As part of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s (OPCC) continuing work concerning Male Violence Against Women and Girls, PCC Mark Shelford met with the team behind the Respite Rooms Trial in Bristol.
The PCC met with NextLink, St Mungo’s and Deputy Mayor Asher Craig to discuss keeping women safe in the city and to find out more about the short-term accommodation. He also met with members of staff working directly with service users at the Respite Rooms, as well as Public Health and Housing colleagues from Bristol City Council.
Opened in October 2021, the 10-bed respite room facility offers immediate safe spaces to women who have experienced domestic abuse, violence, rape or sexual assault, sex work or exploitation and who are sleeping rough or at risk of doing so.
The rooms – part of a £3.7million year-long government trial across 12 boroughs – are staffed 24/7 by women who are able to offer trauma-informed intensive support around intersecting needs such as substance misuse, mental health and issues relating to migration and trafficking.
“It was a privilege to meet with the hard-working team who support some of the most vulnerable women in the city. This accommodation has and will continue to be a lifeline for many women and will provide the vital support that they deserve.
“Tackling male violence against women and girls forms part of first priority in my recently published Police and Crime Plan. Not only do we need to continue to secure funding for sexual and domestic violence services in Avon and Somerset, we must challenge the attitudes and behaviour that underpin misogynistic behaviour. There needs to be sufficient support to change the behaviours of offenders through effective management and perpetrator support programmes.”PCC Mark Shelford
Councillor Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor with responsibility for Children Services, Education and Equalities, said: “We were proud that Bristol City Council was chosen to trial the Respite Rooms programme last year, to support some of our most vulnerable women while tackling domestic and gender-based violence. Since its launch in October (2021), the scheme has enabled us to provide intensive support to 35 women. The Respite Rooms continue to offer a life-changing support network to women in greatest need.
“The programme continues to reflect a strong, committed partnership between the council, St Mungo’s and Next Link, with women’s safety and wellbeing our collective priority – during their stay in the Respite Rooms and after they’ve moved on to longer term accommodation. We’re very pleased with the positive outcomes the Respite Rooms have provided so far and continue to work closely with our dedicated partners to provide this vital service in our city. I know during the PCC’s recent visit we were all very moved by the stories shared by women using the Respite Rooms, hearing directly the impact they are making and the safe, supportive environment they are providing.”
“The services we run here provide a vital service for women in the city. It was brilliant to have an opportunity to share the voices of women who have used the Respite Rooms service and their own experiences of what has worked well for them during the pilot stage of the project, as well as what we can focus on to ensure that weSt Mungo’s Regional Head, David Ingerslev