Our quarterly issues papers outline just some of issues impacting our service users at the moment, as highlighted by our caseworkers and management team. We send this anonymised information to a wide range of decision makers, such as Nottingham’s MPs and Council leaders, with the aim of creating change in partnership with other stakeholders.
If you have any questions or feedback, or would like to be added to the Issues Paper distribution list, please email our Policy and Influencing Officer – email@example.com.
- A 66 year-old woman who suffered arthritis was emotionally abused by her partner. She could not leave the abusive relationship as leaving meant that she would leave her medically recommended armchair behind. She was worried that her partner would burn all her stuff if she fled without keeping the arm chair and other valuables safe. She was forced to stay in the abusive relationship until she got an accommodation where she can go with her arm chair.
- Another woman said: “I left with only a nappy and a water bottle for my 13months old baby, there was nowhere to save my valuable items.“
Moving can be difficult under any circumstances, but leaving an abusive household is uniquely stressful, costly and potentially dangerous. According to the World Health Organization, 27% of women aged 15-49 who have been in a relationship have been subjected to violence by their intimate partner at least once in their lifetime. Although women are advised to flee abusive homes, often times refuges provided for women fleeing domestic violence has no provision for women to store valuables.
Evidence shows that women often return multiple times to retrieve their belongings due to financial hardship or else lose valuable items altogether. Women have reported being worried about losing personal possessions, valuable children’s items and even a whole household!
- They suffer from guilt and emotional trauma of children leaving their things
- They are forced to remain in abusive relationships for fear of losing valuable items.
- They are exposed to greater financial hardship, as they lose valuables when they flee.
- Their mental and physical health is impacted from the trauma of leaving behind valuables they worked their lives for.
We are engaging with Nottingham City Homes as well as relevant stakeholders within the city to try and find charity storage slots for women fleeing domestic abuse.
- Special storage provision for women fleeing domestic violence within the city to store their valuables to enable women leave abusive relationships as soon as possible.
- Further investment in crisis fund and greater awareness on the importance of storage provision for women and how a lack of provision can make women remain in abusive relationships.
“I was diagnosed with endometriosis in 2018 after suffering from crippling heavy periods, chronic pelvic pain and fatigue for over 12 years. The gynaecologist who diagnosed me did not have the special interest in endometriosis required by the NICE guidelines and told me that I had mild endometriosis which she had removed during my diagnostic surgery. This turned out to be a misdiagnosis I’ve now been diagnosed me with severe endometriosis, which requires a different level of treatment.
My second round of treatment has been delayed due to Covid. My symptoms are worsening all the time and I am now in constant pain. I have gained 2 stone and I am no longer able to run (due to pain from the endometrioma) which was something which was very beneficial for my mental as well as physical health. Because I rely on strong painkillers to get through the day, I am now opiate dependant and when I do have the surgery I am waiting for (assuming it is successful) I will need to go through an opiate withdrawal programme.”
Because I have severe endometriosis, I have to be treated by a specialist endometriosis centre, however Nottingham does not have such a centre so I need to travel to Leicester for my care. This is also where my surgery will take place meaning it is unlikely that any friends or family will be able to visit me while I’m in hospital.”
1 in 10 (1.5 million) women suffer from endometriosis in the UK – a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb starts to grow in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes. It currently takes an average of eight years to get a diagnosis with endometriosis despite the fact that:
- 58% of those diagnosed had visited GP over 10 times,
- 21% visited doctors in hospital over 10 times,
- 53% visited A&E with symptoms
- 27% went to A&E more than three times.
Several our staff and service users are suffering due to the lack of a specialist NHS endometriosis clinic in Nottingham. Women are being forced to travel to Leicester, Peterborough, Birmingham, and other parts of the country for treatment. This is particularly difficult for women with caring responsibility and those who do not have cars. Women who access social security can claim back travel costs, but women on low wages cannot claim financial support for travel.
We ran a poll through our social media platforms and found that 45% of respondents with endometriosis (7 of 15 women) said they had to travel to other parts of the country for treatment. Women unanimously agreed that it was “extremely important” that Nottingham gets a specialist endometriosis treatment centre through NHS.
Lack of appropriate and timely treatment can have a serious impact on women’s mental health and has been linked to painkiller addiction. 90% of the women we polled with endometriosis said they would have liked psychological support, but they have not been offered this as part of their treatment.
We are hosting an Endometriosis campaign in March 2023 to raise awareness on the symptoms, prevalence and how to access help within the city if diagnosed with endometriosis.
We are still engaging with the NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) on possibility of a specialist clinic in Nottingham.
- As outlined in NICE Guidelines, we want anybody who is suspected to be suffering from endometriosis to be seen by a gynaecologist who has a special interest in endometriosis (i.e. specialist training). We have learnt there are currently not many gynaecologists with a special interest in endometriosis in Nottingham. This impedes women’s timely access to medical help and diagnosis.
- Better training and more awareness about endometriosis in Nottingham’s GP practises. It currently takes an average of 8years (several GP visits) to identify symptoms of and diagnose endometriosis. This has a debilitating impact on every aspect of the life of women and is expensive for the system.
- Free psychological support for women suffering from endometriosis.
- We want to see the funding allocated for a specialist endometriosis clinic in Nottingham. There are an estimated 30,000 women who suffer with endometriosis in the city.
