Spotlight on our team with a difference… hello and goodbye to Sarah!

This ‘Spotlight on our Team’ piece will be a little different.  It’s my turn and sadly also time to say some goodbyes.  I’ve been at WHM for almost 5 years and during that time I’ve worked on lots of different projects such as Footsteps, our original group for women whose children are in someone else’s care, Include – our project for young women who may be pregnant or who are parents, our young mum’s group YUMs and some of our domestic violence groups.  I have three roles at the minute – as Operations Manager,  Project Worker on The Key and as Line Manager for our Your Space Wellbeing Worker. Sadly, as two of these pieces of work are ending, I’ll be leaving WHM in April.

I’ve absolutely loved working at Women’s Health Matters, I did a student placement here over 10 years ago and then always kept an eye out for jobs they had going.  I’m a passionate feminist and have worked with young people for almost 20 years, so The Key – a project supporting girls and young women at risk of abusive relationships – has been my dream role.  If you’d have asked me to design the perfect project for me to work on, it would have been this, not many people are able to say they’ve had their dream job so I’m really very lucky.  In my Operations role, I’ve been responsible for things like our social media and website – which has worked really well as I’m a bit of a geek too.

I’ve worked with some incredible women and girls during my time here and I’ve been inspired over and over again by so many of them.  I can’t describe how proud I am of the work I’ve been involved with and that I know my lovely colleagues at WHM will continue to do.  It’s not a huge organisation, but it has the biggest heart.

Now, it’s finally my turn at the spotlight questions…

What does your role involve?

In The Key, I do group work and one to one support for 13-25 year old girls and young women around topics like healthy relationships, abuse, staying safe, managing difficult emotions like stress and anxiety, grooming and the impact of abuse on children.

As Operations Manager, I do all kinds of things including our online and technical ‘stuff’, so things like our social media accounts, the website and newsletter, plus managing our database.  I go to meetings and forums on behalf of WHM and lead on things like our data protection/ GDPR policies and procedures.

As Your Space line manager, I supervise lovely Amareen, making sure she is fully supported and work with the Your Space Project Manager at Touchstone.

So a big, busy mix!

What’s your favourite thing about WHM?

100% the women and girls we work with. There has been so much laughter (and a good amount of tears) during my time here.  I’ve loved encouraging them to think about who they are, how to understand and try to love their bodies, and realise how awesome they are. It’s been an honour to be a part of some of their stories.

What are 3 things you enjoy doing?

I really enjoy getting out and about in nature, particularly where there is cake and coffee involved, it really helps me breathe and clear my head.

I love being around ALL the floofs (animals for those that don’t know!), seriously, all of them. Not spiders though.

I love learning too, when I started at WHM I was also starting a Masters in Gender Studies, I finished a couple of years ago and this has been the longest I’ve gone without signing up to some form of education.  I think I’m mostly just nosey about stuff!

If you had a magic wand, what would you do with it?

Other than the obvious curing disease, poverty and hunger type stuff? I’d not only wish that all girls and women around the world were safe, but that they were thriving – living lives full of laughter and happiness, with very full self esteem buckets! Then I’d also wish that nobody every mistreated animals ever again, maybe that we worshipped them as magical creatures.  Too far, maybe?!

Huge thanks to my team here at WHM (including those wonderful women who previously worked here), to the women and girls I’ve worked with, and to the other professionals and partner organisations I’ve worked alongside over the last 5 years. Much love. x

Update from the Maternity Voices Partnership

We’ve had a busy time over the last 3 months at the Maternity Voices Partnership (MVP).

On January 13th 2020 the Clinical Commission Group (CCG) launched its Maternity and Neonatal Public Consultation.  The MVP parent representatives supported with engagement events across the city and promoted the survey to families.  The survey is for gaining feedback on families general experience on maternity services, to get opinions on the proposals to centralise all maternity services to the LGI and also to consult on the way hospital antenatal appointments are provided.  The aim of the consultation is to work out what future services should look like including a new midwifery led unit at LGI.  You can complete the survey here until 5th April 2020.

Engagement Lead Caroline Mackay said ‘Thank you for everyone’s commitment to the engagement and dedication to making service in Leeds the best they can be’.  This picture was taken at the final event with Julian Hartley; Chief Executive of Leeds Teaching Hospitals.

In January MVP promoted and attended the ‘Whose Shoes’ workshop with Sally Goodwin Mills at Public Health as they delivered a fantastic infant feeding workshop.  The morning saw a mix of professionals and parents taking part in this fun board game which is designed to help professionals and service users listen to each other by answering different scenarios about support around different topics, this one was infant feeding.  It was really helpful for putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and sharing your own experiences at the same time. As the event finished, we all pledged to help make information on breast feeding support accessible and consistent.  Sally is a regular attendee at our MVP formal meetings, and updates us on developments in this area, especially around breast feeding support information on postnatal wards.

