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News & Events

Blog Archives

Solace presents pioneering CSA partnership work at the ISPCAN International Conference

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Solace has been involved in a pioneering project to improve the support available to children who have experience sexual abuse and/or sexual exploitation in London since early 2016; The North Central Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) Hub. We have now been invited to present the impact of our project together with UCLH and the Tavistock at the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN) International Conference 2017 in The Hague.

The children and young persons advocate from Solace will be presenting with a paediatrician from UCLH and a family therapist from the Tavistock on the impact of having therapeutic and advocacy services based in the hospital.

Solace’s children and young person advocate said:

“Attending the ISPCAN International Conference 2017 will be a fantastic opportunity to share our learning and experience of collaborative and effective multiagency working in order to empower and support children to overcome significant trauma.”

There has been a significant rise in the number of young people accessing both services great feedback from young people, family members and other professionals.

This is an exciting opportunity for the organisation to promote the project and also to network and learn from important projects going on around the world fighting child abuse and neglect.


Solace & AVA launch Peace of Mind report evaluating Refuge Access for All

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As a response to the increasing number of women coming into refuges with mental health and drug and alcohol issues, Solace looked at how we could provide a more inclusive response to women’s needs and recovery from the trauma they had experienced. The Refuge Access for All project was established to improve our response. At the heart of this was the creation of a Psychologically Informed Environment (PIE) across Solace Refuges.

Read the summary report here

Read the full report here

The evaluation shows that:

  • The project led to a significant measurable increase in the understanding and confidence of staff in dealing with issues around mental ill health and substance use.
  • Refuge residents reported measurable improvements on a trauma informed practice scale over a period of only six months, showing an impressive impact on outcomes.
  • The play therapy made a significant difference in the behaviour and emotional well-being of children and their mothers
    during their stay in the refuge.

The introduction of a Psychologically Informed Environment has been transformational for the refuge residents and staff at Solace Women’s Aid. There are lessons from this, not just for Solace, but for commissioners, policy makers and other providers.

For Policy Makers

  • The introduction of a Psychologically Informed Environment across five London boroughs has had a dramatic effect on
    Solace refuge residents’ well-being in a short space of time and for limited additional spend. This provides a cost effective model for rolling out across the refuge sector.
  • The provision of, and access to, adequate and appropriate mental health and substance use services outside of the refuges was the single biggest barrier to the success of the project. This needs to be addressed if survivors of domestic abuse are to be supported to rebuild their lives post abuse.

For Commissioners

  • Commissioners should consider funding the investment needed to create a Psychologically Informed Environment
    when commissioning services.
  • Invitations to tender should ask bidders to set out the steps they have taken, or will take, to ensure that their services are
    psychologically informed.

For Service Providers
This evaluation shows that a modest financial investment and a strong management commitment can create a Psychologically
Informed Environment that is transformational for service users and staff. The initiatives that form part of this project, such as reflective practice, training in mental health and drug and alcohol use, play therapy, psychologically informed key worker sessions, and expert support in response to trauma will not be new to many service providers in the domestic abuse sector. However, providers who are not already doing so should consider all of the elements of this programme in developing their services. The advantage of bundling a set of initiatives under the PIE umbrella, with a clear narrative to underpin them, cannot be understated.

‘Housing and homelessness has reached a crisis point for women fleeing violence and abuse’

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Solace responds to the London Assembly’s Hidden Homelessness Report



Mary Mason, CEO Solace Women’s Aid, said:

“Solace welcomes the London Assembly’s report into Hidden Homelessness in London. Housing and homelessness has reached a crisis point for women fleeing violence and abuse, the current system is drastically failing survivors.

“Those fleeing their homes due to abuse continuously come up against a negative attitude and approach from housing departments. This often leaves women feeling they have no other option but to return home to a violent or abusive situation putting themselves and their children at further risk of abuse.

Specialist refuges, which provide safe accommodation and skilled support, are a vital lifeline for many women escaping domestic violence and other forms of abuse. A lack of refuge spaces and supported housing is not helping the problem. There was a shortfall of 326 refuge bed spaces across London in 2016.

“While there have been some steps forward, London can no longer ignore the growing scandal of women and children losing their homes because of violence and abuse and then not being re-housed. We call for all women who lose their home because of abuse to be re-housed so they are safe, can recover, and go on to live strong and independent lives.”


