Hi, my name is Hannah, I ‘m employed by Leeds Women’s Aid incorporating HALT, and I work for the Women’s Lives Leeds Project as a Complex Needs Worker.
Women’s Lives Leeds is a partnership founded by 12 Women’s & Girls organisations in Leeds. It’s the first project in the partnership, funded by the Big Lottery and led by Leeds Women’s Aid on behalf of the partners.
I’m part of the Complex Needs Service part of the project. This consists of 6 Complex Needs Workers who support women with various complex needs with each worker having a specialist focus such as domestic violence, women who have newly arrived to the country & BME women, girls & young women, mental health and sex workers.
My specialist area is supporting women during pregnancy and/or post removal – so after a child has been taken from a mothers care due to child protection concerns. Although employed by LWA, I am seconded to Womens Health Matters and I am based with them as they have other workers who also specialise in post removal support.
Post removals is an area of work that I feel fiercely passionate about. These women are amongst some of the most vulnerable in our society and there is very limited, specialist, support currently available to them.
It’s really positive, proactive & quite exciting really that the Women’s Lives Leeds can be on the ball with this and dedicate a worker to support women at this time in their lives.
I used to work at a residential child protection & family assessment unit. During my time there, I personally observed, on multiple occasions, women having their children removed from their care and it was something I always found very traumatic to observe & it deeply affected me. For the women I support having their child or children taken from them is not the start of their traumatic journey, it’s usually an additional trauma to the deeply painful life experiences they’ve already endured such a childhood sexual abuse, domestic violence, homelessness, witnessing parents misusing drugs or alcohol etc.
Many of our supporters will be aware of some of the issues that vulnerable women experience, but general society is not often aware of the complexities that these women face. I believe that this it’s due to a lack of understanding that leads to a lack of services being available for them.
Often statutory services are left with no choice to remove children. These children who are removed become, what’s referred to as ‘Looked After’ – but the mothers who lose their children also need to be looked after. I would say please think why and how did this women come to live this way? Because having this understanding helps to evoke empathy.
The Complex Needs Service is very much led by the service users themselves – there’s no ‘one size fits all’. My work is so variable; from making MARAC referrals for high risk victims of Domestic Violence, to attending art therapy with women, supporting women at family court, advocating for them at meetings with social care, or maybe just doing something as simple as taking a walk through the local park with her.
Having someone, an allocated worker and service to help, support, guide, explain and listen to women throughout this very difficult process, is invaluable. Showing them unconditional positive regard. The work being delivered by Women’s Lives Leeds is innovative, dynamic and powerful, I’m grateful to LWA for leading on this work and to WHM who continue to support and guide me in carrying this role out.