“Before I started getting the free hours when my boys turned 3, basically all my wages went on childcare”Nottingham resident
Unaffordable childcare is a key issue that’s been raised multiple times by our service users and staff. Most UK Government spending is targeted at preschool age (3-4 years) which has been shown to limit women’s ability to return to or stay in work after giving birth. England is also one of the most expensive places in the world for childcare (only Japan is more expensive in terms of percentage of household income) with the average cost of a full-time nursery place at £263 a week, which is over half of average wage.
What NWC is doing about this issue:
- In collaboration with Nottingham City Council, we designed an action plan to develop an awareness campaign, promote the benefits to employers of inclusive recruitment and maximise funding opportunities for childcare support and lobby for sustained change on the high cost of childcare.
- We designed an inclusive recruitment guide with recommendations for employers and recruitment firms to adopt child care friendly measures to recruit and retain women in the workforce. See the guide here.
- We submitted evidence to the Education Committee Inquiry into support for childcare and the early years.
- We conducted survey and interviews with women and listening circles with Nottingham Muslim Women’s Network and Heya Women.
- Free full-time childcare from 6 months up to 2years to enable women find motivation to get back to work and their career.
- Free child care for women who wish to attend medical appointments/ professional trainings.
Since March 2021, courts in England have introduced Alcohol Abstinence and Monitoring Requirements (AAMRs) where drinking was a factor in a crime. An alcohol tag is imposed within an AAMR for adult offenders as a requirement of a community order or suspended sentence order for an alcohol-related offence, or an associated offence that is alcohol-related.
AAMRs bans offenders from drinking alcohol for up to 120 days and offenders must wear an alcohol monitoring tag as part of their community sentence. Compliance is monitored electronically through the alcohol tag which monitors the presence of alcohol in offender’s sweat. A recent report shows high compliance rates, however there is yet no evidence of their impact on offenders.
Through its case work, Nottingham Women’s Centre has identified the case of the use of alcohol tags and its adverse impact of its use on women.
Mary, a woman with four children was sentenced to wear an alcohol tag. She was not given any specialist support until several weeks after tag was in place. She also didn’t appear to have been given any information about the health impact of stopping alcohol use so suddenly. As a result of this, she suffered chronic mental and physical health challenges.
We are investigating this case, what support is available to women and any possible impact on women and their mental health.
On 14th June 2022, the Ministry of Justice announced plans to end Friday releases for those with resettlement needs. This is a welcome improvement and we appreciate the efforts of Nacro, and other supporters of the campaign.
However, this is not yet a reality as NWC still continues to see cases of women released on Friday and several difficulties they face in accessing the support they need before the weekend or close of day. We use this opportunity to emphasise the unique vulnerability of women who face several and multiple disadvantages and how a Friday prison release date impacts their mental health and subsequent resettlement into the society.
According to Charlie Taylor, Chief Inspector of Prisons, failing to ensure women have suitable accommodation plays a key role in the cycle of reoffending. He said: “Without stable, safe accommodation many women are liable to have mental health relapses, return to substance misuse and become involved in crime on release, creating more victims and, at great cost to the taxpayer, repeating the cycle and undoing the good work of the prison.”
Following the announced plan of the government to end Friday release for people that have resettlement needs, we released a statement emphasising the role of gender in assessing the vulnerability and resettlement needs of women leaving prison. Women face frightening levels of sexual harassment; abuse and violence on the streets; severe and multiple disadvantages; intersectional inequality; and a home environment could be a risk to their safety.
- An actual end to Friday releases for women
Nottingham Women Centre has seen an increasing number of women and service users struggle to meet their basic needs such as heating for the home and appropriate clothing.
Between July 2022 and Jan 2023, we have given out £1720 in emergency Argos or Tesco vouchers to women in need of extra support and applied for extra funding to do so. The Centre has also spent over £300k on giveaways such as warm clothing for women since October 2022, gain via extra funding we have obtained. Some of our lovely recipients said:
- “By providing our family with energy saving equipment and items to keep our home cosy is such a blessing. I’m hoping to put less money in my pre-payment meters and therefore have more money to spend on healthier food for the children. Thank you so so much“
- “I feel warmer already”
- “This funding has given me a lovey warm feeling inside
Several women have come to us recently and reported a struggle to pay for their council tax. Many earn as little as £20 or £50 over the applicable threshold amount for Council Tax Support and they make the point that whilst they do not qualify for council tax support, they cannot afford to pay the full amount either as the amount they earn over the applicable amount does not significantly improve their financial ability to pay the full council tax.
In addition to this, if you default on an instalment of Council Tax, you lose the right to pay by instalments and become liable to pay the full amount immediately. Further failure to pay after a reminder notice means you will be summoned to appear before court. This has caused anxiety and several women are running they run into debt as a result.
Women have pointed out that the threshold to qualify for Council Tax Support is low and they are still not able to pay the full Council Tax amount if they do not qualify. With this in mind it is crucial to examine the suitability of the current system of Council Tax payments and explore the possibility of a levels system of payments where Council Tax is paid according to where the resident falls within a salary range (with three or four different levels of salary ranges available). This would enable local residents to pay according to their earnings and reduces anxiety and mental stress.
What NWC is doing about this issue:
We are engaging with councillors to explore any possible change to the current system of council tax payment.