Key Statistic – Domestic abuse and housing/homelessness:

  1. Nearly 50% of women accessing homelessness services had experienced domestic abuse, with a third of women claiming that their experiences of domestic abuse contributed to their homelessness (St. Mungo’s, 2014)
  2. From 1st April 2015 to 31st March 2016 Solace supported 954 survivors in our emergency refuge services – who’ve been made homeless from domestic abuse. (This only represents a proportion of the 11,000 women we have supported who may be homeless)
  3. Our research report ‘Finding the Cost of Freedom’ found that 87% of the women (n=100) had to move house to end the abuse. Of this group: 44 % had moved once; 31% had moved twice; 14 % had moved three times; 6% had moved four times; and 5%  per cent had moved five or more times  (Finding the Cost of Freedom, 2014)4.
  4. 87% of women left the emergency shared accommodation provided in refuges during 2015/16 for continued temporary accommodation. (The Price of Safety, 2016)
  5. 62% of women who had a secure tenure at the point of fleeing ended up in a situation of housing insecurity through temporary accommodation, having to live with family or friends, or living in a hostel (The Price of Safety, 2016)
  6. Domestic abuse accounts for more than a third of all violent crime in the capital (Metropolitan Police, 2015)

Find out about our Volunteer: Helmi

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When I found out I had secured an internship at Solace Women’s Aid, I was ecstatic, even though I honestly had no idea what to expect. From the moment that I stepped in the office, I knew I was about to be a part of something special and much greater than myself. My team welcomed me with open arms on day one and that supportive family-like atmosphere stayed constant throughout my two-month tenure. They took time to show me how everything worked and frequently asked me how I was doing to make sure I knew that they were ready and willing to assist me with whatever I might need. I participate in an immense amount of advocacy work for a range of causes where I live in the United States. However, I still learned so much by working in the social services sector in the United Kingdom.

It was fascinating and inspiring to observe a government with a vested interest in the wellbeing of its citizens. Every task I was given, no matter how mundane it seemed, was incredibly rewarding and had a tangible positive impact on the lives of our clients. The opportunities for involvement that I got during my internship were unmatched. I was able to assist clients at varied stages of receiving support from us, and gained insight and experience in a field that I imagine most people need years of education or experience to join. I would recommend volunteering at Solace to anyone living in London interested in feminism who is looking for a way to help people. The camraderie of the staff is unique and warm and the work they do is invaluable to the clients who benefit from it.

Best of luck with everything.

Helmi – Islington Sass Volunteer


Helmi was with the advocacy team for two months. For this short period of time, she was involved in various work – she observed an IRIS Training session being delivered; attended MARAC, and helped the team with administrative tasks – processing new referrals, filling in forms for agencies and services, completing surveys, uploading risk assessments and arranging appointments for the team.  We all found her help invaluable, especially when managing hectic schedules.

We wanted to ensure that Helmi developed her skills during her internship and got the experience she wanted so we kept our communication open and listened. We engaged her in additional tasks – Helmi attended court with a client and their worker, observed a face to face appointment and completing of a risk assessment. Helmi was shown how to complete safety and support plans and the purpose of them and she volunteered to do those for each new client with the allocated worker following up her work and giving her feedback. Helmi’s experience allowed her to make calls to clients to provide emotional support and she expressed that she really enjoyed the interaction. We received good feedback for her from all clients she engaged with. The whole team took part in ensuring Helmi felt happy and gained as much experience as she could whilst being with us.

Helmi was fast and efficient and eager to help, and a joy to be around. A team member described her as ‘a breath of fresh air’. We felt she was part of the team and an asset since day one and were sad to see her go.

Zoe – Independent Domestic and Sexual Violence Adviser 

Solace Service User Survey Results

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We’re pleased to announce the results of our most recent service user survey, which were overwhelmingly positive; 98% of those who responded said they would recommend Solace to a friend or relative.

We carry out this survey every October, asking all our service users to fill out a questionnaire and also to tell us about areas of the support they received which were particularly useful or which needed improvement. This year 323 service users responded.

If it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t be safe with my children in the refuge. I would recommend your service to everyone in need. (Refuge Service User)


What we learned

  • We continue to have an excellent relationship with the women and children using our services. 96% rated their Solace service good or excellent, while 94% reported that Solace helped them feel more confident, and 89% said that Solace helped them take steps towards healthier relationships.
  • Staff skills are a particular strength of our services: 99% of service users said that their key worker was a good listener.
  • Some of our specialist services received came out particularly well. For example, the Silver Project for women over 55, and the Amari Project for women who have been sexually exploited through trafficking or prostitution, both received 100% satisfaction ratings from their users.
  • 86% of respondents said it was easy or very easy to get in touch with a Solace service, which while high is not as high as the satisfaction ratings for other criteria.
  • Many of our service users would like to be able to access support more quickly and for longer periods of time. Several also reported that more appointments being available outside normal working hours would help them keep work or family commitments.