We have also been supporting the NEST ambassadors around perinatal mental health, especially for dads and co-parents.  We’ve been successful in completing 9 face to face surveys, including at the Preparation Birth and Beyond antenatal course which take place in the community.  This was a good chance to also get dads views on the support they receive for their own mental health, as well as supporting their partner.

The Trust is soon to be going digital, so all your hand held notes are getting changed to Maternity Online Notes. The digital online survey about this is currently underway, we at the MVP felt it was also important to get face to face feedback to find out how many women use their notes.  We spoke to women in the community and out of 48 women this was the response:

How often do you check your notes?
After your scan and hospital appointment 27%
Before or after each appointment 38%
Every Day 2%
Never 23%
Once a Month 2%
Once a Week 8%

Any Parenting Apps
Yes 65%
No 35%

Under 20 4%
21-30 40%
31-40 50%
Over 40 6%

Do you prefer Paper/Electronic/both
Paper 44%
Electronic 27%
Both 25%

In other news, after three years of being chair for the MVP, our wonderful Lucy Potter has handed over the reins of the chair duties of the MVP to Aneira, another member of the WHM team.  Lucy helped transition the (old) Maternity Service Liaison Committee (MSLC) to the new MVP in March 2018.  Lucy also worked with midwives to set up ‘Walking the Patch’, where each month a small team of parent representatives visit women and families at both hospital sites, and then feed back any issues the families may have to the team leader meeting.  During a recent Walking the Patch session we spoke to 10 families on the postnatal ward at St. James’s.  Most were very happy with their continuity of care when having an elective C-section.  This is a service previously operated from a smaller space, but it’s now in a welcoming, spacious environment.  This development has been led by Maternity Support Workers Margaret Bingham and Deborah Hampson with the goal of providing a comfortable area and the opportunity for families to meet each other before, during and after their operation.  After the feedback from the team leaders Lucy received a lovely bunch of flowers from all of the midwives to say goodbye and cake was served up.

Lucy wishes Aneira every success in being chair for the MVP and would like to thank all the parent reps who have supported the MVP over the years. Here at WHM, we’d like to thank Lucy for her dedication and passion for this project, you’ve made a huge difference to families in the city!

From left to right: Claire and Melissa Licence, Nicky Collins, Julia Kitching, Lucy Potter Sarah Joyce and Aneira Thomas.



The Wellbeing Group step back in time.


 The Wellbeing Group recently had a trip to Abbey House Museum where we learnt all about Leeds in the past, and had great fun trying on all the clothes! We enjoyed a warm drink in the café and shared stories from our childhood and how things had changed.

As you can see from the photos, we had a great day out with lots of laughter and fun!  None of the women had been before and it opened up a new part of Leeds that they can explore.  We are hoping to go back to look around Kirkstall Abbey in the summer and enjoy a picnic in the grounds.



More endings – goodbye to Breathing Space

Breathing Space Project has been providing domestic abuse support for women in Leeds for the last two and a half years, ending on 31st March 2020.  The Department of Digital, Culture, Sport and Media funded the project through the Tampon Tax Fund.  We have been working towards the project ending but the Corona Virus has disrupted the last few weeks of delivery as we have had to replace group work with telephone support.  It is hard to finish a project at a time like this, and all the more important to celebrate the achievements of the women that attended.

We know that abusive relationships can take a toll on how we feel and act day to day, so the project developed a strong focus on the way we can look after ourselves and how we can take control back in important areas of our lives.  It has been a really special project with amazing women who have enjoyed the sessions and learnt about the importance of self-care during the most difficult times.  We worked on stabilisation with the women for the first 6-8 weeks.  These sessions looked at how to cope in difficult situations, how to improve sleep, dealing with nightmares and flashbacks; food and mood, breathing and guided meditations as well as understanding depression and anxiety.  Once the women completed these sessions they would move onto looking at issues related to abusive relationships.  This included thing like the impact of domestic abuse on children, why it can be so difficult to leave an abusive relationship and how to communicate more effectively with friends, family and professionals.  Women also helped us shape the project by letting us know what they wanted to explore in more depth.

We owe a huge thank you to Krissy, our yoga teacher who would come into the stabilisation sessions and teach us all how to use breathing to ground ourselves.
The women we have worked with have done some fantastic work and have gained an immense amount of confidence through Breathing Space.  Women from the groups co- produced (helped plan and organise) an event last March which aimed to tell people about the project and what it involved.  The professionals who attended told us they really enjoyed it, especially because the women helped run it.

This year women have co-produced a training video for professionals, sharing their skills and insights, to help the workforce be more trauma aware.  Our first screening was at the Women’s Health Matters celebration event where it went down really well.
Corona virus stopped a planned conference going ahead, where women from Breathing Space were going to be sharing their experiences and showing the film to qualified social workers.  It’s a great shame but looking forwards, the film and the voices of these women will be around after the current pandemic has passed.  Our team will be waiting to pick up the threads where we left off and take the legacy of Breathing Space forward wherever possible.

We are incredibly proud of everyone who attended Breathing Space.  Thank you all for helping us build such a warm and friendly environment so we could achieve so much together.