A women’s aid charity facing a surge in cases of young girls exploited by gang members can offer ‘life-changing’ support thanks to new funding.
Havering Women’s Aid, which runs two refuges and services in the community, has seen a steep rise in referrals of girls trapped in unhealthy relationships with members of criminal gangs who often come from outside the borough.
The £127,500 funding from City Bridge Trust, the City of London Corporation’s charitable funder, will enable a specialist advisor to offer one-on-one practical and emotional support to help young women escape the cycle of abuse.
The charity has in recent years seen an increasing need for its help due to pressure on public services, while demand has risen further as a result of domestic tensions caused by the coronavirus lockdown.
Dhruv Patel, chairman of the City of London Corporation’s City Bridge Trust Committee, said: “It’s shocking to hear of ever more cases of young girls trapped in controlling and abusive relationship with gang members who attempt to manipulate, exploit and control them and cajole them into criminal activity such as hiding weapons.
“This funding will enable Havering Women’s Aid to provide dedicated support to these vulnerable young people at a time when it’s needed most, as the charity has seen its already mounting workload increase further during the lockdown.”
The City Bridge Trust funding over five years will pay for an independent domestic abuse advisor tasked with keeping young people safe and helping them achieve independence.
The service will offer one-on-one emotional support and help recognising controlling behaviour, alongside practical support dealing with issues such as problems at school or college, reporting abuse to the police, housing and benefits.
Vicki Thomas, Havering Women’s Aid CEO, said: “We often see people come through our doors with no confidence or self-esteem, and being able to tackle the issues they face with the advisor so they will no longer feel alone makes such a difference – it’s life changing.
“Young people don’t have the same needs as adults and this grant will make a huge difference in helping us to keep them safe and give them the confidence to make their own decisions and to develop healthy relationships.”