I am so astonished by how far I’ve come in a relatively short space of time. My counsellor always provided me with an empathetic compassionate ear and invaluable insight. I feel I still have a way to go on my journey and I wish I could do that here but I know there are more women that need/deserve help and you can only offer a finite number of sessions. I will look back on this time as a crucial turning point and am so appreciative to have had the opportunity to get the support I have. I think what [Solace] does is fantastic and I hope at some point in the future I can help others in a similar situation. Thank you for everything.(Counselling Service User)


How we are using this information

  • Local services looked at data in service user and staff team meetings to ensure that we are improving service practice
  • Teams are creating a “you said, we did” mechanism so that service users can see how their feedback improves service delivery directly
  • It is informing our organisation wide review of Service User involvement that is taking place this year

Helena Doyle, Director of Operations at Solace said:

Feedback from our service users is crucial in letting us know if we get things right or not. We are here for our service users and to provide the best possible service that we can, so it is great to hear when we make a positive  impact but also really important to know how service users think we can do things better.

How you can help

Most of the improvements suggested by our service users related to the resources we have available; domestic and sexual violence in London has increased in recent years (Metropolitan Police, 2016), and so is the number of referrals we are taking. We would love to be able to offer support more quickly when someone makes contact with us, but to do that we need your help!

Volunteer Newsletter – July

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Volunteers week went really well this year. Volunteers attended the volunteers lunch, new volunteers were inducted and we attended the Supersized Summer 2017 Volunteering Fair with Volunteer Centre Camden & Islington.

In this months volunteer newsletter read about our NLRC Helpline acheivements and find out how you can apply for a volunteer position within this service.

Volunteer Newsletter July

Thank you

Volunteer Coordinator

Find out about our Volunteer: Jamie

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I first became interested in studying sexual violence while I was working towards my undergraduate degree, and by the time I was due to begin my postgraduate degree, knew without a doubt I couldn’t be content just sitting by and reading about sexual violence knowing what has been happening on a daily basis.

From my perspective, working with women who have been affected by sexual violence could be my way of helping to mitigate a system which is seemingly completely stacked against survivors, by providing if only a slight bit of comfort.

I began my search for a role last year and soon came across an advertisement for a helpline worker. I initially found the prospect of working on a crisis line quite daunting, and was nervous about applying for the role. However, I was elated when I was selected to begin training last October and have found such gratification from being in the role ever since then.

On the line, we field calls from survivors of all ages providing emotional support as well as counselling and advocacy within the service, where appropriate. Since beginning on the line in early January, I have had the immense pleasure of working with a team of absolutely brilliant women in the most supportive of environments making coming into the crisis center something I look forward to every week.

While it is true we take our share of what can sometimes be challenging calls, which are compounded by the seemingly endless barriers due to the current social and political climates. In the same token, I have consistently been left in awe by the sheer strength and perseverance I see from many of the women who call into the line.

If nothing else, working on the line has shown me just how incredible women are, whether it is the staff of North London Rape Crisis (NLRC) who all work tirelessly to provide support and care for survivors, or the survivors themselves who often display incredible courage and strength following unimaginable experiences.

I more often than not find myself leaving a shift not feeling defeated, but empowered. Empowered from working with a team of such dedicated women, and from speaking with women on the phone who are determined to overcome the obstacles which have been placed in front of them.

While it is certainly not always an easy role, I am immensely grateful for the experience I have gained since starting on the line, and absolutely look forward to continuing working with the wonderful women at Solace and NLRC.

Jamie W.R. – North London Rape Crisis Volunteer

Jamie was offered a position as a North London Rape Crisis Helpline Volunteer (NLRC) in January 2017 after successfully completing an OCN accredited training programme for ‘Professionals working in the Sexual Violence Sector’ at Level 3. In her role as helpline volunteer, Jamie has been providing emotional support over the phone to women and girls who have experienced sexual violence and relevant information to professionals.

Jamie has performed her role as helpline volunteer to the highest standards. I am particularly impressed by Jamie’s strong commitment to the services, her empathetic and truly approachable manner and her proactive attitude towards the ownership of tasks. Jamie has offered assistance to other volunteers when they require it which reflects the good relationships she has developed with helpline staff through her friendly manner. It has been an absolutely pleasure to supervise and work alongside Jamie as she is unfailingly enthusiastic and committed in combating injustice and gender inequality.

