Last year over 200 women accessed our services each week, showing how much they are needed.
Advocacy, Intervention and Support Service
This vital service is part of ‘Building Women’s Resilience’ and is funded by the Big Lottery Fund, London Borough of Camden, Hampstead Wells and Campden Trust and the Fitzdale Trust.
The service helps women to resolve urgent problems concerning welfare benefits, debt, housing and repairs, mental and physical health matters and employment. The service helps women to secure their welfare benefits entitlements and secure debt waivers. We also assist women with serious debts, helping them to learn about budgeting and managing their finances.
The introduction of Universal Credit and of other recent changes to the welfare benefits system have pushed many of our users into hardship and debt and we are continuing to refer women to food banks. We negotiate with mainstream services on women’s behalf and help them to deal with complex processes and move forward in their lives. This service provides a springboard to other services at WHWC and opportunities.
Last year we helped over 400 women and recovered over £160,399 in welfare benefits, debt waivers and charges for women. Our advocacy and Intervention workers also successfully secured individual hardship grants for clients.
Citizen's Advice Bureau (CAB) Service
Citizens Advice Camden offers a weekly advice service at West Hampstead Women’s Centre, for women registered with a GP in the borough of Camden. Many clients with long-term health problems prefer to seek advice in a supportive place like WHWC. We help many women dealing with low or unstable income, which can exacerbate health problems and jeopardise recovery. Some clients have experienced severe trauma due to domestic or childhood abuse, war or conflict. We improve women’s access to benefits including Personal Independence Payments and disability benefits, help with claim forms, or appeal against negative benefit decisions. We also assist with debt crises, and long term debt management. Links between low income, debts and mental health are well established; good advice at an early stage, can be a key element in reducing anxiety and improving mental health.
Ongoing cuts and changes to the benefit system have led to continuing and increasing demands for benefits and debt advice. We also advise on housing, utilities, bills, health, community care, travel and transport. All can adversely affect wellbeing, and we aim to help women manage such difficulties and so move on with their everyday lives.
98 women were helped by our Citizen's Advice Bureau (CAB) service to access welfare benefit entitlements and debt waivers including disability and Personal Independence Payments, serious debt, health and community care, along with individual hardship grants from charitable funders.
Volunteer Development Programme
Our Volunteer team is highly valued by West Hampstead Women’s Centre, and is integral to us achieving our aims and objectives.
In 2017 our Centre was awarded The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. This wonderful achievement recognises West Hampstead Women’s Centre’s “outstanding voluntary work in the community” and we are delighted by this recognition of our Volunteer Project and the value we place on our volunteers.
We have a team of 46 volunteers who last year contributed over 2800 hours of their time. Our volunteers’ enthusiasm and dedication enables us to provide a wide range of services to our members. We have volunteer receptionists, graphic and website designers, photographers, trustees, fundraisers, Yoga and Tai-chi teachers, osteopaths, cooks, craftswomen, event organisers, workshop leaders, a clinical psychologist, and numerous other roles.
In 2017 we welcomed 25 new volunteers to our existing team which saw four progress to paid employment. Volunteers reported how enjoyable and confidence boosting they find volunteering, linking them to their community and enabling them to develop and learn skills. We were fortunate to have three volunteers on placement from Middlesex University supporting two new projects with our Somali and Irish Women’s Groups.
We offered training to improve our volunteers’ knowledge and skills, build confidence, enable them to have rewarding placements and support them in seeking work or further training. These opportunities included jobsearch, networking and interview skills workshops, a conflict management training award, self defence, cooking, and a beauty and massage course. One volunteer was trained by Quaker Social Action and successfully delivered a debt workshop to members of our Somali Women’s Group.
We work with fantastic supportive organisations including Women Like Us, Volunteer Centre Camden and Volunteer Action Camden to successfully run our volunteering project.
Somali Women's Support Group
We provide advocacy support services and women support work, give information on rights and entitlements, referrals to access services, and community support letters where appropriate. We are aware of the difficulties some women of the Somali community have understanding complicated health, social and welfare systems in the UK, and we support them to understand the scope of available services, as well as assisting services to be more responsive to the needs of the community.
In 2017 we launched a Project enabling Somali women to identify ways of helping themselves and each other understand UK systems. We recruited two Middlesex University students on placement, to coordinate workshops addressing the challenges Somali women face living in the UK including parenting, policing and education. Speakers are invited from relevant organisations and community groups. The well attended events were very positive and helpful for the women.
We successfully continued accredited ‘Home-based Childcare’ training for 73 BME women to provide them with flexible employment opportunities that accommodate caring responsibilities.
Our passion to improve the minds and health status of Somali women, is the driving force and motivation for us to continue with what we are doing.
Last year we published two books which were beautifully created by our volunteer Gunnhildur Asgeirsdottir.
The first 'Writing Myself' featuring writing from our Irish Women's Group on a range of issues sold over 200 copies and a copy was placed in the British Library.
The second 'Suitcase Stories' contained stories of women's lives and journeys of determination.
16 women took part in our practical gardening sessions which boost physical, mental and social wellbeing.
Last year over 65kg of vegetables and fruit were harvested and the group helped maintain street-side planters in partnership with volunteers from Kingsgate Garden Club.