Women's Aid Federation of England
Women's Aid Federation of England, commonly called "Women's Aid" within England is one of a group of charities across the United Kingdom. There are four main Women's Aid Federations, one for each of the countries of the United Kingdom. Its aim is to end domestic violence against women and children. The charity works at both local and national levels to ensure women's safety from domestic violence and promotes policies and practices to prevent domestic violence.
Women's Aid Federation of England is the sole national coordinating body for the England-wide network of over 370 local domestic violence organisations, providing over 500 refuges, outreach, advocacy and children's support services. Women's Aid campaigns for better legal protection and services and in partnership with its national network, runs public awareness and education campaigns. Any woman can stay at a Refuge (and take their children) and proof of abuse is not needed to stay at a Refuge.
Women's Aid provides services through its publications and website, and runs a Freephone 24-Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline in partnership with Refuge.
Women's Aid was set up as a national United Kingdom federation to coordinate almost 40 services that had been established over the country. It was originally known as the National Women's Aid Federation, but later the group fragmented when a separate Scottish federation was launched. This was followed by separate Federations for Northern Ireland and Wales. The first Women's Aid federation was set up in 1974, shortly after the founding of the first refuge for women experiencing domestic violence. The organisation provided practical and emotional support as part of a range of services to women and children experiencing violence. The charity was instrumental in lobbying for the 1976 Domestic Violence and Matrimonial Proceedings Act, and for having women and children at risk of domestic violence to count as homeless under The Housing Act 1977.
During the 1980s, Women's Aid established the first ever National Domestic Violence Helpline service to meet the increasing number of calls to Women’s Aid national office. The Helpline not only provided help and support for abused women and children, as well as agency professionals seeking advice, it also became a national referral point for access to the national network of refuge and support services. The charity continued to lobby for greater consideration and support for women and children experiencing domestic violence.
Through the 1990s, Women's Aid continued its lobbying work, as well as increasing its public campaigning. In 1994, the charity released the first ever domestic violence cinema advert, and supported Brookside in a long-running, high-profile storyline on a family affected by domestic violence. In 1999, Women's Aid launched the first comprehensive domestic violence website in the UK and The Gold Book, the first ever UK-wide public directory of local refuge and helpline services.
Since 2000, Women's Aid has run a number of high-profile campaigns, continued its work lobbying government, and launched a number of educational resources aimed at schools and teachers to encourage the teaching of healthy relationships as a preventative measure against domestic violence. Since early 2013, Polly Neate has taken on the role of Chief Executive at Women's Aid.
In 1978, Women's Aid carried out a groundbreaking study of 1,000 women living in refuges, in light of statistics demonstrating that 1 in 4 crimes in Scotland was 'wife assault.' This was the beginning of significant amounts of research performed by Women's Aid and a number of partners into issues around domestic violence, which has developed into the release of Women's Aid's 'Annual Survey of Members', which gives details of the services in England working to support women experiencing domestic violence, and the women who use them.
Women's Aid states that:
- Domestic violence against women is a violation of women and children's human rights, that it is the result of an abuse of power and control, and that it is rooted in the historical status of women in the family and in society. Women and children have a right to live their lives free from all forms of violence and abuse, and society has a duty to recognise and defend this right.
Women's Aid advocate for abused women and children in three main ways. Firstly, they aim to affect policy decisions and laws by working with local and national government. Secondly, they attempt to raise awareness of the problem of domestic violence by campaigning and running websites such as The Hideout. Thirdly, they provide services to abused women and children, for example UKROL and the National Domestic Violence Helpline.
- Jenni Murray, broadcaster
- Will Young, performer
- Nicola Harwin CBE, Former Women's Aid Chief Executive
- Gordon Ramsay, three Michelin star chef
- Sarah Brown, wife of Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister
- Fiona Bruce, BBC newsreader
- Charlie Webster TV Presenter
- Keira Knightley, actress
- Jahméne Douglas, British soul/gospel singer. Jahméne is the first youth ambassador of the UK charity Women's Aid, for children and young people