Look Ahead run a number of services across London and the South East for women and their children. This includes women’s hostels, supported and temporary accommodation and specialist domestic abuse services. Supporting families to recover from trauma, gain stability and start planning for their futures is key to our approach. We have been delivering our Kent Domestic Abuse Service for over seven years. Across three separate sites, the service supports up to 23 women and their children at any one time through a range of emergency provision, refuge support and move-on accommodation.
Hear from Donna
Our service deals with a lot more than violence. Domestic abuse is all about power; coercive control is a huge issue. We support women and their children who come to us from all over the UK. People come to us for up to two years.
Typically they have come straight from the home environment but sometimes they have been homeless or in emergency accommodation. They might already be working with the police or social workers but they might never have told a soul. Sometimes people just walk out of their house, unable to take any more. Our priority is to get them in quickly, to make and keep them safe.
Everything we do at this service, with these women, is in partnership. It has to be. We work closely with social work teams and health, and also subcontract IDVAs (Independent Domestic Violence Associates) to an excellent local agency, Choices, who help women in the local community. This might be through safety planning, support to stay at home (if that’s what they want) or help to get to a service like ours.
We’re also supported hugely by the charities and people of our local community, which is fantastic. It makes such a difference to what we can offer the women and their children when they come to us.
Our work with the local police and officers like Lisa is invaluable. Working together, we can do so much more to keep these women safe and to help them start rebuilding their lives with their children.
Six years ago, I was in a refuge myself. Today I am proud to be part of the team that once supported me and my children. It’s rewarding to be able to support other families through what can be really dark times. I now speak to other staff about my experiences and how they can support people in the same position through Look Ahead’s Experts by Experience training. My manger tells me I am a great result of good services and support. I’d like to think she’s right.
Everything we do at this service, with these women, is in partnership. It has to be
Hear from Lisa
I’m a Domestic Abuse Officer for the Vulnerability Investigation Team here in Kent. I’ve done this role for a year, working with women experiencing domestic abuse directly in the community. I help to keep people safe in their properties, support women through prosecutions or help them access the wider support they need through services like Look Ahead’s.
The police’s relationship with Look Ahead is mutually reciprocal. We share information and expertise to keep women safe and support each other. I support the Look Ahead staff team when working with high risk referrals in the community, helping them to identify and manage risks and ensure the service is the right setting for each woman and her family.
Donna and the Look Ahead team offer a lot of support to our PCs, particularly those who may have little or no experience of domestic abuse. They signpost officers to agencies that can help, help them make onward referrals to multi-agency panels and help them better understand the issues these women are facing. We hope to build on this going forward with Donna and her team coming directly into our stations.
Donna and I co-facilitate the local One-Stop Shop where women can drop in, speak to us for advice, as well as get help and information from other local agencies like housing and solicitors.
We’ve also developed the Friendship Cafe, where women living at both Look Ahead’s service and in the local community, can chat to others going through the same thing.
Many women can feel very alone. They may have come here from another part of the country or become isolated from their families due to the abuse. The café has created an environment where women can support each other.
Before starting this role, I was an accountant in the force for 19 years. I wanted a change, to be able to directly impact on women’s lives. Together I think we are doing that.
We work together to keep women and their children safe