NORTH Down and Ards Women’s Aid held an information day at Newtownards Town Hall last Friday (5th) attended by local politicians and members of the public.
It was an opportunity to highlight the services provided by the charity and let women know that help is at hand, particularly at this time of year when the stresses of Christmas can pour more pressure on already fragile relationships.
Organisers were delighted with the turnout and Beth Scott, chief executive officer, and Denise Bradley, floating support manager, took time to explain what is available for women at their local Women’s Aid.
Women’s Aid is the lead voluntary organisation in Northern Ireland addressing domestic violence and providing services for women and children.
The Women’s Aid movement in Northern Ireland began in 1975. It is made up of 10 local Women’s Aid groups and Women’s Aid Federation Northern Ireland, the regional body with a role for training, policy and lobbying.
Women’s Aid’s ultimate aim is to eliminate domestic violence and they do this by challenging attitudes and beliefs that perpetuate domestic violence and promoting healthy and non-abusive relationships.
Referring to the North Down and Ards Women’s Aid they said the need for crisis intervention for women and children experiencing domestic violence in the local area was identified at a public meeting in Bangor in 1982.
North Down and Ards Women’s Aid was established soon after. Over the years, they have used their experience and expertise to meet the growing demand for services in the local area. Work has expanded significantly since those early days.
Thanks to funding from a range of sources they are now able to reach women in both refuge and community settings and can respond to the needs of women and children, not only through crisis intervention but through preventative support and education.
North Down and Ards Women’s Aid provides a range of free support services to women and children affected by domestic and sexual violence. They aim to keep women and children as safe as possible through education and awareness raising.
Their services include: someone to talk to, emergency accommodation, ‘floating support’ in a safe place in the community at a time that suits you; support and information on your rights; accompaniment to solicitors and court; one-to-one and group support; education and personal development programmes; and support services for children and young people.
Beth and Denise explained that services are completely confidential and they understand it is a courageous decision for women to come to them for help. They offer safe and secure accommodation - emergency and temporary and offer support to allow women to leave refuge with the resources they need to continue life after domestic violence.
The refuge offers ‘communal living’ and they understand that living with other families is a big change when used to your own home. But knowing you are with women who understand what you have been through is a great help and invaluable support.
As a registered charitable organisation, North Down and Ards Women’s Aid constantly struggles to secure enough funding to run their vital services and is always appreciative of help so it can help others.
Many of their services, including those provided to children and young people are not core funded and are dependent on donations and short-term funding arrangements.
You can help them provide vital services to women and children experiencing domestic violence by donating money donating goods and gifts; corporate sponsorship; fundraising, or volunteering.
• If you find you need help from North Down and Ards Women’s Aid contact them in confidence on 0808021414.