Just one year after opening, The Nelson Trust Women’s Centre in Swindon came runner-up in the Women's Category at The Howard League Community Awards in London in July 2015. Sue Lee, Sex Worker Outreach Worker, and Lou Kuklinski, the Vice Liaison Officer at Wiltshire Police, have been supporting as many as 42 women in Swindon over the last year.
Our first Women's Centre opened in Gloucester in January 2010. This was so successful that we were asked by the Wiltshire Probation Service to do the same in 2014. For the last year, the Women’s Centre in Swindon has been a safe space for 173 Wiltshire women affected by addiction, trauma, abuse and mental health problems. The team works closely with the probation services to address addiction, homelessness, poverty, mental illness, family breakdowns and a lack of qualifications. By dealing with self-confidence and life skills through counselling and education, we've been changing the lives of many women in Swindon - sex workers; women coming out of prison; victims of domestic violence; teenage girls at risk; and women with multiple needs. This is a safe space where women can share their problems and get their lives back on track.
Sue Lee leads the Swindon Sex Worker Outreach Project alongside Lou Kuklinski. Over the last year, they have supported 35 women very closely on a one-to-one basis. Sue and Lou were thrilled to receive their award in the Women’s Category at The Howard League. Sue commented:
'We feel very proud of our achievements over the last year. The true success of this Sex Worker Outreach Project is down to my partnership with Lou Kuklinski, the Vice Liaison Officer at Wiltshire Constabulary. By working so closely with the criminal justice system and other key agencies like social care and the drug agency and housing, we’ve managed to help many women in Swindon. I feel as though my job description was written especially for me! I was a Criminal Justice Drugs Worker for 12 years, supporting street sex workers. I believe so passionately in this work. My post was funded by the Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire, Angus Macpherson. This is pioneering work. Before I came along, sex workers were sent to court and fined. Now, no sex worker goes to court and I’m here to help them. I work for The Nelson Trust, supporting anyone affected by addiction and trauma. The majority of these sex workers are on the street to support a Class A drug habit, so it makes sense that The Nelson Trust provides community services like this. Night time outreach is at the heart of our work. Every Thursday, I work into the early hours with a trusted volunteer. The women feel safe in my van – we have everything they need.’
The Women’s Centre in Swindon works with a huge range of complexities: Sue could be assisting a woman who has been violently assaulted, getting her to specialist services and encouraging her to report a possible crime; a woman with nowhere else to go may be fleeing violence; a Key Worker could be picking up a woman from the prison gates; or a Probation Officer or Magistrate may be seeking advice.
Rose Mahon, our Women's Services Manager, commented, ‘I’m often asked how on earth we keep going! When we see these women growing in confidence and getting their lives on track, we know we’re making a difference.’
We're extremely proud that this same team has now been publicly congratulated by the lead detective at the Wiltshire Police for putting a violent rapist behind bars for seven years.