Women’s centre is major boost in the fight against domestic abuse in Barnsley
Barnsley is to get its own women’s centre for the first time after the council succeeded in a bid for funding from the Ministry of Justice, in a move which will also see work stepped up to help ex-convicts who have been subjected to domestic violence.
The council has won £250,000 from the MoJ for a new centre they hope to have built and open by the end of the year, but they are also working with a charity called Human Kind on the project, which has brought in additional funding to make a total of around £600,000.
That will secure the cash to build and operate four flats for female convicts released from custody who would otherwise have no other choice but to return to the environment where they had suffered domestic violence before being jailed.
It is hoped the women’s centre will be somewhere close to the town centre, or on a major bus route, operating on a ‘drop-in’ basis, where residents will be welcome to seek advice on domestic violence and a range of other issues affecting women.
Jayne Hellowell, Barnsley Council’s head of commissioning for healthier communities, said they had “big ambitions” for the centre, with hopes that it may include a cafe, training facilities and possibly assistance to get those needing help into work.
Several alternative sites are currently being investigated with an aim to complete the project by the end of the year, though that remains a tight schedule.
The flats for former offenders may be located elsewhere, but would form part of the new service.
Barnsley Council was one of 14 organisations to secure money from the MoJ and the only local authority in the country to submit a winning bid.
Jayne said: “We selected a development partner called Human Kind, they were successful because they will develop the women’s centre and also four units to accommodate four people, directly out of prison.
“We will take them from prison and directly into secure accommodation and work with them to prevent them from being lured back into the situation they were in,” she said.
It is accepted that many women who get into trouble with the law have had problems with drugs or having too little money to live, but also a background involving domestic violence.
“A lot of people come out of prison and have no alternative but to go back to what they came from. We want to break that cycle,” she said.
The women’s centre would be “completely different to a refuge,” she said.
“It will be where they can drop in for advice on women’s issues, including domestic abuse.
“We want it, potentially, to be used for support groups, training, counselling groups.
“We want women to come to it when they are needing support. We are very ambitious about it,” she said.