Laura Gomez – NLRC Helpline Coordinator



Run the London Marathon 2018 for Solace

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Date: April 22nd 2018
Registration Fee: £100
Sponsorship Minimum target: £2500

We are very excited to have a Virgin Money London Marathon place for 2018. The Virgin Money London Marathon is an amazing 26.2 mile route around London’s breathtaking views. Be a part of this historic event and join the 40,000 other runners taking part for different charities and causes.

Please apply for a place by sending your application form to Jessie at fundraising@solacewomensaid.org

Or, let us know if you have your own place and would like to run for Solace!

How Solace will support you:
• We can provide fundraising support, materials and tips
• We will send you a breathable Solace running vest
• You will get cheers from the Solace cheering team on the day
• PLUS a special thank you in our e-newsletters

Challenge, Change, Celebrate! Youth Conference 2017

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We are delighted to announce our Youth Conference 2017: Challenge, Change, Celebrate!

Monday 10 July 2017, 5.30-7.30pm, Islington Town Hall

Join us to celebrate the excellent work of Solace’s Children and Young People service who strive to end Violence Against Women and Girls.

We’ll be celebrating with live music, prizes, presentations, activities, incredible food and even better company-YOU!

Hear2Change is our new programme working with 11-25 year olds. These young people will be centre stage on the night; showcasing the project, improving awareness of Solace’s work and inviting the community to get involved in the future.

The conference will take place on Monday 10 July 2017, 5.30-7.30 pm at Islington Town Hall.

Come along to hear young people’s stories and learn more about Solace’s Children and Young People service.

Solace asks MP candidates in London to work to end violence against women & girls

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We’ve been contacting the MP candidates in constituencies across London telling them about domestic and sexual violence and asking them to pledge that, if elected, they will take action on this. Read the full letter below.

Will you work to end violence against women and girls (VAWG)?

We are writing to you as the leading specialist domestic and sexual violence charity which provides services to your constituents. In advance of the election on 8 June 2017 we would like to draw your attention to the scale of violence against women and girls in our community, and to ask you to pledge that if elected you will take action on this.

The scale of domestic and sexual violence

Solace Women’s Aid has provided support to over 11,000 survivors of domestic and sexual violence over the last year in London. 2 women a week are killed by a partner or ex-partner and over 85,000 women are raped each year in the UK.

As well as the human impact, which is felt by whole families, these crimes are very costly to our health service, our criminal justice system and to employers. We believe it is essential that whoever is elected MP for your constituency is knowledgeable about this and pledges to work to end violence against women and girls.

If elected as our local MP, will you:

  • Work to ensure that every woman and girl at risk, including the most marginalised, can get the support she needs, whether it be crisis accommodation, counselling for abuse that happened many years ago or legal advocacy and advice? In recent years, local, women-led support services have faced enormous financial pressure. It is essential that changes are made to the way they are funded if they are to survive, and to continue being a critical source of local expertise and training for those working in public services as well as providers of tailored support to women and girls in need.
  • Address the urgent issue of housing for women seeking safety from domestic and sexual abuse and other forms of VAWG? Housing is not only a practical need for women and children who have to flee domestic and other forms of violence but is integral to beginning to feel safe and being able to move forward with their lives. In London the current housing system is failing women and children fleeing abuse meaning women are forced to remain in an unsafe situation.
  • Work to ensure women with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) have full access to support while their status is being determined? Many women who don’t have recourse to public funds are particularly vulnerable as leaving an abusive situation would likely make them destitute. It is essential that when fleeing abuse a safety net is in place so they can access the essential support and have the opportunity to determine their status.
  • Work to ensure that women’s rights are protected during Brexit negotiations? It is critical that the many advances in equality and human rights law which benefit women in the UK are protected. The Human Rights Act has been used, for example, to hold to account the police when they have failed families in domestic violence murder cases and trafficking.
  • Work to improve the way the criminal justice system handles crimes of violence against women? We need changes in law and policy around, for example, the use of victim-blaming sexual history evidence in our courts, and ensuring all women have access to legal aid and advocacy for as long as they need it.
  • Work to ensure that all public services, especially the health service, schools and the welfare system, play their part in tackling abuse? Considerable change is needed to ensure that health workers do not miss abuse; that welfare rules do not stigmatise abused women (such as the tax credits rape clause); that the asylum and immigration systems do not deter women from seeking protection; and that schools deliver the best possible Sex and Relationship Education.
  • Demonstrate open and clear local, public leadership on ending violence against women and girls? This matter needs everyone in public life to play a vocal part in naming abuse, prioritising solutions and changing attitudes.

Many thanks for your attention to these important questions and we look forward to hearing from you soon. We will share any answer we receive from you with our networks and on social media.

Yours Sincerely

Mary Mason, CEO, Solace Women’s Aid