My Sisters’ House CIO

My Sisters’ House Women’s Centre works across the coastal area of West Sussex. We aim to support a population of vulnerable women who are characterised by a range of issues including histories of physical, emotional and sexual abuse, drug and alcohol addiction, trauma, and mental health problems. We also support women who may be having a difficult time in their lives – a recent loss such as bereavement, suffering poverty from unemployment, relationship breakdown, a victim of crime, accident or illness/disability.
We have a unique reach within our community and fill essential gaps in statutory provision. As the ‘net beneath the net,’ we meet the needs of marginalised women and provide them with a voice.

How does your organisation contribute to preventing suicide and supporting those affected by it?

We offer a range of support including one-to-one keyworking, peer groups, counselling, debt and benefit advocacy, back-to-work skills development, confidence courses and drop in services via face-to-face meetings, phone calls and live chat on the website.

Many of the women we support suffer with mental health issues and we work closely with partner agencies to try to ensure that they are receiving the help they need.  Key frontline staff have received suicide prevention training and this is being rolled out to all staff.

Our out-of-hours live chat service in particular is funded as part of a suicide prevention initiative and provides a listening ear and a route into accessing our other services for those who are unable to reach out in other ways.  As part of that work we are also taking part in regular cross-agency meetings sharing ideas around suicide prevention, and this may lead to future partnership working.

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What are your current priorities?

We hope to be able to resume more face-to-face work if restrictions ease as anticipated – we know that some women are not able to access our Centre any other way due to their home circumstances.

As always, we will prioritise obtaining funding to maintain our current level of service but also want to increase capacity.
Ideally we would like to employ a mental health advocate who could work with other agencies specifically to achieve the best support for women who require additional help in that area.

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What challenges are you currently facing?

We are seeing increasing demand across our services and a larger number of women with complex needs.  This is partly due to the pandemic but also follows a trend of year-on-year growth in the number of women accessing the Centre.
Funding bodies continue to be stretched and maintaining adequate funding is always a challenge.

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