Sheffield salon aims to give women released from prison a second chance

The Lord Mayor Cllr Peter Rippon cuts the tape to open the What Women Want Training Salon assisted by Michelle Nicholson, Laura Mallett and Dawn Moynihan
The Lord Mayor Cllr Peter Rippon cuts the tape to open the What Women Want Training Salon assisted by Michelle Nicholson, Laura Mallett and Dawn Moynihan
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Women who have been released from prison are getting a second chance thanks to a new salon in Sheffield.

The What Women Want salon on Elm Lane, Sheffield Lane Top, gives women released from HMP New Hall, West Yorkshire, who want to settle in South Yorkshire a place to train and gain qualifications.

The salon is being run by the charity Key Changes – Unlocking Women’s Potential, which was set up to offer women mentoring while they are in prison and help empower them when they are released.

The charity was set up two years ago by Michelle Nicholson, who knows how difficult it is for women once they are released from prison, after serving a 14-year sentence for her role in the murder of her drug addict father when she was just 22.

The 44-year-old – who has always maintained she took no part in the offence – said many women just want a second chance in the community.

Michelle said: “What Women Want is not only a salon for women, it’s a salon where we are creating opportunities and it’s also a place of hope for women of a second chance.

“This is providing a safe environment for those women in a non-judgmental way to give them skills and something they can use to move forward in life.

“Many of the women who we mentor say there is a lack of opportunity in the community.

“One of the reasons they often re-offend, apart from the complex issues that they have to deal with, is that there is a massive problem with stigma and not being able to resettle back into the community.”

Women will train at the salon with tutors from Manchester College to gain City and Guilds Qualifications.

Dawn Moynihan, 47, who spent three months in prison, is one of the first women to undergo the training.

She said: “If I could take a picture of when I came out and how I felt it’d be a dark sky, thunder and lightning and rain coming down.

“But if I could take a picture now it’d be blue skies and sunshine. I know I can come here and not be judged. It’s changed my life.”

Lord Mayor of Sheffield Coun Peter Rippon said charities such as Key Changes were important to helping reduce inequality across the city.

Speaking at the official launch event, he said: “It’s important for a project like this to work with those marginalised and in need of help. It reduces the causes of inequality in the community and develops long term solutions.

“The council in the last year has developed the city- wide equality hub network and women’s hub to help strengthen women’s voices and influence in the city and welcomes involvement from all, but especially those marginalised women in the city.

“Organisations such as Key Changes can help by giving opportunities to women who have been through the criminal justice system and don’t currently have a strong voice to become more involved.

“Tackling inequality and increasing opportunities for the most marginalised, like this project does, is important to me and increases fairness and social cohesion in the community and improves wellbeing, reduces health problems and helps people to have independence and control over their lives.”

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