A year into a new collaboration aimed at getting vulnerable sex workers off the streets, the ISIS Women's Centre in Swindon was shortlisted for a national award. Sex outreach worker Sue Lee started in her post last year, and works hand in hand with vice liaison officer Lou Kuklinski, of Wiltshire Police.
On July 21, they received runner up prizes at The Howard League Community Awards, in London. For the last year, the Women’s Centre in Swindon has provided a safe space for 173 women whose lives are affected by addiction, trauma, abuse and mental health problems. The team work closely with the probation services to address homelessness, poverty, mental illness, addiction, family breakdowns and a lack of qualifications.
By dealing with self-confidence and life skills through counselling and education, they have been changing the lives of dozens of women in Swindon including sex workers, women coming out of prison, victims of domestic violence, teenage girls at risk, and women with multiple needs. Over the last year, Sue and Lou have made contact with 42 women, 22 on a one-to-one basis. "We feel very proud of our achievements over the last year,” Sue said. “The true success of this is down to my partnership with Lou Kuklinski. “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."
The work was funded by the office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Swindon and Wiltshire, Angus Macpherson, she said. “I was a Criminal Justice Drugs Worker for 12 years, supporting street sex workers. This is pioneering work. Before I came along, sex workers were sent to court and fined," she said. "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.”
Rose Mahon, manager of the Centre, said, “When we see these women growing in confidence and getting their lives on track, we know we’re making a difference.”