Domestic abuse service extended across Swindon

Specialist housing provider Stonewater has been commissioned by Swindon Borough Council to extend its support for survivors of domestic abuse to overcome the barriers preventing many people from accessing traditional refuges.

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Stonewater has launched its first dispersed accommodation for people affected by violence and abuse, providing an additional four Safe Spaces across Swindon that can accommodate individuals, families and their pets.

In 2019, Stonewater launched its first Safe Space refuge in Swindon dedicated to those from the LGBTQ+ community who are unable to continue living in their current home due to discrimination, domestic abuse, hate crime or family breakdowns.

A needs assessment was carried out by Swindon Borough Council which gathered feedback about the barriers preventing some individuals or groups from accessing refuges. Stonewater has since adopted a new approach, so it can accommodate the wide-ranging needs of more people seeking refuge in Swindon by providing dispersed safe spaces.

This includes male survivors, people with pets and survivors who are employed – who typically aren’t able to be accommodated in a refuge.

The new dispersed Safe Spaces comprises a one-bedroom flat, a two-bedroom house and two three-bedroom houses, all of which can house survivors.

“There are many practical and psychological barriers that can prevent someone from fleeing abuse,” said Nicola Lambe, Head of Domestic Abuse Support at Stonewater.

“It’s estimated that as many as 25% of survivors will return to their abuser because their pet is being used as a means to get the person back and that currently, despite one in six men experiencing domestic abuse during their lifetime, only 4.4% of survivors being supported by local domestic abuse services, are men.

“Our aim is that by working differently to provide alternative routes to refuge, we’ll be able to support more marginalised groups and individuals into safe accommodation enabling them to work towards the goal of being able to live free from the threat of violence and abuse.”

Similar to Stonewater’s traditional refuges, the new service will also provide person-centred mental wellbeing support, as well as advice about employment and education opportunities, with the ultimate aim of preparing individuals for independent and permanent housing.

Support will be provided by the organisation’s specialist coaches and local partners – including Swindon Women’s Aid (SWA), who provides refuge and outreach services, a 24-hour helpline and accommodation in Swindon, and The Nelson Trust, who will be providing complex needs accommodation as well as mental health and drug and alcohol services.

Councillor Cathy Martyn, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing and Public Safety, added: “Domestic abuse can happen to anyone at any time. But the important thing to remember is that it is never your fault, and you never have to deal with it on your own.

“There are many different types of support available in Swindon and this specialist accommodation provided by Stonewater will help survivors access the support they need.”

To access support please contact Swindon Borough Council at hoptions@swindon.gov.uk or call 01793 445503, select option 5 and then 1.