

    The scheme is a perfect opportunity to learn practical skills in the workplace whilst gaining a qualification and boosting your confidence. The qualifications are offered by Opps Development, a training provider, which tailors the support they offer to ensure it meets the needs and ambitions of our apprentices.

    Many of our apprentices have had a complex past and their own individual battles. Through our Apprenticeship Scheme, people are able to use their own lived experience to support others to achieve their goals.

    One of our current Social Care apprentices is Jack. Before he started he thought: “given my past I never thought I would ever be able to do the role I do.” Now, coming to the end of his qualification, Jack says: “I love the fact that I’m helping people get their life back on track. I wish I did this years ago!”

    When I look across the organisation, I see former apprentices throughout our services and central departments. Some are now deputy managers or managers, it gives me an immense sense of pride to see the journey they have been on. All of our apprentices bring huge value to our work, not just to clients but also to us as their colleagues. The best apprentices are the ones who ask questions. It helps create a learning cycle, so that staff can assess their work and continue to improve the positive impact our service can have for clients.

    That learning is important: supporting professionals and those in the wider community to understand the causes and consequences of homelessness is vital in helping our clients to recover.

    Another way of improving this understanding among professionals is through our student placement scheme, which involves 250 social work and nursing students every year working with our clients. These placements are a fantastic opportunity for students to gain first-hand experience of working with people with a mix of strengths, vulnerabilities and needs.

    The involvement of social workers at St Mungo’s can only ever be a positive. That’s why I am delighted that the Apprenticeship Standard for Social Work has been approved and we will be offering our first St Mungo’s Social Work Apprenticeship later this year. These three year Apprenticeships will be open to our staff who at the end will achieve an honours degree in social work. It will help our staff develop new skills and understanding but, more importantly, we know that these skills and expertise will help our clients to move on from homelessness and live fulfilling lives.

    Find out more about our Apprenticeship Scheme and how you can apply.

Go back