A counselling project is transforming the lives of women and girls who have experienced domestic and/or sexual violence, a new study has found.
Ascent Advice and Counselling project brings together 18 specialist counselling and advice services across London and users have spoken about how it has “changed” and “saved” their lives.
Its work is highlighted in a new report by the Child and Women Abuse Studies Unit at London Metropolitan University.
The university has examined four years’ work of the project – from 2017 to 2021 – and found it has supported more than 30,000 women and provided more than 52,000 one-to-one counselling sessions, which were delivered by our members.
Counselling changes lives
The report found women feel Ascent Advice and Counselling’s support had had a significant impact on their life.
One of the key findings was that it was important for users to have access to a women-only service where the workers were from a similar cultural background and/or spoke their mother tongue.
Michelle, who was supported by the project and interviewed for the evaluation, said: “The most helpful thing was that she (my counsellor) had the same ethnicity as me.
“She was the same kind of background as me in terms of culturally, so there was some stuff I didn’t need to explain, and it just made it so much easier.
“She was iconic. That woman has left an impact on my life that I will never forget. She had such a profound effect on my life.”
Pearl, another service user, said: “They’ve really helped my life, and therapy was exactly what I needed, and it’s like I’ve basically put all my problems in a box, and wrapped it up and put a ribbon round it and gave it to the therapist and said ‘thank you’ and walked away.”
One anonymous user said: “Counselling was really transformative and helped me get a handle on my own life. Over the course of my sessions, I went from a very difficult place to being able to look after myself and process my experiences.”
Another added: “I will be forever grateful to every single caseworker I have had. They helped steer me through the most difficult period of my life, and enabled me to access services I would not have been able to on my own.”
The partnership combines the skills and knowledge of 18 specialist counselling and advice services across London to provide a range of support from one-to-one counselling to group work, legal advice, training and no recourse to public funds assistance.
Jeremy Bacon, our Third Sector Lead, said “This report highlights the importance of the role of community-based organisations in ensuring that women and girls have access to the support they need.
“The evaluation includes valuable insights from the partner organisations about the benefits and challenges of working in partnership and, critically, the need for services to be adequately funded.
“Involvement of trusted organisations working with woman and girls from BAME communities is another important aspect of this project report.
“Removing barriers to counselling for people from marginalised and racialised communities remains a significant challenge.”
Jane Jutsum is director of Solace Women’s Aid, a leading specialist Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) charity, with more than 45 years’ experience working with survivors of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG). Solace is also a BACP organisational member.
Jane said: “The partnership has been such a success. Although the focus of the project is to support women and girls experiencing violence, the combination of organisations involved has allowed us to support women with complex issues and multiple disadvantages, because of the partners’ specific knowledge with issues such as housing, disability.
“It’s also enabled us all to provide bespoke support for minoritised women.”